Jun 15, 2009

Artist Beware


Melinda Beck is nobody's fool; she's also successful and experienced enough to turn down an offer from Google to do work for them for free. Photo by Ruby Washington for The New York Times.

This article in the New York Times caught my eye today.
There's been a lot of this going around lately involving artists-most of you have heard or read about the "exposure opportunity" giveaway/contest deals various large businesses have been baiting animation artists with. Here's more of the same nonsense, this time from Google. I recommend reading it. Warning: your blood will likely boil.

"Use Their Work Free? Some Artists Say No to Google"

ADDENDUM: Via Drawger-an illustrator's internet destination site-there's a page of feedback reaction to this article, some of it from artists quoted in the Times piece, all of it well articulated. Read it here.

10 comments:

Chris Boyd said...

You're right. My blood is boiling. Grrrr. >:(

Larry Levine said...

This little gray rabbit doesn't work for free.

Bob Cowan said...

Jenny -- Thanks for putting this up! It certainly impacts more than just animation artists!

Tim said...

Even Disney is trying this out:
http://d23.disney.go.com/expo/articles/060609_D23Exopo_BN_DonaldPortrait.html

It gets even worse, this "contest" is only open to D23 members... you have to pay a fee.

Robert said...

The weird paradox is that one constantly sees artists railing on the web against "copyright" and how it's stopping them from using someone else's work for free. But artists rarely want their own work used for free.

I hear artists using the same "exposure" pitch that Google is using, claiming that the exposure they give to another artist's work is more than enough compensation for taking it (an animator who recently created a feature reliant upon music she didn't own comes to mind), and yet when artists are offered mere "exposure" for their own work the assessment of exposure's value suddenly declines.

Maybe Google was just taking the artists at their word that (everyone else's) art should be "free".

I don't have a solution for this conflict, but it seems an obvious problem that artists need to resolve.

Al Quagliata said...

Thanks for posting this. Its complete insanity to ask any artist to work for free. And bravo to all who turned them down!

Dan Goodsell said...

Yeah the real question is the value of exposure. Taxali considers the exposure worthless. Bob Dylan (or his managers) see the value of the exposure. It is because each is selling a very different thing.

Taxali's income comes from illustration jobs. He has no book he is selling or other "real" world object that will benefit from added exposure. His income survives by art directors knowing him and wanting him.

As opposed to Bob Dylan, who will give his image away because he is in the business of selling his music. Any imagery for the most part is promotion and to get huge exposure is worthwhile since it keeps him in the public mind and gets him sales. Bob Dylan is also a brand and huge free publicity increases his brand.

Gary Taxali is not a brand in the public eye (at least in the way that his career seems to be playing out to me).

Me personally as an artist "give it away" all the time. Most all of my artwork is on the net for people to enjoy and look at. This my slightly curtail the sales of my comic books but it adds to my exposure and in the investment people have with my characters. This helps promote my work and helps sales of other things I make like toys, buttons, etc.

I would say yes in a second to Google or anyone else that would get that many eyeballs looking at my characters.

Google is not selling the work per se. There is a partnership formed. They connect themselves with something cool and that thing gets exposure.

Also think of Radiohead. They gave away their last record for free as a download. It helped cement the record in the cultural mind. They got tons of press and now that record sells great and that helps sell back catalog.

It is all about branding. If that is what you are doing the Google thing is a great opportunity.

Also comparing this to sham animation contests is a case of apples and oranges. Those contests most likely get your work seen by a few executives. The real equivalent is putting your video/animation on YouTube. Mine are up there and I am happy to give them away for free. I have 160K views on one of mine. I would not have gotten that any other way.

Anonymous said...

Harlan Ellison when asked to do free DVD commentaries for a show he had written..."Let me ask you something, are YOU being paid to call and ask me to work for free?!"

Jenny Lerew said...

A good place for me to say I love Harlan.

laughingwolf said...

work for free? fughedaboudit!

how many gazillions of $$$ does google rake in from 'free' art, whether drawn, painted, photographed, written or animated?