BY now, the movement urging artists, writers, musicians and other creatives to stop donating their labor has made some noise in the culture: It’s one of the key issue for today’s exploited creative class. But I’ve not seen the subject framed as well as this new Daily Beast story, with its subhead: “Remember when people volunteered to help the poor? Nowadays the poor volunteer to help the wealthy.”
As Ted Gioia (a longtime friend of CultureCrash) writes:
In recent weeks, the Ritz-Carlton hotel company, the NFL, and the Smithsonian Institution have all made news by asking people to do work for free. Such practices are hardly surprising in themselves—working for nothing seems to be a key building block of the new economy. But the fact that these requests come from such huge organizations with deep pockets raises troubling questions.
… These are not start-ups or struggling new media companies, but established businesses in old school industries. The trend is ominous. Web startups made it cool to build a business model on unpaid labor, but now cash rich companies with highly paid senior management want to play by the same rules.
Part of what I like about this piece is the way Ted identifies the source as not just the recession or corporate greed (though those are factors) but as coming from the cultural of Silicon Valley. The musician David Lowery once described the ethos there as a cross between hippie and Ayn Rand: “What’s yours is mine, and what’s mine is mine.” Ted calls Google, which owns YouTube, “a company that has done more to impoverish musicians and other creative professionals than any entity on the face of the planet.”
In any case, Ted is a pragmatist, and the piece concludes with five suggestions for when creatives should work for free, starting with: “Only charities and non-profits should ask for unpaid workers to staff their operations or undertake time-consuming projects.” A great piece that I hope is read far and wide.
And the Facebook Stop Working For Free group — from which I have borrowed this logo — is here.