A strange thing is happening in our post-modern, electronically connected culture. Strange, but not simple. More and more, people seem to think they should get maximum return for very little investment–or, ideally, none at all.
Nowhere is this attitude of entitlement more obvious than in people’s consumption of art, including books, music and movies. Many people don’t want to pay for things like these until they’ve already tried them and liked them. Then and only then, they’re willing to pay, as if paying an artist for his or her work were like a tip in a restaurant instead of deserved payment for labor and time.
I can’t think of another area in which large numbers of people would find it acceptable not to pay for services rendered. Some people would refuse to tip in a restaurant if the service was poor, but they wouldn’t just walk out without paying for their meal. Most people wouldn’t consider pulling out of a gas station with a full tank without paying. I’ve never heard of someone refusing to pay a barber, even if they really didn’t think the haircut they just got was the best they’d ever had.
But, in the case of creative work, and its products, too many people in our culture think they deserve the product of a writer’s, musician’s, or artist’s labor for free–even when they freely admit, “I could never do something like that.”
I’m an author. I’ve published three novels, and I’m working on a fourth. It’s my profession; it’s not a hobby. It’s fun, but it’s also work. And, as many people have told me, it’s work that a lot of people can’t do–even if they’d like to. But when it comes to many people’s willingness to pay for it, it might as well be invisible work.
You wouldn’t go into a shoe store and expect the shop owner to let you just take a pair of shoes out of the store, wear them around for a month or so, and then pay for them if they liked the fit, would you?
Well, I don’t expect someone to download an ebook of my novels Annah and Dark Road to Paradise from some pirate website, read them for free and only go to Amazon and pay for them if they thought they were good.
The work an author, musician or artist puts into a product is as worthy of compensation as that done by any other worker. If you choose to read, listen, or watch, you have to realize that the work that went into producing what you’re consuming is not invisible–the evidence of it is in your ears, on the screen, on the page.
Just like the words on this page, which in this case I’ve written expecting only to be paid by one means:
This time, pay attention.