New Ways to Pay?

Again from our friends at Artsjournal.com is a Wired article about how Internet content may not be free for much longer. (But just above it was this blog entry about how classical music fans were overjoyed that downloads of Beethoven from the BBC exceeded that of U2–except the Beethoven was free so it is unfair to compare. People like free stuff.)

The Wired article points out that television was free when it started, but now that the delivery medium has evolved, we pay for it, as basis for claiming at at some point we will regularly pay for internet content as well.

Much of the article is devoted to discussing the pitfalls of transitioning from free to pay-for-content. The worst being alienating all those who currently patronize your site and sending them to your competitor.

The very end of the article mentions that blogs will probably always be free. This might be dangerous for some websites if they cede an opinion shaping position totally over to blogs.

This was interesting and all, but the reason I chose it for today’s entry is because it got me thinking that perhaps there were other ways to structure access to performances, museums and the like.

In fact, IDG is a living example of this. The company operates 300 websites and employs about 200 online strategies — free content, cheap content, expensive content, content that requires an onerous registration process, and content that requires little more than an e-mail address and ZIP code. In some cases, a website may have three-quarters free content and a quarter requiring registration or a subscription. Or, it could offer a subscription for $150 a year but give it away if the reader fills out a detailed registration form.

Obviously applying these ideas for arts organizations where people are present physically is different from the internet where their presence is virtual and easier to limit.

Honestly, the only application I have been able to come up with that is directly associated with the structures the article mentions is for museums. You can peruse this gallery with limited Mucha prints for free, but if you want to see a more detailed exhibit, you have to pay. Unless theatres dance and concert halls let people in for the first half for free and then made them pay to come back in after intermission, I can’t see it working exactly the same for live performances.

Though perhaps the perception of some value for free while the suckers paid to go back in would provide an inducement for people to attend where a totally free or totally paid event might not. I will have to think upon this whole subject some more and post about it later.

Let Your Creativity Shine!

Courtesy of our friends at Artsjournal.com is a story on the BBC website about how the 21st may become the century of amateur culture. The article cites how podcasting, blogs and digital photos have really empowered people with the ability to share bits of themselves.

The article heavily quotes Lawrence Lessig who created the Creative Commons, basically a way for content creators to state what portions of their creations they will and won’t allow other people to use.

The content of my blog, for example, has always had a Creative Commons license on it. Click the icon in the lower right column under the calendar and entry listings to view the details of it.

The story makes the move by many media companies to limit the usage of material they control like the last flare of a fire before it burns itself out. Though they concede that big media will always be in a strong position to create and control, amateurs will find themselves in a much better position to influence tastes than they have ever been before.

The BBC itself is digitizing its archives to allow people to remix their sounds and images in order to create something new. There is no mention about what restrictions they place on the use of the material in terms of giving recognition to the creators of the original pieces, but I imagine they won’t be onerous.

Build Your Community

My entry yesterday has received a comment from a somewhat appropriate source. Kevin Smokler has written a book, Bookmark Now: Writing in Unreaderly Times, which essentially asks, is it worth writing a book if no one is reading them.

He also offers a consulting service to newly published and aspiring authors to help them operate in the current reality of literature. I don’t know much about consulting and coaching in this area, but what you get for his rates seems pretty reasonable to me.

But anyway, at first blush his suggestions seemed pretty naive to me. As a society, we are looking for easier ways to do things and aren’t about to inconvenience ourselves for the sake of nostalgia. You’d just as soon wish that the Donny and Marie Show were still on so your family would have something wholesome to watch on Friday nights. I am sure there will come a day when we look back nostalgically to the days Home Depot was bustling with excitement and talk about how much we miss the unspoken camaraderie and respect when do-it-yourselfers stood side by side with building contractors.

As I thought about it though, I came to realize I had witnessed some community building activities like those he suggested. As a society, we may be moving in a certain direction, but individually, our actions and gestures still have power. Home Depot and Walmart may never notice if you don’t shop in their stores, but the places you do shop instead might recognize your gesture.

Also, it may be easier than you think to build a community and establish the types of traditions and values I mentioned yesterday. My sister moved into one of those houses in the suburbs Kevin mentioned (though to be fair, the mortgage payments on her large house were less than the rent on her two bedroom apartment in Hoboken, NJ). Shortly after they did, they invited their neighbors to a “meet the new folks” bar-b-que.

Come to find out, most of the neighbors had never met each other either. They enjoyed each other’s company and decided they should have more parties. The started a themed round the world party at Christmas time. It is now in the 5th year. Right now, the biggest problem is whether to let others in the neighborhood into their circle because they are getting so bloated and drunk from all the food and alcohol available at the half hour stops at participating houses now.

Since then the people in #15 have established that they will have an annual picnic on July 4th and my sister has drawn her neighbors into the annual August summer party tradition she had going when she was living in Hoboken. When I was there in June, another of the neighbors had decided to establish the first annual ice cream social. (Alas, I missed it!)

In a sense, Kevin is correct. If we, as a society are engaging in conspicious consumption far beyond our means, it might be nice to turn it to the benefit of our community and create our own niche traditions and culture. Sure you have a 60′ television with an awesome sound system. Pick a night and roll it out on the patio and turn your yard into a drive-in for the neighborhood kids (minus the cars, of course.) The kids are probably amusing themselves with the fact they can watch television through your windows from all the way across the street anyway.

NYFA–It’s Ain’t Just for NY

“NYFA’s online database, NYFA Source, is the largest searchable resource of grants, services, and publications for artists in all disciplines nationwide. If you’re seeking funding, residencies, or specialized information, it’s the definitive place to search – and it’s free. Yet many artists don’t utilize the breadth of information it offers, or are unaware of it altogether.”

Since many artists don’t know about it, I figured I would help NYFA out and let people know. NYFA, by the way, is the NY Foundation for the Arts. While many of their activities are understandably focussed on NY, their grant database is rather extensive and instructions for its use are good.

For those that are interested, there is a page where a NYFA staff member responds to comments about NYFA Source.

This month’s issue of NYFA Current also discusses health care for artists. This article is New York City specific, but does discuss what one city hospital is doing to make care affordable for artists. A similar program might be worth advocating for in other cities.