Monday, April 01, 2013

What Value, Art?

Does art in any of its forms move you? Does it make you feel something?

Music. Music is art, right? What do you feel when you hear a song? Do you have a favorite song and do you share that favorite song with others? (Hey, listen to this. This is amazing. You'll love it.) Have you had someone share their favorite song with you?

There's a method to this barrage of questions. I know you guys are smart, you can probably already see where this is going...

Ever stolen something? A pen from work, some paper? Ever shoplifted? Maybe tasted something in the store before you bought it, like a grape or something. Or a banana.

Okay, now I've got your attention. Why, when you go to the deli, do they weigh things and stick a bar code on it before they hand it to you? The answer, of course, is that they want you to pay for every ounce of pastrami or cheese or whatever. But they don't do that with the grapes or the bananas. Why not? Don't they trust me? After all, I just want to know that the grapes aren't sour and I don't want to pay for them if they are...

Fine. I get that. I disagree with it, but I get it. Sampling is one way to determine if you're going to like something.

To tie this to music, I like to listen to a record in its entirety to decide if I want to buy the whole thing. I love it when NPR streams something. I love it when artists stream on their sites. I point you to those things when I know about them. I've bought more music by hearing it all first than I haven't.

In bookstores (remember those dinosaurs?) I will browse titles and maybe flip something open and read a page or two then decide if it's what I want. I don't see anything wrong in that and the stores don't either. But when they put in comfy chairs and coffee bars and people park there for hours on end to read a single book, it's not a bookstore any more but a library. With coffee.

I hated when Borders did that. Cafe/Bookstores were all the rage and they're fine, ultimately, but they shouldn't be necessary. Bookstores shouldn't demand customers hang out. That helped the current culture of browsing in bookstores, sampling, then buying online via some application on your phone because you can get it cheaper from an internet bookseller.

Now we're seeing artists in comics, music, books, etc... using 'pay what you want' models to offer product to consumers. How much is that Radiohead album worth to you? What will you pay for Brian K. Vaughan and Marcos Martin's new comic series?

I have a lot of friends who make art of one kind or another. I wish I could support them all by buying their products though it's just not possible. Instead I try to point others who might have a modicum of disposable cash to them. I admire the crowdfunding that happens through Kickstarter and other sites. I think that's awesome. Find a level you like and spend that much to get a piece of art that you WANT.

Yes, corporations have sullied the feedpan for all us chickens who just want to read or listen or watch something. Yes, they were greedy bastards. Always have been. Nice of you to notice.

But who do you hurt when you download a TV series? Not the corporation. The folks who wrote, produced, acted, supported, distributed, and contributed to the show being on the air in any number of venues. When shows are stolen those folks are not paid residuals because those views don't count and corporations don't pay on uncounted viewings.

Those damn stupid ads that you can't bypass on DVDs (remember those?) that tell you stealing is wrong have value. They remind you that stealing is wrong.

So what value do you place on books? Enough to support the writer and everyone who helps her get it out into the world? Of what value is music that makes you feel? Everyone needs support to continue making the things that make us happy. Writers, artists, musicians, even some bloggers and journalists.

The real question is How Much Do You Value the Things That Enrich Your Life? What are you willing to pay to help those artists survive, live, thrive, and make more?

If you're coming to Planet Comicon (or attending any sort of artistic event) something you should remember is that not everyone who is famous at those things makes a real living off their art. Some do, quite a few do, but not everyone. If you find something you're interested in, engage with the artist and think hard about buying something. Likely that person has paid to attend said event and would like to eat lunch at some point. Dropping a dollar or two will keep them going and allow them to create more art.

Art for you to enjoy.