Wednesday, November 09, 2011


My guilt, the bad karma that I believe brought this on myself, was not paying artists for their work. But do I really believe that? No.

I keep thinking about electronic copies of media—books that friends download on their iPads, how CDs are just promotional items, ripped and passed on, that help musicians sell concert tickets. How do artists make money in an age when no one spends money on art? When everyone, even me on occasion, believes it should be free? I've never been the kind of person who buys albums, but I always accumulate music. When I buy albums, but I buy them from the very-scratched bin at the used CD store for 97 cents. Even now.

I swap books on, I check out CDs from libraries, and when I do pay for a “new” book, I buy it from a used bookseller on Amazon. Even though I'm an avid book and music consumer, there are few artists who have ever earned a penny off me. I do go to concerts, or I used to. I used to buy new books, too, back when I wasn't suffering through the economic indignity of trying to write them.

It's not the end of the world for the publishing industry or the record industry. No, it's a brave new world. We need new economic models for the arts, models that deliver money to the people who need it most, the people sacrificing to create the art. Every album, every book, should be available from each artist's individual website, for less than what it costs to buy it used on Amazon. Maybe. That's one idea.

How very much money do I spending for data recovery, how very much money I spend on electronics that deliver media. How much money all of us give to telecommunications companies to bring us data, to stream movies on our cell phones or listen to music delivered live by fiber-optic cable. But the people actually creating what's streamed to us--bloggers and filmmakers and rappers—get nary a piece of that money. Maybe they need a cut.

I don't have a Ph.D in Economics. I can't answer these questions. I'm attending an Occupy Aroostook march on Friday, where I plan to chant: We Are the 99 Percent. Occupy Aroostook is the local branch of Occupy Wall Street, although I don't believe there's even a single one-percenter in the County.

But I stand with all these protesters in saying our financial system is fundamentally broken. The rich get richer and the poor make art. The poor grow vegetables in urban gardens. The poor start businesses and don't have health insurance and lose money in the stock market. We need a new economic model, one where the market is truly free. In the sense that it brings freedom to all.

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