Robert Smith, lead singer of The Cure, has recently gained a lot of attention by publicly criticizing the growing “art for free” movement.
Here is what Smith says on his site, speaking about Radiohead’s decision to release their In Rainbows album under a donation pricing model:
“ANY FAMOUS ARTIST WITH A HUGE AND DEVOTED FAN BASE(OFTEN ARRIVED AT WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM A WEALTHY AND POWERFUL ‘PATRON’ ORTWO?) CAN AFFORD TO DO WHAT HE, SHE OR IT WANTS… INCLUDING GIVING THEIR ART AWAY AS SOME KIND OF ‘LOSSLEADER’ TO HELP ‘BUILD THE BRAND”
The follks over at TechDirt, however, argue that Smith misses the point. Smith is criticizing the general rule that all art should be free, claiming such a rule or social norm is not beneficial to artists, and is more damaging to those who are not famous. The folks at TechDirt, on the other hand, claim that the point of the “art for free” movement is about business, and that giving some art for free allows artists to share some of the value of art and charge money for related complimentary products or services.
Which viewpoint do you think is the right one?
Art, like anything else is a “Product” which has to add value and create an exchange of value with the purchaser or else rapidly become a commodity in today’s world. The marketplace should decide what the Art/Product is worth. What people want to and can do with the product to promote their brands or other interests / activities is entirely up to them. If there are too many “products” in the market then competition will be fierce and the price of the product will be dimished to the point whereby “producers” of the product will get out of the game unless they can bundle their product or add value in some other way. Art has become big business, thus they “Art” game should not whine or complain when they find themselves swimming in the same commercial sea as other products, services, businesses or industries. Add value or don’t expect better than commodity returns.