You’re an artist? Good luck making money online
By Zoey Duncan
I don’t have to tell you that every industry is trying to make money online — name me an industry that isn’t and I’ll point you to the nearest Luddite convention. It’s always been tough to make money off of your own art and our obsession with getting free stuff online is only making it worse.
So can we really fault the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) for approving Bell Canada’s request to move from providing unlimited bandwidth to their Internet customers to capping usage at certain limits — say, 25, 40 or 100 gigabytes per month? After provisionally approving usage-based billing in August 2009, the CRTC formally approved Bell’s request to change billing last May.
By now, you’ve probably heard the disgruntled backlash from Netflix users and online gamers, and maybe the murmured grumbles of Internet pirates. Hopefully you’ve also heard that the federal government has stopped that little scheme from moving forward.
Like the others in our heavy-using generation, I devour gigs from before breakfast (I admit to checking my emails before rolling out of bed at least six days a week), through an afternoon occasionally peppered with YouTube clips and streaming radio, into an evening with an hour of video chat to top off a day spent working (and Facebooking) online.
But who is making money off me?
More importantly, how am I, as a writer, going to make any money off someone else?
It is really hard to make money online. There is so much information there that everybody in every industry sees the value in being online. But as consumers, we expect everything we surf across or download to be free like Facebook or far cheaper than traditional competition, such as Netflix offering unlimited, commercial-free movie and T.V. downloads for a flat monthly rate.
And is that going to change? Can we really transition into an Internet environment where we’re OK with paying for what we take?
I thoroughly doubt it.
It used to be — and still is in most industries — that you expect to pay more for an item of higher quality. That was because it took someone, say a baker, years of training plus butter and finely measured flour and yeast to create a luscious treat that was worth its weight in loonies.
Elsewhere, we expect the same quality online from our local newspaper without paying the $1.50 our ancestors (OK, our parents) paid to grab one from the box down on the corner. We can find blogs filled with a photographer’s gorgeous photos and blogs that aggregate multiple photographers’ photos so that the original artist doesn’t even get a page view. And the local gallery or coffeeshop showing the artist? Nada.
Sharing your work online is only cheap to a point. While a blog of your poetry is free to create, nobody but you is bearing the cost of developing your skills and investing your time.
So I can’t blame Bell for trying to make more money on the Internet. I just want my cut.