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Artist and Audience Alone · Thursday September 18, 2008 by Crosbie Fitch

Dear Digital Artist,

You asked if someone could succinctly explain what the future holds for digital artists.

Let’s have a go:

  1. The market for copies has ended. You will never be able to sell copies again (everyone can make their own at zero outlay and extreme convenience).
  2. People will not pay for what they already have – as a general rule.
  3. However, no-one else can make art like you can. You still have a natural monopoly even if your unnatural one has ended, so exploit it.
  4. Your art is your ambassador (don’t waste money or effort trying to force people to like you or your style). Therefore encourage people to promote your music by playing it, sharing it, building upon it, and ideally letting people know it’s you who produced it. However, don’t get bolshy, demanding credit, or forbidding people from certain honest uses, e.g. making money from your art (you can’t expect funding if you deny it to others).
  5. You don’t sell what you’ve already sold or given away (remember, people don’t pay for what they already have). You sell yourself and the art you’ve yet to produce and publish. Thus you invite your growing audience to patronise your artistic production (commission more work, or specific works).

So what does the future digital art production process look like?

  • Production – provided by artist, funded by audience: patronage
  • Promotion – provided by audience: word of mouth and online socialising, blogging, discoveral agencies, etc.
  • Reproduction – provided by audience: individual and commercial file-sharing
  • Distribution – provided by audience: individual and commercial file-sharing

From now on, it’s just you and your audience. You make the art, your audience enjoys it and pays for more.

The publisher has disappeared from the value chain.

The copy as a saleable product has disintegrated – there is no copy – there is only art you have released and art you have not.

The market stall, the table across which you and your audience meet to exchange art for money, money for art, is the Internet, with its growing number of facilities that let you engage in agreeable business with each other.

Questions?

Who’s going to facilitate my audience funding me?

I and a few others (see Peers) are working on online facilities to enable direct payment from audience to artist.

What are these ‘discoveral agencies’ you mention?

They are services that help people find artists to their taste, e.g. Last.FM and Pandora help people discover new musicians based on the musicians they’ve already discovered.

Can I afford a commercial file-sharing service?

MiniNova is one that uses advertising to support its free reproduction and distribution service, so that should indeed be quite affordable. Also see alternatives.

I thought everything in the future was going to be funded by advertising?

Advertising is certainly going to play some part in the next few years, but that will diminish as the Internet rebalances communications between vendors and customers (see ProjectVRM). Until that time, yes, advertising can provide some funding. For example, there will be ways for people to redirect their website’s ad revenue as patronage (see JuiceTorrent).

drew Roberts said 3882 days ago :

“Who’s going to facilitate my audience funding me?

I and a few others (see Peers) are working on online facilities to enable direct payment from audience to artist.”

Please be sure to take into account the “collection” of monies on behalf of a “group” but the disbursement to them as “individuals”.

If this is not clear, please let me know for further discussions.

Also, I am not sure the copies market is completely gone and especially not in the physical realm. (Physically rendered copies of digitally created artworks.)

all the best,

drew

zotz.kompoz.com

Crosbie Fitch said 3882 days ago :

Yes, I do recognise the issue of disbursement, i.e. for artworks with multiple contributors and varying degrees of contribution.

The Contingency Market has been designed to cater for ‘agencies’ (‘agents’ that comprise other ‘agents’, each having a number of shares in any transaction). Other systems may adopt other approaches, e.g. enabling works to enumerate and apportion their contributors.

However, the benefit of a disbursement facility to collectives has to be counterbalanced with the additional administrative costs of supporting collectives (conciliation and arbitration). This is why I suspect disbursement may tend to be identified as a ‘future enhancement’ in most systems.

Of course, when revenue gets to very high levels then disbursement is essential. However, by that point it may be wise for the collective to form a single financial entity, e.g. to incorporate. Otherwise, on the smaller scale, it may tend to be the case that for digital art and other intangible public works a collective has to trust every member as equally able to represent and respect every other member’s interests, i.e. they should pick one member as treasurer.

Also worthy of note is the added complexity of enabling the public to confidently identify each artist, and the authoritative representative of any collective. To some degree this is a task for the artist’s audience, to take care in identifying a work’s producer and patronising the bona fide artist(s), e.g. finding the official websites.

As for the market for material copies, yes, this remains, albeit at prices no longer inflated by monopoly. It can still cost money to buy a retail copy of a GNU/Linux distro – despite being freely copyable. There will always be a market for copies that cannot easily be produced by the audience, e.g. vinyl pressings.

drew Roberts said 3879 days ago :

“Otherwise, on the smaller scale, it may tend to be the case that for digital art and other intangible public works a collective has to trust every member as equally able to represent and respect every other member’s interests, i.e. they should pick one member as treasurer.”

This may be all well and good when you are a member of one or a few long lasting collectives, but if you take a look at how something like kompoz works, this is not likely to work well. This needs to be solved as a part of the system and be “easy.”

“As for the market for material copies, yes, this remains, albeit at prices no longer inflated by monopoly”

Yes, that is true and is a good thing in my book. However, the prices may still be inflated by “celebrity” and related factors. Check the market for autographed sporting memorabilia for example.

drew

Crosbie Fitch said 3878 days ago :

If systems such as Kompoz don’t mind taking on the human costs of administering collectives, then they can still utilise the ‘N-shares’ disbursement feature within the ContingencyMarket (if that is sufficient), and make things appear to be “easy”.

The technical aspects of such disbursement are relatively trivial. It’s all the other aspects that are tricky. :)

Of course, if you try really hard, things can still get tricky technically too, e.g. a system that needs to permit continuous recording of wide and varied work inputs throughout a project’s lifetime (across version releases), from individuals and constituent products from other collectives. And no doubt to enable certain kinds of work to have a higher value than other work, and for these values to be adjusted at any time, given collective consultation and approval.

It sounds to me as though you should check out P2PMoney who have been exploring the issue of disbursement and revenue sharing in general.



 

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