Lately I’ve had a lot of reasons to think about the relationship between Art and Money. There’s much to say about that subject, and we’ll cover it from different angles over the next few months. To kick off the series, here’s a quick story from the archives of unhappy people on the internet.
Andrea Scher writes over at Superhero Designs, where she also sells homemade jewelry and does commercial photography. For five years and counting, she’s provided regular inspiration for a hyperactive community of women, fellow artists, and self-proclaimed superheroes.
So anyway, last week Andrea announced that she would be doing a site redesign, and the new site will include a few spaces for sponsors in the right column. This is the normal protocol for full-time bloggers – build a community, write for free, and have some advertisers on the right-side that help pay the bills. That’s not my plan here, but I have no problem with people who do it that way.
No big deal, right? Well… in the comments section of an otherwise tame blog, a few people felt like the world had ended. Here’s what some of them had to say:
- “it is not right to put an ad on your beauty. it is not healthy for everything to be for sale. this is a cultural sickness.” -kelly
- “I really never thought I would see ads on your Superhero Journal. I won’t read it anymore because I am tired and sickened by the selling of America. You can paint it and dress it in pearls but that’s what this is. ADS. Ads. ads. I feel so sad.” –penelope
- “i am opposed to advertising impacting every aspect of our existence and I wish more of us would keep boundaries around our creative space and say ‘this is not for sale!’” -katie
Someone even compared Andrea to a cocaine dealer and email spammer – yes, seriously. It reminded me of this article in my favorite non-newspaper, The Onion.
Really, putting an ad on a blog is as bad as selling cocaine? It seems that the hyperbole of the internet takes over in full force with some blog commentors, who strangely enough don’t usually provide links to their own blogs.
Of course, most people aren’t that silly. There were dozens of positive comments posted on Andrea’s blog supporting her decision, with 95% of the people expressing their appreciation for all of the free inspiration she continually brings to her community. In the end I have no doubt that she will benefit more from the exchange than if no one had complained at all.
But most of us tend to focus on – and worry about – the complainers who want to hold everyone down to the level of average.
I talked to someone from San Diego the other day and mentioned the singer-songwriter Jason Mraz, who lives there. “I really like his music,” I said.
“Yeah,” he said. “Although now that he is all famous and everything, he no longer plays coffee shops, so I don’t like him as much.”
You hear this kind of attitude a lot about musicians. Now that he can afford to have a house and buy health insurance for his family, Dave Matthews sucks. Coldplay was cool before they started selling out arenas, but now they are the band everyone loves to hate.
(The funny thing is that Coldplay’s new album has been #1 for weeks in most countries that track record sales… so if everyone hates them, who is buying the album? Hmmm.)
When you are a starving artist that lives by donations, that’s cool too. But when you become successful enough that more people want to appreciate your art, all of a sudden you become the target of jealousy and resentment from less successful people.
Unfortunately, it’s not only the critics who feel this way—some artists have a similar complex of their own that holds them back.
I usually end up meeting artists whenever I travel, and I’ve noticed that some (certainly not all, but a significant minority) seem to have a fear of letting money come anywhere near their art. They think that selling something, anything, is the same as “selling out.” They worry that people will criticize them if they decide to go commercial – and as we can see from Andrea’s recent experience, they’re probably right.
Paradoxically, by not taking the next step in their art, they are severely limiting themselves. Bill Cosby said once, “I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.”
Being 100% non-commercial is safe and easy – no one can complain, because you work for free. To take it up a level, you have to enter the marketplace.
My Upcoming Cocaine Dealership
Talking about Art and Money is not a hypothetical discussion for me. I won’t be putting ads on the site because that’s not really my style, but as I have said from the beginning, I have no objection to people earning money from their art form.
With that in mind, I’m creating a series of Unconventional Guides that will be offered for sale here on the site. The guides will feature 100% practical information focused on specific topics related to Life, Work, and Travel. In the guides I’ll explain exactly how I travel around the world, pay relatively little for airfare, earn money without a job, and so on.
More importantly, I’ll explain how you can do the same, or even better—how you can use the strategies to do whatever it is that you are interested in.
The first report is called the Unconventional Guide to Discount Airfare and will launch on Wednesday morning. I’m pretty excited about it. In 31 pages of specific strategies and tactics, I’ll tell you exactly how you can become your own travel guru and pay a lot less for plane tickets than virtually everyone else out there.
Of course, the guide will be professionally designed, include free updates for life, a complete satisfaction guarantee, coffee refills at Starbucks, etc.*
(*The coffee refills may not happen. But everything else will.)
I already know that some people will love this. I get emails every day asking for this kind of information, and I spent a lot of hours writing the Discount Airfare guide. I’ll be surveying the readers who purchase it to determine which guide I should write next, and to keep it as accessible as possible, I’ll price the guide a lot lower than market value.
Other people won’t love it or just won’t need the information, and that’s fine too – that’s why it’s a paid product, so that those who can benefit from it will buy it, and those for whom it is not relevant for can sit it out. No problem. Assuming this guide is well-received, I’ll be making more of them, and maybe something else will be a better fit for you. Or maybe not, and that’s also OK, because my writing on the site will always be free.
But if someone thinks I’m as bad as a cocaine dealer for selling products that improve people’s lives, well, they’ll just have to think that, because I could probably not convince them otherwise.
For everyone else, I hope you like it. I’ll see you on Wednesday with more details about the guide, and an order link for those who are interested.
Image by guano