Writers Shouldn't Write For Free
A debate is raging right now. No, it's not about the upcoming Election. Instead the controversy is about whether or not creative people should do work for free or for exposure, as a lot of clients like to tell us. Every creative has to make the choice for themselves but I stand with Wil Wheaton and do not believe that exposure is enough compensation from these companies.
Earlier this year, Taylor Swift took a stand against Apple. Apple was launching a new music streaming service and they were going to give everyone 90 free days! Great for the consumer but not so great for the indie artists that depend on the royalties that they get from the streaming companies to eat and pay their rent. In an open letter Taylor wrote:
"I’m sure you are aware that Apple Music will be offering a free 3 month trial to anyone who signs up for the service. I’m not sure you know that Apple Music will not be paying writers, producers, or artists for those three months. I find it to be shocking, disappointing, and completely unlike this historically progressive and generous company."
Apple immediately changed their tune and agreed to pay the artists after all. Everyone decried it was the power of Taylor Swift, and many of us secretly wished that she would stand up for the rest of us in the same way, Or at least that some of these people who are so anxious to lure us to work for them for free. They tell us that doing their project will help us get noticed, and that will lead to "REAL" work.
Recently Wil Wheaton experienced the same thing that many of us have had to endure over the years. He wrote a piece for his website, and then The Huffington Post came along and asked to republish it on theirs. He considered for a moment, and then asked about how much he would be paid. The editor informed him that they are "unable" to compensate him. He politely turned them down and tweeted out this advice to writers, “Writers and bloggers: if you write something that an editor thinks is worth being published, you are worth being paid for it. Period." In 140 characters or less Wil has handed over the best advice to creatives and hopefully more of them heed it.
Last Sunday, instead of writing, I was playing on Facebook. There was a post on one of the writing groups I'm a part of that intrigued me. "Urgent: Writers Needed Immediately". So I commented that I was interested in learning more about it. The gentleman asked me to message him privately, so I did. We talked for a couple of minutes about the project, writing long horror scripts for him. The conversation suddenly stopped when he asked how fast I could get it done and I said that it depended on compensation. After a few minutes he wrote back and (in my head) incredulously said that there was no pay, and again this is my opinion as I have no proof, but he seemed irritated when I told him that I wouldn't work without being paid. He ended the conversation abruptly with "OK bye". This guy wanted me to spend hours upon hours writing a script that would be something like a hundred or so pages, and not get paid for it. Sorry I don't think so. And I hope that many other writers and creative people start doing the same thing.
The argument that everyone needs exposure and to get their name out there before they start charging is held in high esteem by some. It's hogwash though. We don't tell high school kids that they should go work at McDonald's for free, just to get their name out there, why should writing or any kind of art be any different? People in Congress make over $100,000 a year and get more vacation time than all of the people I know combined, Yet people who work hard, and rarely take time off are expected to suck it up. I don't think so.
© 2015 EdAnderson