February 5, 2010
I had a conversation with a friend a few days ago. I mentioned wanting to sell ad space on this site, to which he jokingly remarked, “Why you selling out, man?”
He was joking. At least, I think he was joking.
The idea of “selling out” is kind of like the abortion debate. You have the pro-life and pro-choice sides, but by the very nature of their names, one side is already seen as the best, even if you know nothing of the pro-choice argument. If you are not pro-life, you must be for its opposite, which is death. Linguistics skewers the debate and argument becomes impossible, usually devolving into a shouting match. In the same way, “selling out” is the connotation that making money from doing something you love, something which you may believe in, is inherently wrong.
The term’s proper definition is that someone accepts money, power, prestige, or otherwise advances by compromising his or her ideals. In other words, the person in question continues to do something that once meant something, but now alters or otherwise compromises its integrity for the sake of payment. However, too many people instantly assume that if you’re making money from doing something you like doing, you’re selling out. The idea is most often used for musicians and other artists who may develop a loyal fan following, but then break out big and the core fans suddenly feel as though the artist’s newfound fame has diluted the work. It’s been applied to U2, Greenday, and many, many other bands. Any time an artist does something with mass appeal, the core fan base feels as if it has been betrayed, as if their cherished artists have done something simply for the sake of money, ratings, and fame.
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Will artists make better or worse work when a major backer puts money into art? It’s never definite. You can have the biggest budget in the world, no strings attached, but it won’t guarantee a hit. It will, however, force the artist to focus solely on the project since work is now irrelevant. The artist no longer needs that part-time job getting in the way. This brings us to the fact that, well, artists are people and have needs. We still need housing, food, electricity, and in my case, an internet connection to help with research and, oh yes, to update the website you are now reading.
Thanks for reading, by the way. I mean it.
To show my appreciation, here’s a video of a slinky-cat::
Artists have to make money, the same as everybody else, except that what they produce is held to a higher standard. We tend to view art as something that must be pure, something that must not be tampered with in any way shape or form. Accepting money for these creations, oh these holiest of creations, is like throwing a beautiful woman on a dirty shag carpet. To accept money is to tarnish the sanctity of creation. Won’t someone think of the children?
…Hang on a second.
Art does not exist by itself. Creating art takes time. It took years. I’m counting eleven years of hardcore writing training, both personal and professional, on my part. Want to know how long it took to put this site up? Two weeks searching for a place to host it, designing the layout, putting the images together, checking that all the links worked, and finally setting up the Facebook Fan Page, then sending out invites. That was a lot of time seeing as how I’ve never done any of this before, and I wish could have gotten paid for it. Furthermore, each article takes at least a day of work. We’re talking research into the subject, images, videos, then editing, spell-check, video and image embedding, and making sure the page doesn’t go all wonky when it publishes.
Wonky’s a word.
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I have a job, one that gives me these neat little W-2 forms every January, helps pay the bills, and does use my skills to do something productive. Not that I don’t think this website is unproductive, but as of this writing, the site doesn’t do anything other than show articles. If I wanted to make it a full-time deal, as in hire someone to clean up the design and make it more accessible than my code-ignorant attempt, if I wanted to, say, pay for articles so I didn’t do all the writing and we could feature others on Tuesdays and Thursdays, or even hold contests and sell merchandise (whatever that may be in the future), then this site has to turn a profit.
The same goes for any artistic endeavor. Musicians need instruments, promotion, money for a recording studio, and equipment like speakers. Painters need paint, canvases, and sometimes subjects to pose. Filmmakers are going to need cameras, actors, scriptwriters, and a small army of people to make the movie. All these people also need plenty of booze to fuel the creative process. It’s a well-known fact that alcohol lubricates the brain.
Not really. Don’t drink and write. Whiskey makes the ink run.
The point remains that artists need to find capital. Unless the National Endowment for the Arts gives me the money to fund this project, this website will remain limited. Advertising is non-existent except for word of mouth at the moment.
Am I selling out by putting ads on this page or trying to increase views?
I certainly don’t think so.
If I could do this and write my own fiction without having to worry about housing, food, bills, and entertainment, I’d probably do it, but that’s not the world we live in. Will this website be better when it starts getting ad revenue? I think so. There are plans. I’ve touched on a few of them, so as we near the end of this baby site’s third week, I’d ask you to think about what artists you enjoy. Are they special because you like them, or are they special for the things they create? Do they compromise their craft when they advertise on the radio, in television, or when they sign a big contract? It’s certainly possible that some people are in it for the money, but if anyone gets into any type of art, either music, visual, or other, with the intent of becoming rich, they’re not the sharpest crayon in the box.
I knew exactly what I was doing when I decided to become a writer. Would I like to make money from it? Sure, but I’m not right now, and that’s fine. If I never made a cent from Randomology, I’d be okay with just knowing people read and enjoyed my work. When I was a teacher, I didn’t have to make my students pass. I could have given them the easiest assignments in the world and had them all pass. I didn’t. I made them work for it. I cursed them out in class. This site? Could easily have been a free blog, like Divining by Zero, but I wanted to be able to do things I could not in that format. I would not accept a cent if someone asked me to change the way I wrote for the sake of views.
I’m going to do that by offering something you can’t get anywhere else. I’m going to be honest with you. I’m going to entertain you. I’m not going to jerk you around. A real artist knows that canvas would stay in a corner of the room if it wasn’t for the fans. A real artist knows the most beautiful prose in the world is worthless if someone doesn’t read it. A real artist loves his fans.
I’d like to think I’m a real artist.