Thursday, July 2, 2015

Exposure: the silent killer

I don't often do this.  I usually keep things light and try to keep it on the topic of all things crafty, complete with photos of all the fun things I'm doing.  Today, I've decided I need to talk about this with someone and no one seems to take it very seriously in my group of close friends.  Sure, they nod and smile but they rarely have the level of outrage I think it deserves.  This could be because I'm just a rabid crafter and that they think I'm crazy.  It could go either way.  Anyway, here is my interaction with a company asking for contributions to their site with no payment and about how talented people are [not] paid for their hard work.  This applies to web development, painters, costume makers, quilt makers, DIY book writers, pattern designers, film artists, muscians and even hula hoopers.  

One definition of the word exposure is "public attention or notice."  I believe this is the kind of exposure Dharma Trading Co. is offering contributors to the Featured Artist section of their site.  (I purposely did not include a link to their site.  Not because I won't buy their products, I will.  But because I don't agree with how they believe they are supporting artists.)  While reading over the submission instructions I couldn't find any reference to compensation so I dropped an email and waited for a response.  They were very prompt.  I had the reply in about an hour.

Me:  "I'm curious what form of compensation you will be offering artists for use of images of their art.  Your information page does not mention what the artist receives in return for their photos. Will you be offering monetary compensation?"

Dharma Trading Co.:  "Hi Rebecca,
We do not offer monetary compensation. By sharing some images of their art artists are able to get some free exposure with a much wider audience then they might get at a local gallery or only from their own website. We share each artists page via our newsletter and various social media outlets. If provided we include contact information for the artists so that people interested in purchasing their work can find them. We always attribute the artist if images are used in anyway.

Let us know if you have any other questions about the Featured Artist Program.

Thank you and have a good day."

Ultimately, the answer is yes, the artist will be paid in exposure.  I particularly like how they used the term "free exposure" like someone would want to pay for it instead of being compensated for their hard work.  Thank goodness they are going to provide attribution!  (That is another one that some photo sharing sites seem to care not one bit about, but that is another rant.)

Another definition for exposure:  "the condition of being unprotected especially from severe weather exposure"

I'm sharing this with you because I think it is important for artists to be paid for their work.  Paid in something that will pay the rent and keep artists from the elements.  The elements that will very likely kill you.  

If you think this is an isolated case, you should really look around.  Oprah was going to pay local artists with exposure for one of her events.  Revolva posted an open letter to Oprah about how it is not cool to pay artists with exposure.  I recommend you check out that last link.  Revolva has some awesome moves with that hula hoop.

Creative Infrastructure has another great article about "Just Say NO!"  Great examples of artists being offered exposure as payment.  The next article is great, too.  "Saying YES!" is about giving back to the community through giving, and I totally support that.  

Recently I saw an Instagram post by Abby Glassenburg about a proposal from Hancock Fabrics about becoming a monthly blog contributor.  To be paid for with coupons.  Coupons are only slightly better than exposure.  No, they aren't!  I recommend you check out her great post about being your own agent that was posted this week.  Great stuff about how to be your own advocate with this kid of stuff.

If you haven't had enough, and I know no one has because it is still broken, you should totally go check out Madge's rant on Mornings with Madge.  She tells it like it is when working with a publishing company on a DIY book.  If you think creative people are undervalued this will show you how much they really are undervalued.  

Want to know more about how to price your work if you're a quilt artist?  I highly recommend Sam Hunter's great articles in her We Are $ew Worth It! blog posts.  Totally worth your time.  Loads of great articles and even a downloadable worksheet for calculating your time and materials.

If you think that these big companies are just using economics I guess you're right.  They are getting something for free, or near free, that they could be paying for.  That works out great for them.

Working for "exposure" is the same as working for free.  If you will work for free you are part of the problem.  

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