My fellow artists, we need to talk. We’re all starving, our fans are starving, and life just sucks for all of us. The only way we’re going to make a living as entertainers is to sit back, cool our jets, and take a reality check. We are, and always have been, buskers.
I know it doesn’t seem like we’re on a street corner, guitar case propped open, ready to accept money from passers-by. We’re on the Internet. We’re selling albums, and movies, and games, and books, and all sorts of products. Right? And when people download our stuff without paying us, that’s theft. Of our products. Which we’re selling in our stores.
Except that’s a lie. We’ve had holes poked in the argument that we’re selling things, or that making a copy is theft, but it was a lie even before everything went digital. Even when our songs, our films, our novels, our software only came on physical media, we were never salespeople. We were never manufacturers. Those vinyl discs and hardback books were nice collectables, sure, but they were never more than packaging. Without the music, the story, the experience inside, who would want to buy those random knick-knacks we sold?
No, it’s never been about selling. Or pushing a product. The big distributors and publishers sure made us think that it was, but come on, artists. We’ve always known it was about the art.
We never stopped busking, guys.
I’m on a street corner playing my guitar, singing my heart out, and some jackass freeloader walks on by without even throwing a coin in my guitar case. What a scumbag! “Get back here, you ungrateful pirate!” I shout. “Stop, you thief!” And then the police come running, and look at me like I’m crazy.
That’s what we’re doing when we get mad at people who pirate our work. Except the police don’t always think we’re crazy. Maybe they ought to.
It sucks when someone enjoys your work and can’t help you put food on your table, I know. A lot of the time they’d like to help and just can’t afford it. But I’ve had people flat-out tell me, “That was great, but I don’t think I’ll be donating,” and of course it stings a little bit. You know what, though? That’s life. Wait for the ones who will pay.
And you know, maybe it sucks too that we don’t get to think of what we do as selling a product. Maybe it’d be easier if we weren’t glorified buskers. But I say it’s easier to embrace that. Do we really want it to be our job to sell products and move units? Hell no! We’re artists, man! Our job is to move people, to make people laugh, cry, and feel things they’ve never felt before. Our job is to connect with people. And the more people you connect with, the more likely it is that one of them can spare some cash for you.
I don’t know about you, but I never wanted to be a salesman anyway.