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Initially split off from an argument started in DRM.





And a completely OffTopic? point.  I think that most authors get their start (if not their continuing career) with work written in their spare time.  Does anyone else have examples of it happening the other way around - an author being given an advance so that they can live whilst writing - before they have otherwise been published?  --Vitenka

Yes. But, even if I didn't, while writing in one's spare time is a fair way to start it is not sustainable. You simply cannot have a full-time job and write seriously for a long period, unless you are some kind of superman, or do not need sleep or human contact. One or the other must go (most writers who cannot survive on their writing do part-time or freelance jobs, which helps but it not ideal). - PlasmonPerson
I wasn't actually attacking your point - I was just interested.  I know of people being published the way around I first said it, and was presuming that to be the nrm.  but then I realised that I didn't actually know, so thought I would ask.  Is "Write something and then get the publishers interested" the 'normal' route to publishing, or is it more normal for a publisher to say "Hey you!  Write a book!"?  If the latter, is it only people who have made their names in fields already?  And quite where does journalism fit into this thing?  --Vitenka
I'd be astonished if PlasmonPerson had examples of a publisher saying "Hey, you! Write a book!" to someone completely out of the blue with no prior publications or sample text. Just in case: PlasmonPerson - do you? More to the point: Vitenka - Which side of the line do you consider something like "Here's a prologue for a book and a summary of what the contents is going to be; I know I've never been published anywhere before, but I think this speaks for itself. If you, Mr. Publisher, like it enough to pay me an advance so I can quit my day job, I'll write the rest." as being..? - MoonShadow
Depends how big the prologue is.  Does that happen a lot?  If so, I'm surprised.  I'm coming to this with greater knowledge of the VideoGames? side - where everyone and their pet rabbit has an idea for a game (and heck, it probably stars the [pet rabbit]), but very few end up getting made.  Is it very different for books, they are starved of ideas and flush with cash?  --Vitenka
For what it's worth, that is how comics are made. As I understand it, one pitches a plot description, plan, some character designs and a few pages to a publisher who then decides whether to go ahead with it or not. On the other hand, my friend Fehed has been working on a comic with his artist for ages now. It was near finished when they found a publisher (The Clarence Principle, published by Slave Labor Graphics). So it can be done the other way round - SunKitten




PlasmonPerson: Do you genuinely believe that everything people produce without first finding a way to  receive remuneration for it is inevitably "crap"? - MoonShadow

Who mentioned 'first finding'? - PlasmonPerson
Your addition of the word "crap" to "there are plenty of people willing to make things for free" appears to imply it - "make things without first finding a way to receive remuneration for them" is a necessary condition of "make things for free"; which is a broader concept that also includes such activities as "make things anyway having first tried and failed to find a way etc etc". - MoonShadow

In general, everything produced by people who just do it in their free time for free (as opposed to on spec) on a long-term basis is crap, yes. - PlasmonPerson
..could you reword that to include your stance below on professional people working doing more of the sort of thing they do for a living in their spare time and giving it away for free? Thanks. - MoonShadow

Thank you for clarifying your stance on this matter. Oh, how long, to an order of magnitude, do you believe "long-term" is? And I take it by "on spec" you mean "to a spec given by a paying customer", rather than "to a spec arrived at after discussion with non-paying users" or "to a self-produced spec"? - MoonShadow
I think he means "on spec"; as in "speculatively; in the hope of selling it once it's finished, rather than continuing to write for free indefinitely" not "to a specification". --Rachael (who doesn't agree with PlasmonPerson, however)
Cool. Any chance of a brief summary of the sort of reasons why you might disagree? - MoonShadow
Flippant answer:  because it would be rude and hypocritical to use ToothyWiki to dismiss PhoenixFeathers and its ilk as "crap". Serious answer (oh dear, I didn't want to get into this debate....) because I believe in at least the theoretical possibility of ArtForArtsSake?. Art produced simply because its creator wanted to create it is no less likely to be good, and may even be more likely to be good, than art produced for mercenary motives. I know it's a false dichotomy and much art is produced for both reasons, but I think the point stands. Enjoyment and (some degree of) fame are reward enough for some people. Why should this feature of their temperament correlate with being crap artists? --Rachael
You cannot live off those however. You also cannot fund your art from those. Writing is cheap. Painting is not expensive. Sculpture starts to become expensive, as does music, especially where a large number of instruments are involved. Television and film are phenomenally expensive.  --Gwyntar
No. Getting yourself aired on television is phenomenally expensive. Hiring famous actors is phenomenally expensive. Studio time is phenomenally expensive. Advertising is expensive. Distribution to shops is expensive. But all these things, ultimately, are only required if you are running a business. Using digital equipment and volunteer talent, publishing on the net, indie footage is arguably quite possible and one could plausibly argue that it is only a matter of time before this is taken advantage of seriously. Isn't there a fan-made Star Trek episode around? What was that film that was in the cinemas recently that had a tiny budget and was made entirely with a digital camera? Of course, anyone good enough to pull that off is probably already working for Hollywood, but I put it to you that that's because the current market will bear the higher expenses, not because they are strictly necessary. I would argue that good film / good music should not depend on the expensive bits. Bear in mind that a lot of Soviet-era Russian classics were made on tiny budgets even by Russian standards, never mind western. As something of a corollary, I find the [low-budget independent] films with lots of debuting actors as a rule tend to be more interesting than the average hollywood pap, although one could easily argue that that is very subjective and also that I only ever get to see the pick of the crop. Oh, and anime of course - Hoshi No Koe was made by one man in his spare time in his bedroom; Tsukihime was fan-made.. - MoonShadow

Hm. I assume mentioning specific examples of things PlasmonPerson has previously recommended (eg. Faans) is not gonna get us anywhere. - MoonShadow

Faans began as a professional (small-press) comic book, and moved through KeenSpot? to Graphic Smash, both of which (in theory) pay. Its writer is one of the foremost advocates of finding ways to make webcomics that are good enoguh profitable for those who write and draw them. If you want an example that's about the worst one you could have picked. - PlasmonPerson
Yes, it's very interesting to compare the professional webcomics to the non-professional ones. --Gwyntar

OK then, what about student productions etc? Like, for example, CCMS shows? - Rachael
Did you see Dance to my Tune? Hardly Stoppard, was it? And it wasn't just that one: there was the flabby, over-length and under-focused Working Angels' Club, and the rather bitty, unevenly-paced and horribly derivative one on the spaceship. - PlasmonPerson

So here we have a problem. We can't have a discussion like this based on one person's subjective judgement of 'crap'. I thought we were classing things as 'crap' if they can't be sold, which, while not really an adequate definition, is at least objective and observable. I really liked 'Working Angels' Club' and would happily pay to see it again; while the following two were a bit unsubtle I liked them as well (I didn't see 'Dance to my Tune'). And aside from my own subjective judgement, lots of people paid to see all four. So either you want to send the argument down in flames over who gets to define 'crap' or 'crap' is defined by the amount of money people will pay to see/read/watch/use/listen to it, in which case none of the CCMS musicals have been crap - SunKitten




Ok, more questions to PlasmonPerson: what do you think of volunteer work? Local community mutual-help type things, volunteer-run charities, volunteer-run third-world aid, that sort of thing? Is that all "crap" too, or not? If not, what is the significant difference? Note that a significant number of free software developers cite wanting to help third-world countries as part or all of their motive for not charging - so motivation isn't the difference. If it is all "crap", should we get all those people to stop wasting their time and start charging? - MoonShadow

If professional writers write for charity, they probably won't write crap just because they're not doing it for money. If someone only writes for 'charity' then all the probability is that they are not good enough to be professional, and therefore will write crap. Same applies for musicians, actors, whatever. - PlasmonPerson
...and your answer to the question I ask above? I'm not talking about the people that "do stuff for charity", I'm talking about the other kind - from the sort of people who give up their City job to go teach kids in the third world for a year for no reward, to the sort of people who run the WRVS stalls in hospitals.. - MoonShadow (this is why the bit below is separate!)
Don't understand. If you mean people who, in their spare time, write stuff that they give away for free to charities, or play gigs for free for charities, or whatever, then they're probably not good enough to do it professionally. So yes, in general, crap. I suppose there might be one gem among the mountains of crap. Maybe. If you're willing to go grubbing about in the crap to find it. - PlasmonPerson
Oh yeah 'in general crap' is there. I stand by everything there: it doesn't say that everything given to charity is crap. Did you miss 'If professional writers write for charity, they probably won't write crap'? Come on, are you misreading things deliberately now? - PlasmonPerson
OK, thanks for clarifying that. - MoonShadow

..and what about people that charge for things they produce but give all the proceeds to charity (and therefore, presumably, have another way of actually living, like a day job) rather than living off them? Is that different again, or is it all just more "crap" being sold to suckers? - MoonShadow

If they can charge for it then it's probably not crap. - PlasmonPerson
What do you say to cases like Something Positive, where someone who originally intending to give things done in their spare time away raised enough in voluntary donations to quit their day job? It's clearly not bad now since he's living off it; was it good to start with, or did it suddenly become good when he started charging? - MoonShadow
It's not clearly not bad now he's started charging for it, lots of bad stuf gets sold as well. I haven't read Something Positive for ages, but my impression when I did was that it was funny to start off with but does not really go anywhere or have much depth beyond attempting shock value.  --PlasmonPerson

But if they can do that and hold down a full-time day job they must be Supermen. - PlasmonPerson
Great, it feels like we might be getting somewhere. What say we start a list of Supermen below? Oh, and who said anything about full-time? Surely if it's enough to support oneself it can be anything that pays? - MoonShadow
Sure, as long as you don't have a family, don't own a car, don't have a mortgage, and are happy to live in penury in your old age, anything that pays is fine. I'd love to see the list though (and let's leave free software out of it, that's an issue for another day) --Gwyntar

Ugh, terminology.  Calling it "Professional" quality is ending the question before it begins.  I understand what you mean, though.
But is it a requirement?  As long as people are being paid for something - and that payment is sufficient for them to live and support their art, why is the link needed?
Let's see:  Here's what the 'insane california people' think on the subject: http://www.fastcompany.com/subscr/87/open_essay.html  This, obviously, goes far too far, but I think its general thrust is correct.  --Vitenka

Misses the point completely. That amateurs have new ideas is hardly revolutionary; nobody is born professional. But though they start off amateur, they do, at least in the areas mentioned (like rap music: unless I missed the story about how Eminem works in a laundrette three days a week to make ends meet), become professional.
Free software is actually a case in point, because most of those who write it depend on the normal, non-free software business for their bread and butter.
..except for the more interesting business models such as (a) giving away the software and charging for tech support, (b) giving away the software for personal, nonprofit and educational use and charging businesses, and (before someone objects that you can't do those with games) (c) giving away the software and selling subscriptions for access to an online service; where arguably the income does not compete with the concept of free software for the general public. - MoonShadow




NealStephenson has a bit to say on the subject of artists needing to eat - see [reply to question 2] (and incidentally while you're on that page, the question 4 reply is fantastic - MoonShadow)




For the avoidance of doubt, MoonShadow's current stance on the matters under discussion:




Because I forgot to, earlier; an expansion of group-payment for sponsorship.
The artist, as now, sees someone offering a bunch of cash up-front (or on a continuing basis) for producing a piece of work.  They, as now, give copyright to the purchaser who publishes it. 
Incidentally, this publisher publishes it for free, to the whole world.

On the other side, a bunch of people go to a publisher saying "We would like a bunch of work on such and such a subject" and hand over their cash.  When this amount gets large enough, that publisher goes to find an artist (see step 1)

Whilst the economics of this may or may not work (it works sometimes - the FarScape? OVA for example, but we don't know whether it works often) in what way is this undignified for the artist?  --Vitenka  (Artist / author / whatever)




I think the key point for me is, if there was no way to charge for any of this "stuff", far less stuff of high quality (what we call at the moment 'professional' quality) would be produced. --Gwyntar
But why should "no DRM" or even "made available for free" need to imply "no way to charge for / get paid for stuff"? Check out Dominic Deegan, Something Positive, Megatokyo; [Three Dead Trolls], [Baen free library]... lots more examples of this sort of thing exist. They all make copies of stuff they sell freely available online, and people still pay for said stuff. If PlasmonPerson's assertions are true and it's all "crap", and yet these people can make enough from donations / sales to match their (professional white-collar, but unrelated profession) day-job salaries - surely someone who puts up stuff of "high quality" should be able to get enough to satisfy any reasonable amount of greed? Further to the argument: 90% of the books on my shelf are books I had already read before I bought them, whether in a library or online or borrowing them from a friend. I own no CDs I had not heard the content of before I bought them. Oh, and - check out the UK anime scene. A typical LAC attendant buys 1-2 DVDs per month, of things they have already seen on fansub, and will not buy something they have not yet seen. Arguably, removing the availability of fansubs would actively destroy the market. Am I entirely alone in this, or does anyone else buy things in the same manner? - MoonShadow
Sure, there are a variety of ways to monetise stuff. However selling some form of limited right to the stuff is the most intuitive and well-established.  The advertising + merchandising model has also emerged, as has the give away and charge for support model. Finally there's the begging model (shareware) which has never really got very far. I can't think of any others right now. In the case of music (to take an example) noone has ever really managed to get any model other than the 'sell it' one working. --Gwyntar
Well, except for "offer it for free *and* sell it", as people like Three Dead Trolls do. Oh, and broadcast licensing. - MoonShadow
Let's think about what DRM allows. The sum total of human knowledge and art, digitised, available by voice command, cheaply (because the manufacturing/distribution network gets taken out of the equation). --Gwyntar
No, actually, you've described what using the Internet as a distribution network allows. The purpose of DRM is to forbid things. - MoonShadow
Of course the people who currently control the distribution network won't try and take the system in that direction, but without some form of DRM you cannot offer such a system without very rapidly finding that people will choose 'for free' instead of 'very cheaply', and producers get screwed. --Gwyntar
I think that with DRM the producers are screwed.  Because the people who have the rights to the DRM technology can rent them at an arbitarily high price.  Small producers are suddenly unable to afford the artificially inflated distribution costs, and everything falls apart again.  Case in point - the cost of a DVD-authoring drive, compared to a normal burner.  --Vitenka
Um, that is precisely the point I feel is unjustified. In the comment you are responding to I have listed a number of examples of people doing precisely the opposite - choosing to buy, choosing to donate, choosing the "very cheaply" option, after already having partaken of the stuff for free. Experience seems to contradict your point. Oh, another example: online mp3 sites. I know a lot of people who want music, are not prepared to pay CD prices, want specific tracks rather than entire albums, yet want to "go legal". They actively avoid DRM formats since they can't use the music in all the situations they want; so they buy mp3s. Now, the interesting bit is that a particular group of 30-40 of them that I have been observing for some while now all share their MP3 collections with each other yet all buy their own copies of stuff they like enough to stick on their home machine or in their non-DRM-compatible MP3 players. I frankly don't understand why - my prediction would have tended to be "they'll choose free over very cheap"; but it only took one of them to boast about his entire MP3 collection being legal and how little it had cost him and suddenly they'd all done it. - MoonShadow
But the economics doesn't work out on the production side. See above about fixed costs. - PlasmonPerson
I need only carry on pointing at people for whom the economics are working out, as I have done above. We can theorise all day about why they should or shouldn't work out, but the fact is that they are working out, for lots of people, right now. It's a fait accompli. - MoonShadow
But, they aren't. The only one you mention who that could plausibly apply to is Something Positive, and I'm dubious about whether his is a valid ongoing model (even if it is, of course, it reduces the artist to the status of beggar so isn't really acceptable as a general rule). The rest don't make their money from selling things which are available for free: they either use the time-honoured method of 'free samples' to attract interest (Three Dead Trolls, 'Megatokyo' in the sense that the comic advertises the print collections), or they sell advertising, (KeenSpot?) or they sell merchandise ('Megatokyo', Three Dead Trolls). I also note that Three Dead Trolls clearly also make money from the stand-up circuit and their TV and Radio shows so can't really be counted.
"'Megatokyo' in the sense that the comic advertises the print collections" - yes, that's pretty much my point. Note that by that logic one could draw the implication that mp3s on P2P networks advertise the CD collections - which I gather was not your intent? You can't have it both ways - either, as the pro-DRM argument above goes, people will always choose the free option when it is given and therefore won';t buy the print collections if you publish the stuff online, or - as Megatokyo demonstrates - you can give stuff away and stay viable. To say that Three Dead Trolls only publish samples is equally misleading, since they don't give away extracts - they give away the entire content of the tracks they sell, just the way Megatokyo gives away the entire content of the comic. Oh, since you're looking around their site, you might enjoy their [rants] [1] on the subject. "It reduces the artist to the status of beggar" - well, if I were going to be called names, I'd prefer "beggar" to "greedy rip-off merchant" and "extortionist". And I never intended to suggest they make all their money from selling things which are also available for free. All I am trying to demonstrate is that (a) it is possible to give things like art away and survive, and (b) people are prepared to pay for things that they have already seen / read / heard online. - MoonShadow''
There is a difference between a comic on the screen and a comic on paper; there is less of a difference between a CD in a Walkman and an MP3 on an iPod. Where does the difference get so small that there is, as far as enough people to break the bank are concerned, no difference? I don't know; I fear that we are finding out.
..and yet people buy Three Dead Trolls CDs, as well as significant amounts of other indie music distributed in a similar fashion; on the flip side, may I point out yet again that enough people would rather pay for mp3s than grab them from p2p networks to make dozens of competing equally accessible mp3 sites that charge similar amounts independently viable - an unprecedented experience in business; how do you explain that in the DRM world? - MoonShadow
Explaining it is simple: the MP3 sites don't have to bear the fixed costs, the bands do; and the bands either do things on the cheap (cheap equipment, cheap session musicians, produce on the lead singer's PowerBook?) and/or don't even break even. I'm sure some peopel buy CDs as well as getting it free; the question is, do enough?
The argument has never been that you can't give stuff away and stay viable. Of course you can. The argument is that you can't give everything away and stay viable (unless you find some alternative means of raising money, like advertising, merchandising or live performances: which are not always an option. How does one perform a comic book live?). DRM is a way of making sure that you can give stuff away and also keep stuff. Without it (the argument goes) you cannot keep stuff back to sell and give away samples; you have to give everything away, and then you can't stay in business.
Being beggars is not about being called names; it's about having the dignity to enter into transactions as an equal; 'you give me that, I give you this', rather than giving everything away and saying 'please please please please give me money'.
Doesn't quite work like that, though. With SP and Dominic Deegan it's more a matter of "I'll carry on doing this either way, but if you give me money so I can quit the day job you'll get more of it and better quality." How is that not "you give me that, I give you this"? - MoonShadow
It's not 'you give me that, I give you this' it's 'you give me that, I throw this out into the aether and anyone who wants can pick it up and give me money if they want'. It's not a transaction. It's the difference between giving a concert and busking.
There is always the implied (and sometimes explicitly stated) "And then I'll make more".  Models such as "We make a new chapter every x donations" (AdventureQuest) exist and seem to be stable.  Which is a huge shock to me - I though this bubble was gonna implode when the DotCom? one did.  --Vitenka
Sure - so what's the problem with this style of busking?  I'm happy to pay for my entertainment - and if that payment lets other people enjoy it too - so much the better!  Now, sadly, fixed costs mean that some entertainment costs more than a single persons willingness to pay - so you have to have a minimum number of people who pay.  They pay, and they get the goods - and so does everyone else.  There are various rental models (some where subscribers get the content early, for example) - many of which seem to be working in practice.  I admit that the main reason I haven't signed up to more than a couple so far is that I'm unsure of their longeivity.  Well, that and the hassle of getting a PayPal account working.  --Vitenka
The problem is that -- maybe I'm odd -- I think that artists deserve some dignity.
To turn that around - how is selling the right to everything you create to someone else, to market any way they see fit, any more dignified?  And, to further use one of the earlier points which was, basically: "overly restrictive DRM will die due to market pressure" - no one is forcing artists to release anything elecronically.  --Vitenka
It's not. Artists have always got a bum deal. That's no reason to make them beggars dependant on goodwill. And not releasing electronically is getting to be less and less of an option given that non-electronic things can be scanned, sampled, and generally turned electronic. Yes, it's illegal, which is fine and dandy and should be enough: but, say the people behind DRM, making something illegal without enforcement is pointless, and I must say they seem to have some point.
Unfortunately, as many point out, DRM is not, ultimately, a way of enforcement - just a good way for the people who make up new DRM techniques to grab cash the artist should be getting. Let's ignore the fact that unbreakable DRM has yet to happen and just consider the fact that if you can hear the music, you can copy it. It only takes one person with good equipment to make a decent-quality copy for everyone to have one. People in cinemas with camcorders who then post the recording on Kazaa prove the quality doesn't have to be all that good for people to nick it; but there's no particular reason why it can't be - audio recording is a solved problem, and MP3 is lossy already. So if the DRM argument about enforcement being necessary for the general public to choose to buy CDs is true, we're back down to just the freaks who care about legality and morals and/or the audiophiles buying CDs - more or less the same crowd who'd be buying them if the MP3s had gone up unprotected on the artists' websites to start with, except that the price would not include DRM license fees, publishing fees etc. - MoonShadow
This is the 'if it's theoretically possible then it will always happen' argument, which is no more true now than it ever was. The point of DRM is not to make it impossible, just like RSA encryption doesn't make messages unreadable. It's to raise the bar. But anyway, DRM is no longer the point, that was just a wild stab back at the title of the page. The important thing was not reducing artists to buskers.





Another [quote on the subject].

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