This guest post is written by the Belgian Pirate Party member, Lionel Dricot. He was 14 votes away of becoming the first Pirate elected in Belgium. He blogs on www.ploum.net and is a Flattr advocate since 2010.
A year ago, in order to support the blackout against SOPA, I wrote a blog post explaining why I was pirating your work. A few hours later, the sudden closure of Megaupload gave an unexpected popularity to my text. In the weeks that followed, nearly 100,000 people read it on this blog, not to mention the numerous translations.
The only income of my blog is Flattr. Without surprise, that post became the most profitable with a total of €34,70, including its French translation. If I had a €1 paywall, this post alone would worth €100,000. Even considering that only 10% of readers would pay, it would still be around €10,000. Not bad, isn’t it?
Paywall vs virality
But if I charged visitors, nobody would have read that text in the first place. It would never have become viral and I would not have earned a single euro on Flattr. This seems obvious, isn’t it? It is nevertheless exactly what the entertainment industry makes you believe when they say that pirates steal. Pirates steal your art as much as readers stole mine when reading my blog post.
The fundamental error is to consider art as a commodity. Even selling MP3 or eBooks follows the principle of hardware. Buyers keep their ”MP3s” as a collection of records. DRM even attempts to artificially mimic physical constraints in the virtual world.
But what is your goal as an artist? Selling records, books and paintings? Or to be read, listened to and admired? Hopefully, money put aside, you would choose the second. Discs and books are only physical mediums that allow you to broadcast your art.
Finding your model
Being a fiction writer, I would definitely like to make a living out of my writing. This is currently not the case. Either I did not found the right business model or I don’t have enough talent. Is it the fault of people who read for free the small stories I publish on my blog? Definitely not – they spread my writings and even flattr me. Yet again, this is exactly what the industry makes you believe: that your fans are your enemies, those that prevent you from living from your talent.
You want to broadcast your art, and if possible, earn money. We want to enjoy your art, and if possible, contribute financially to your talent.
However, when we buy your art “legally”, we know that over 95% of our money goes to intermediaries that are not always useful anymore. They are even sometimes counterproductive because they fight to ensure that your art does not spread too much. We are ready to invest in the launch of your projects, eg on Kickstarter. We are ready to directly donate money. But we do not want to pay to “own” a file. It does not make any sense. Nor do we do imagine paying a fixed price each time we “consume” a piece of art. Your hardcore fans would be ruined. Not to mention those who listen to background music while working. It would be a barrier to your success.
How I support creators
My personal solution is to give, every month, a fixed amount through Flattr. On Grooveshark, an artist is flattred if I listened to one of his song at least once during the month.
Thanks to FlattrStar, an interesting webpage is also automatically flattered if I read it through Pocket or Readability. I’d like to see that kind of automatism being generalized for any content like ebooks and movies.
If we generalize such a system, your interest as an artist would become to be heard, read, admired. Even if it is years later, allowing you to focus on the long term. An old piece of art might be rediscovered, shared and bring you some flattrs even years after! On the opposite, mixing a work with its physical support encourages quick consumption, aggressive marketing and ephemeral success before falling into oblivion.
In order to preserve its own obsolete interests, the entertainment industry, which benefits from the vast majority of your earnings, threatened your fans as criminals. In some cases, they perverted our laws and our educational system. They standardized our culture and creativity making it harder to discover anything outside of the mainstream flow. But, even if they pretends that we are enemies, we share a common interest: that you could devote yourself to your art without having to flip burgers. While their own is to earn money, regardless of your accomplishment.
Dear artists, would you embark on a pirate ship bound for the new world where fans and artists cooperate? Everything has to be discovered yet. Flattr is still anecdotal and, moreover, might be more an experiment than a solution. Many problems have to be solved. This is why we need you and your creativity.
Hoping to be able to Flattr you in a near future,
A pirate fan.