September 05th, 2017

Hey Brother, Can You Spare a Like?

“I want a life in which people are not asked to work for free—by people who can totally afford to pay.” –Revola

The Hunger Games captured our imagination because everyone watching the film was thinking, somewhere in the cellar of his unconscious: “Jesus, that could be me.”

Such is the economic climate of the times. Especially for creative souls — which is to say all of us, because we all create something in order to survive.

Unlike Katniss, artists have been slowly inculcated — over the past twenty years — to fight for eyeballs, the Internet culture’s new currency: ‘Likes’, ‘followers’, clicks.

What would have passed as a simple ‘help wanted’ query ten years ago — listing a job description and how much you’d be paid — is now a promise that if you work for free perhaps a lot of people will see what you are doing and ‘like’ your Facebook page.

Up-and-coming actress Paris Berelc could only compete for a recent audtion after she confirmed to the producers that she had over 1-million followers on Instagram.

And no one’s exempt, not even acrobats. Force of nature Rovela answered a call for talent from Oprah and balked when she was told she’d be paid with ‘exposure.’ “Fuck that,” she declared (sorta), on her blog, to much fanfare and clicking on the Internet.

Artist and provocateur Molly Crabapple published a list of rules for creative people trying to scrounge a living today. Everyone needs to memorize her laws — especially number thirteen:

Don’t work for free for rich people. Seriously. Don’t don’t don’t. Even if you can afford to, you’re fucking over the labor market for other creators. Haggling hard for money is actually a beneficial act for other freelancers because it is a fight against the race to the bottom that’s happening online.

In the old days of print media and kookie things like the Nielson ratings — stats would be simple adjuncts to help outline the effect of various efforts to make something better.

But now the ability to track and accrue interactive data with products (or articles online or videos on Youtube) pits content creators against a loud, constantly cracking whip: “What!? Your post didn’t garner 20,000 hits in its debut? We’ll — you’re fired. Who’s next?” Artists as disposable chattel.

This kind of measure and pressure makes the more timid and introverted within our rank (and I’m talking to artists of all stripes) recoil from the playing field.

What’s left then are hardcore survivors swimming against the current of millions of loud and obnoxious narcissists who have found that the more outrageous, disruptive or controversial their material, the more eyeballs will tumble into their pond.

The other day while trawling Instagram I noted that one guy — with a rictus smile and always shirtless –described his vocation as “social media personality.” WTF?

All of this sound and fury (told by idiots and signifying nothing) coupled with the loss of revenue for qualified gatekeepers (like vetted newspapers that have professional journalists that need to eat) creates, well, a phenomenon like Donald Trump.

When no one has a clue as to what’s true, what’s objectively unfolding, then, well, anything can happen — and does.

We’ve entered an upside down version of reality, which is how Gurdjieff described life in general. Upside down. It was only awakening from the robotic drone of ‘sleep’ that exposed the horror of the moment.

The depressing fact? Quality work, quality writing, music, poetry, and cinema — often fail to gain traction within the public’s imagination. Quality goes missing amidst the mad rush to the latest outrage, meltdown or tabloid-inspired belch.

But bitch, bitch — whine, whine. Enough!

As Marcus Aurelius noted:

“Our actions may be impeded…but there can be no impeding our intentions or dispositions. Because we can accommodate and adapt. The mind adapts and converts to its own purposes the obstacle to our acting.”

I’m a Cancer and like all of the water signs (my Moon’s in Scorpio and my Mars is in Pisces) I can adapt like a motherfucker. And so here is this post.

This long preamble is to help you orient yourself to the situation, alert you to productive and prospering artists like Molly Crabapple (and the wisdom of their experience), and to lay out how the chess board is arranged. So you can get on with things.

I hear too many of my peers bitching and moaning about present conditions for making a living. I understand those complaints, but pretty soon all of the groaning becomes a distraction or excuse to not create and engage.

I still believe worthy work can clear a path amidst the clutter of our current carnival culture. But the marketing requires adjusting and the courage to admit that ‘things aren’t like they used to be.’ In fact if you study history, they never really are. Generation gaps are as old as, well, dirt.

When the telegraph was invented — which is really the precursor to the Net — it was deemed demonic — certain to bring about the destruction of social connections and private sovereignty as mankind had finally discovered a means to avoid the confines of time and space. So, tap tap, dash, dash — here we are.

Now I’ll talk about me.

For the past ten years, I’ve gladly, with a spirit of sharing, created what I considered to be good quality writing on my website. I work hard to offer meat on the bone. Throughout those ten years, I tapped other financial means to survive as an artist — depleting money from savings and taking work in projects that did not involve metaphysics.

Well, my sharing decade is over, and like countless other websites, I’m monetizing my bad self.

Be prepared for more of this, all across the web.

If you hadn’t noticed, the money pool is getting smaller as Facebook, Google and Amazon become more draconian in their hegemony and suck everything up — dollars included — into their clouds.

In other words, all of those stories you keep face-palming about — the ones where you read that ten individuals own sixty percent of all the wealth on the planet — those stories are touching more and more lives in more literal — have and have not — ways.

Going forward on AstroInquiry, most of my writing will come with a price tag attached.

I’m calling these articles Private Reports because, well, they will be read offline in the privacy of your home (or bathtub) and they will come with the added bonus of being a respite from having to trawl through countless piles of mediocrity to find something worth your time.

Gurdjieff taught that if you don’t charge people for what you create they will consider what you’ve created disposable, of no value.

Track how online trade has evolved over the past ten years, where no one pays for anything — and what we have is more content of ‘less worth’, more grotesque distortions of language, more ‘fake news.’ And the offspring of all this mediocrity? Advertising that has mutated into a Barnum and Bailey-ish horror show.

So, it’s a win-win for you and me. I get to make a living by producing content that I love and you get a good read and possibly a learning experience, or pleasure experience — something that you can enjoy and value. And everyone eats better that evening.

I’ve enjoyed these ten years immensely — and I look forward to the next ten — with a high expectation to create content for you that’s worth your time — and money.


Opening artwork: Alec Andon. 2017.



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