Sunday, November 4, 2012

Crowdsourcing Art



By
Armand Cabrera





Crowdsourcing is one of the biggest problems facing the art industry right now. It exploits the bottom end of the labor pool, and puts pressure on the top end into lowering prices to compete with the rise of free and low paid labor. It is an example of the lottery/ game show mentality of employers nowadays. What I mean by that is instead of having a large pool of  professional labor that employers pay to do work for them, they have abrogated their responsibility and knowledge of craft to the mob. Companies now spend as little as possible on development of products and advertising. Crowdsourcing development is a lottery where chance rules success, not quality.

Edit:
[Instead of paying for book covers, graphic design, interior art, storyboards or any other use of art companies now hold contests that offer exposure or experience as compensation. Some even go as far as to charge the artists for entering these contests instead of paying for services rendered.]


 There are two ways to lower risk; the first is to be very good at what you do. This is difficult and requires long hours acquiring the necessary skills to accomplish whatever goal you have. You have to understand the industry you plan on entering from a development point of view not just as a consumer. You have to understand the components for development. You have to decide on where your entry into this market will be. And if you are an honest person you have to fund it. All of this takes time and money.  

The other way is a gambling approach where you take very little time and effort for each idea and spread them like fertilizer in a particular market hoping something will catch the public’s eye. Crowdsourcing is everywhere in art, the gallery system, online comics, advertising and graphic design, cover and interior illustration just about anything you can think of that uses some form of art has someone or some company out there trying to get it for free or below a living wage.

Someone decides they have an idea and then with no experience or understanding they look for free labor through crowdsourcing to execute their idea. It is trial and error at the expense and time of the people working with them. Most of these endeavors fail mid development leaving the artists with nothing to show for their work. This approach gives you garbage of no lasting value geared towards whatever is trending through the society. To minimize a company’s or entrepreneurs’ outflow of cash, these entities offer exposure or experience instead of living wages for professional work.  The problem is there is no useful experience or worthwhile exposure for making crap. I don’t need to burn my hand on the stove to know that I wouldn't enjoy the experience and when put in the wrong place people die from exposure. Garbage is not made the same way quality is made.

When you are starting out as an artist it is important to value what you do, there are no shortcuts to success. To make a living from art an artist must have ability and a business sense about them or they will be out of business quickly. Undercutting industry standards of living wages through crowdsourcing and unfair working conditions just insures its eventual collapse.