Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Paying the price - or not

Is it ever justified to expect artists to donate their work for free? That's the key question to come out of the recent spat between photographer Pat Pope and Garbage. To sum it up in a nutshell: Garbage approached Pope (and others) asking if they could use their pictures gratis in a proposed self-published book, an indignant Pope posted an open letter refusing the request and criticising the band for even having the nerve to ask, and Garbage responded in self-defence.

My own personal view is that it's not necessarily wrong to enquire as to whether someone will work for free. It all depends on the project. I myself have been happy to write plenty of pieces for various books, magazines and websites for no financial return, on the simple grounds that I'm keen to support and be associated with the endeavour. Garbage make this point, by citing Amanda Palmer's book on the subject, The Power Of Asking.

However, Pope too has a point in arguing that expecting artists to work for free could be construed as disrespectful in devaluing their creative efforts. While I'd say it's acceptable to ask, there should be no expectation; the artists in question are perfectly within their rights to refuse (and in indignant terms, if they want - as Pope did). Garbage's self-defence appears to acknowledge this, claiming: "Any refusal of permission would be respectfully accepted and no further questions asked". But the existence of the self-defence itself suggests something other than respectful acceptance - they've clearly been stung by the criticism - and it does seem dubious that a band of Garbage's stature couldn't scrape together a little bit of money to compensate those whose work is set to feature in the book.

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