The creative conundrum

Social media brought self publishing to the masses.  It radically changed the music industry, the news industry, the public relations industry  and the wider media industry.  Everyone  had easier and cheaper access to creative art.  People with no discernible talent could make their name online with cheap access to acquiring and distributing creative art.

While Flickr has lost of lot of its lustre to services like Instagram and Pinterest, it was the photo sharing service that revolutionised photo sharing.  If offered a source for the sharing – a way that people could upload their photos and share.  In a way completing the cycle that digital cameras started.  It allows trends to be set – like  Mermaid Parade, it allows easy access to news photos from difficult situations and it allows a new type of business person – the  collector.

The collector is the one that takes the work of others and puts it on their own accounts – does it a lot and gets many, many followers.  They get the credit, or something like it despite never creating anything or paying the copyright.

It is something we hear a lot about in music and movies but not so much in art or, particularly photography.

It is something that these industries will have to figure out.  As social media, and the behaviours that Flickr, Pinterest and Facebook in particular encourage.

For the public relations professional, it can be fantastic – it is a great way to get your client’s name out there without having to go to a lot of effort or more importantly, cost.  It can also be useful for the journalist, as they can bring you pictures and media as never before – very important in a 24 hour news cycle world.

But what about the artists themselves?

How do they pay their bills and where is the encouragement for them to ply their trade, shell out the funds for the equipment, travel to destinations, post process and distribute?  It was a hard industry to make money in before, now it is even more difficult.

Social media tends to drive a quantity over quality mindset when it comes to art.  In a way, it is the expansion of digital technology to sharing digital technology.  In the past, only the best photos made it magazines, made it to people’s eyes.

You just have to look at Instagram.  There are 58 photos a second ( uploaded to the site.   Finding the quality ones are difficult.  On the other hand, Pinterest is growing at an amazing rate but those pins are generally taken from other areas of the Internet or media and repurposed for a board.

Which is fine, except that people get to use a photographer or other artist’s work for free.   How does one go about claiming the fee for the service of taking the picture?  If there is no fee, talented artists don’t get to fund their talents and they don’t take the pictures they once would have.

The odd part about it is that we seem to accept it for creative services, but would we for physical items?

This is not a post to be an apologist for social media or those in creative industries.  Business models and copyright legislation needs to catch up to the new world.  Services that started with the advent of digital technology, revolutionised by services like Flickr have made things more accessible, cheaper.

“Here Comes Everybody,” chapter 2 outlines transaction costs and the significantly decreased costs that crowd sourced and digital have.  People in the creative arts need to earn, it isn’t all about ‘cost’ and that is a conundrum that these industries must resolve.Sam Tickell