ARS GRATIA PECUNIAE
EVERYONE WANTS SOMETHING
The heading for today's entry was something I used to see in an art studio I was involved with on the Eastern seaboard of the United States. It's something that turns up from time to time among fine and graphic artists, copywriters, fiction authors, musicians. It's Latin and translates as, "Art for Money". The flip side of this is seen in the banner above the famous MGM lion. There you will find the words,
"Ars Gratia Artis", which, in English is, loosely, "Art for Art's Sake". I doubt Louis B. Mayer (The last 'M' in MGM) took that at all seriously. He probably didn't think anyone watching his films in theaters would get past the roaring lion.
Unfortunately, there are plenty of people out there who don't value the artist. I worked in and around advertising photography, film, and video for a while and am more than familiar with hardball negotiations. Everyone wants the fruits of your labor but nobody wants to pay you what that fruit is worth. Even when they are looking to use it to fatten their bottom line.
If you've been around for a while then you know what I mean. If you write then you have been offered 'contributor's copies' over and over. These are fine the first couple of times, the ego swells as we pull it down from a shelf to show a friend, relative, or other writer. After a while though, the shine wears off and it's just another dead end. Especially if you've been paid a few times for your efforts. This alone is reason enough to look at offers of 'exposure' and request being exposed to a little more hard cash.
In the image industries (graphic and fine art, film, photography, digital production, soundtracks and theme music) there's the ubiquitous 'spec' projects. Work done with the understanding that you might get paid if it gets used and the final customer REALLY likes it. I'm not going to go into the details I've heard concerning the number of people who have been screwed like that. If nothing else, if you're still just starting out and are tempted by these type of deals, ask for a copy(ies) of the final product for your book or reel. Payment in kind is okay if it can actually highlight you as a creative personality.
In the end, in a world where the labor of the individual is devalued time and again by the system or corporations, the only way you can be treated fairly is by saying, "No thanks", to deals that are less than thinly veiled con jobs. Your time is worth something. Your education is worth something. Your materials and efforts are worth something. But if you don't stand up and say enough is enough you will be viewed as an easy mark. In the long run, the market only values what it is made to pay for.