What happens to anything you give away for free? The recipient comes to mistake its value. You must begin in your own beliefs and actions that art is imminently valuable because of what it creates in ourselves and our community – joy, escape, enlightenment, passion, connection – things that pretty much aren’t for sale anywhere else.
I’m all for saving money, but I think we’ve gotten out of hand in the way we disrespect the value of art. When we stream music or movies and read book summaries on wikipedia, the artist always loses. They’re getting paid pennies, or nothing, for their time, creativity, talent and labour. We would never suggest the same model for iPhones or Pottery Barn furniture. I believe it is incumbent on all of us to change the way we treat artistic work. Just because it is an expression doesn’t mean it should be free.
So many get all ruffled at the concept that creativity shouldn’t have a price tag. That’s not the point. Artistry should be a legitimate full-time career. I’m not suggesting state sponsorship or patronage – I also believe we should be prepared to compete, to market, to sell and to ensure that our career is sustainable. But all of that beings with a shift in attitude. It starts with us. With you. Commit to buying a CD or an item from the merch table. Buy a print or a hand-made greeting card or artisanal furniture. Pay a fair price for a professional photographer, attend local performances. Whatever you can, put your support behind artists with actual dollars.
That will perpetuate the attitude that art is worth buying, and artistry is a career worth pursuing. It will allow a talented artist to live another day before succumbing to sameness and getting a day job. Do this and someone will be inspired to build something – maybe a startup or an app or a new model for monetizing art. I personally feel like I’m running out of stuff to buy. Everyone around me says they don’t want stuff, they want experiences…..well, here you go.