Friday, June 19, 2009

Pay the Second Life (builder, DJ, performer, scripter, artist)... or not?

Posted by Bettina Tizzy

There are all kinds of virtual creators and performers in Second Life®: the freebie/Open Source advocates, the folks who produce industrial quantities of things and then sell them low, the artists who make one-of-a-kind pieces and sell them - if you ask nicely - for hundreds of dollars, and still others who toil away like the Dickens to raise $Lindens for non-profit efforts. I personally know several dozen creators who pay their rents and mortgages, and the dog's vaccinations from money they've earned working in Second Life. It's a mixed bag out there, and the discussions as to whether people should make money from their virtual work rages on.

I recall how you could almost see creator Arcadia Asylum go blue in the face when the topic of selling virtual goods came up. She has since left the grid, but many of her fellow Hobos still strongly agree with her. Her profile read, "If you payed (sic) for anything made by me, even for L$1, you were SCAMMED!!!" Every single object she made was full perm, and most are available still thanks to people behind the Arcadia Asylum museum (teleport directly from here).

The economic outlook for most these days is uncomfortably tight, and given that residents of Second Life spend so much time creating or performing in-world, it seems natural that they would look to supplement their incomes there, right?

As people go, writer Harlan Ellison is a rowdy, controversial, quick-witted but nevertheless highly admired character. I met him once at a conference, and I can tell you that the standing-room-only attendees were spellbound. He managed to insult most of us in some way during the presentation, but had trouble leaving the room afterwards because so many wanted to shake his hand.

One builder who shared this video with me wondered out loud what Ellison would have to say about content creators in Second Life and how they deal with the constant requests for land/art/scripts, etc. Perhaps... "So you want to use my sims and prims for your money making venture?" Why does everyone think they are doing you a favor? Is there a culture of entitlement going on here?

This is a segment from the documentary on Harlan Ellison called Dreams with Sharp Teeth


Deidra Loring said...

I have to admit I was quite surprised to learn that there was even a question about whether people should make money from their vitual work.

I believe that the only avatar that can/should answer this question is the content creator. Virtual work requires real time, real effort, real skill. But it's *their* time, effort, skill to give away or profit from as they choose.

At my virtual furniture store in Second Life, Finishings, I offer alot of paid content (of course) but also a very generous freebie each month. Why? Because I want to and because I can!

To me, the incentive for selling/giving doesn't really matter as much as the idea that the mechanism exists for us to do so as we choose.

Deidra Loring

bRYEnd_of_the_schtick said...

(^ dang you're gonnah get me up and starting to yelp out on this issue:

(^ owners have no right to sell gifts.

(^ gifted crafters become commodeties against their own will when electronic media changes thier content in order to make it a commercial that has nothing to do with initial intent.

(^ I come from a space where my closest friends cannot HELP from making things.

but the shear joy of sharing what they made was all that mattered.

(^ I wish I had more time to go into why life in hell was not given over to Tracy Ullman for commercial wrap arounds, but the Simpsons were made and intellectual rite sold to her in their stead:

(^when the cost of animating them became too high..
and her show was cancelling..
Klasky Csupo were allowed to take production rites back:
to make a half hour tv show..
(^ which almost worked .. but missed something that cost them dearly:

(^ the writer who originallly createed the rough sketches and backstories..

wasn't working on the show after a while.
and the scripts were getting rather dull.
in order to get Groening to come back to the show..
(^ can you feel it comming?

(^ he cut a new contract in which he personallygot a percentage of all toys and merch profits .

(^ my question is this:

those that make the toys.
those that create the MACHINES that make the toys.

those that make the COMMERCIALS that entice the generic public to LIKE the toys enough to purchace them:

(^ where does the rites cut off?

opensourcing is simply a way of re-initiating the convcept that if it's on the internet? it is no longer in private domain.
poof. gone.
public domain. all intelectual property issues nulifritd.

get used to it.
PBS had this whole issue back in the day too.

sonicviz said...

Harlen is spot on.

Substitute Musician for Writer and his well argued, and funny, diatribe would read the same.

Now I don't have to argue with people offering me "exposure" for the pleasure of working for them for free anymore, I can just send them a video link and tell them to get back to me with their offer;-)
[Fortunately for me I've been practicing my circular breathing technique]

Komuso Tokugawa

ps: and many many thanks to all those who do financially support independent creative professionals!

chestnut rau said...

In reading your post and then watching the video I could not help but think back to Larry Pixel's guest post a short time ago. He discussed the dynamics between virtual artists and the individuals who provide free land, allowing artists to show and sell work.

Of course artists should be paid for their work. I also think a system wherein art supporters do not make money, break even or achieve whatever their philanthropic goals happen to be cannot be sustained. Gallery owners, music venue owners, curators and others who champion the arts have a right to make money too, don't you think?

sonicviz said...

"Of course artists should be paid for their work. I also think a system wherein art supporters do not make money, break even or achieve whatever their philanthropic goals happen to be cannot be sustained. Gallery owners, music venue owners, curators and others who champion the arts have a right to make money too, don't you think?"

Of course, if they happen to be a business and are sponsoring the arts with some tangible or intangible ROI in mind. Work it out, just like any fee for service job.

However, you need to clearly distinguish between Philanthropy and Business Sponsorship.

Philanthropy derives from Ancient Greek, meaning "to love people". Philanthropy is the act of donating money, goods, services, time and/or effort to support a socially beneficial cause, with a defined objective and with no financial or material reward to the donor.

Oz said...

This is a fascinating subject. I think anyone will agree that art/craft/music/writing is worth paying for if it's a unique commodity that has value. I spend more money tipping live musicians in SL than on anything else. (Except perhaps rent.)

In a free market environment, one should be able to charge whatever the market will bear for their goods. If someone else comes out with a similar or better product at a lower price (without actually ripping off your original, which is, please, another discussion) then that's just fair competition. Even if someone offers the product for free. When Gibson started giving away their excellent quality guitars in SL, what impact did the have on the virtual lutherie market? (I am, in fact, beginning a survey of instrument makers in SL. If you know instrument makers who might wish to form a group to promote the industry, please have them get in touch with Oriscus Zauberflote ("Oz").)

I am a proponent of open source, and I think the offering of high quality freebies has done a lot to further all of the arts in SL. It's all still very young. We need to share expertise in the interests of furthering art. But I also believe that someone with a unique idea should have ownership of that and is free to control the distribution of that idea any way they can. I agree with Ellison that it's rude to EXPECT creator to provide work without compensation.

Solo Mornington said...

On the one hand.....

If I do work, I get to determine how that work is exchanged with others. I get to determine the flow of value from myself to others, and from others to myself.

If I do hard work that is valuable, I should expect value in return, whatever form that value might take.

On the other hand...

Anyone who is building Second Life is making Second LIfe better. We are all serfs in the Second Life economy. I build, and as a result Second Life is better. I have improved Linden Labs' product.

Whether Linden Labs pays me to do this, or someone hires me to do this in-world, it is what I have done.

Ultimately, we all give our product to Linden Labs, for their benefit, and in most cases pay a bunch of money for the priviledge.

But, recently someone asked me to do voice work for them, for an SL project for which I knew they were being paid in real money, but I was to donate my time for free. I declined. The project went forward because this person found another person to do it for free.

I can understand wanting to cut costs, but to demand free work for no good reason was insulting to me.

And... Man I love Harlan Ellison. 'Deathbird Stories' remains one of my all-time favorites.

Lukemary Slade / Luca Spoldi said...

Ok, ok, I promised and I will translate my study about the economic value of SL Art, made for Ars in Ara at the beginning of June. What I found (very few data arisen, you know) is that even if "art" stand for less than 5% of total stuffs sold on XstreetSL (and so I suppose could be considering all residents transactions inworld), the value sl artists (builders, photographers, designers and so on) are able to ketch could be more than 5% of the total. At least in well organized events, such as charitable events. Where is easy to obtain even "real" valutations for what at the end is just.. pixels (ok, now Loglady Loom will hate me, I know, "lol").
Mean value means a few but seems some of SL artists can at least earn no less than 500 dollars a month. Which is good to pay tiers and maybe your RL holidays or even have a second earning for your RL.
A very very few can even earn more, but is not the rule, of course. And note that even RL artists use SL to promote themselves and their creations. So at the end the grid seems can be at least good to let everybody knows of you. Wich is not that bad, at the end, even in an economic downturn like this...

Lukemary Slade

Mister Crap said...

I think Drousa Dragonash got audio of their responses.

The mention of GREED in there shocked me, but I'd like to wait for the audio to be available for their exact words so if they are vilified for the remark, it will be in context.


bRYEnd_of_the_schtick said...

(^ so here's a question for betina:
(^ are you getting paid to blogger about all this?

(^ should every commenter get paid as well?

(^ I just love old crack in the matrix whores like harlen:
I see washed up former crafters so full of it as to become nothing but a joke about themselves .

paying attention out there?
it's more than "turnip sellers" get paid unless truffle sniffers count for anything.
(^listen to who and how he puts down ppl that are exactly where HE was.. when he STARTED.

(^ he just dislikes competition from who I
'd assume he'd consider "unworthy"

(^ get a grip on your gripe old man.

babylon fiver is long past prime. and days are numbered differently now.
(^ for instance: even THIS COMMENT is likly to be edited OUT.

(^ do editers get paid more than brain stormers?

sonicviz said...

"I see washed up former crafters so full of it as to become nothing but a joke about themselves ."

Better to be a has been than a never was...

CyFishy said...

Pay them what they want to be paid if you think it's worth it. If you feel it's too much, don't bitch at them, just spend your money elsewhere. If what they have can't be gotten anywhere else, and it turns out you really do want/need it, perhaps you should reconsider your position on whether or not it's worth your money. How difficult is this, really?