Glad I didn’t use this Pearls Before Swine (AMS) when it appeared Sunday, because there has been an explosion of conversations about art and ethics in the days since.
It’s grimly amusing that Alex points a finger at “giant corporations and greedy musicians,” because the “greedy musicians” have taken a major beating over the intervening two decades, thanks to giant corporations like Spotify and YouTube and others, who found ways to profit by making music available basically for free.
Or at least in a way that nearly cut out the musicians entirely.
Musicians who used to get a cut of album sales are now getting checks for pennies as their compensation for being popular in on-line venues, and that doesn’t really change whether their music is actually being downloaded or just streamed.
I’m as guilty as any other old duffers in complaining that we used to pay $3.50 to get into a concert, but it’s not just the lasers and fireworks and blow-up characters who have made modern live shows so expensive: It’s also that concerts are about the only chance musicians have to make a living.
Rhymes with Orange (KFS) can be forgiven for the implication that buskers ever made ends meet, but Price and Piccolo are right that even CD sales are a vestige of the past.
I have a couple of boxes of CDs stashed under my bed, in part because I’m one of those strait-laced old men who buys music but in larger part because paying to download an album makes me nervous that, at some point, the Major Corporation will decide to make it disappear. Or my hard drive will fall apart. Or the cloud will dissipate.
So more of a belt-and-suspenders move than a sign of high ethics.
Further disclosure: Next to those boxes of CDs under the bed there is a box or two of self-published books. I sold enough to make back the cost of printing them, but they’ve never generated any actual income. Many musicians and writers can tell a similar tale, except maybe for the part about having earned back the original investment.
Still, while changes in the newspaper industry jerked my retirement plans from under my feet, I can scrape by on Social Security and whatever dribs and drabs wander in unexpected. I save my fear and pity for younger creative types who are still trying to figure out a world that is falling apart around their heads.
There has always been a lot of flailing for artists as they find their voices. When I was in my 20s, I was sure people would want to read about my college experience and now it seems we’ve got a generation of young cartoonists who think everyone wants to know what they went through in coming out.
Nobody does, but what you learn in the process can be harnessed into telling stories people do want to read, assuming you can feed yourself in the meantime.
Lord, at least I didn’t have Artificial Intelligence offering free material to people who might otherwise have paid me for a little side work.
David Blumenstein has created a long, fascinating and insightful look at the impact of AI on freelance artists, which is being praised by his fellow creators and deserves to be read not only by comics fans but by people in public relations and advertising and other places where an occasional commercial assignment can keep a starving artist from literally starving.
He talked to several fellow artists in putting it together, and treads a worthwhile line between “woe is me” and throwing cheerful fairy dust in your eyes.
It’s never been easy, and now it’s getting harder.
I wish I could argue with that, but I can’t.
Jen Sorensen asks an inviting question, but I strongly suspect she knows the answer, which is that, as they say, freedom of the press belongs to the person who owns one.
Or, to quote Brant Parker and Johnny Hart:
There was a time not so long ago when small voices could be heard, at least by each other, through an underground press that was first undermined by Rolling Stone and then gobbled up by the aforementioned giant corporations.
For awhile, it seemed that the Internet would spawn a network of samizdat offering small discordant voices, but most of them fall apart and the ones which do gain a following are bought out and turned corporate, which appears to have become the hallmark of success.
At least in most places.
I said the other day that American cartoonists are too polite, that “political cartoons in those other countries seem to have some fearsome and enviable edge.”
There is, at this very moment, quite an example of that happening in Australia.
The Walkleys, a premiere annual competition has not only added a major fossil-fuel sponsor but is reportedly setting up award categories such that no greenwashing petroleum overlord will be offended by the winners.
Constant Readers will find many of the Walkleys’ most prominent critics to be people who are featured here regularly. And, bless their hearts, they aren’t simply criticizing.
Some of the most prominent cartoonists in the country are standing up and walking away:
If that seems like a Who’s Who of Aussie cartoonists you’ve regularly seen here, it’s because it’s a Who’s Who of Aussie cartoonists regularly seen in their own country.
Point being that it doesn’t really matter how this boycott impacts the Walkleys themselves, or the oil company that has joined their sponsor list.
The point is that these cartoonists, none of whom have ever shrunk from raising hell within their work, have stepped up to raise hell on a wider level and to join their voices in protest against those who ignore the growing climate crisis.
I don’t expect it to be a momentary fit of righteousness, either. Rather, commentators who have never shrunk from the battle are taking off their gloves and stepping up their efforts.
First Dog has put aside both color and sarcastic humor to make the point clearly:
This battle matters, and we’re not winning. Whose fault is that?