Darian Worden: Liberty and Creativity

[I]t’s feasible for a larger number of people than ever before to obtain payment (in smaller amounts) for their ideas by marketing them directly to readers and listeners, as opposed to the previous state of affairs in which fewer people gained access to much larger sums of money by winning the approval of the corporate gatekeepers. What we’re seeing is a return to the folk model of making modest incomes by direct production for one’s audience, in place of a model in which the “artist” is the client of some bureaucratic government or corporate patron (with the giant publishing house or record company “keeping” the artist in the same way an Italian grandee kept his pet artist in the Renaissance).

(The use of information technology without state restrictions will overall lead to better working conditions for creators. As Kevin Carson notes in his latest Center for a Stateless Society study The Thermidor of the Progressives, [see http://c4ss.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/Thermidor-of-the-Progressives.pdf%5D)

But even assuming that “piracy” really does cut into the total revenues of the little guy who’s trying to make a full-time career out of music or writing, that’s looking at only one side of the picture. It neglects what Bastiat called “the unseen.” What revenue does come in to artists follows a much longer tail distribution, spread out among a larger number of people making small amounts of money, as opposed to larger amounts being concentrated in the hands of a smaller number of artists.

Let’s consider my case. I don’t waste time worrying about the sharing of pdf files of my books at torrent sites, or how much money it’s costing me. To me, the proper basis for comparison is the money I still can make that I never could have made at all in the “good old days.” In the good old days, I’d have painstakingly put together a manuscript of hundreds of pages, and then put it away to gather cobwebs when I couldn’t persuade the gatekeepers at a conventional publisher that it was worth the cost of printing and marketing… [I]f it weren’t for digital publishing technologies and free publishing venues on the Internet, I would probably have lived and died doing menial labor with nobody anywhere ever hearing of my ideas. If I’d had to persuade a conventional publisher that my books could sell ten thousand copies before I could be heard, my entire writing career would have been confined to letters to the editor. Thanks to digital culture, I’m able to make my work directly available to anyone in the world who has an Internet connection, and market it virally to a niche readership at virtually no cost.

  • Darian Worden