Friday, 22 January 2010

Poets, writers, artists and the money trap

It is common to picture writers and artists living from hand to mouth. In some way, the lack of money is inextricably linked with being an artist.
The internet changed many things but many artists, or content creators, still can't make a decent living selling their work.

Newspapers are ahead of the curve. Many regional dailies, including Singapore's Straits Times, charge for access to their online editions. Specialized newspapers like the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times also require fees for unlimited access.
More newspapers are getting in on the act. After deliberating for the good part of a year, the New York Times will start charging for content from 2011. Surely, other prominent newspapers with large circulation numbers will not be far behind.
At least media corporations are adapting their structures to the New Economy. Of more interest to budding artists, especially writers and filmmakers, are changes proposed by You Tube and Amazon.
People will soon have the facility of renting videos from You Tube. Ultimately, any producer can place a video on You Tube, decide (and instruct) You Tube of the viewing charge. You Tube will do the rest.
You Tube implements a pilot run with a selection of movies from the Sundance Film Festival soon.
Amazon's experiment with electronic books changes the model for self-publishing. An e-book is "an electronic version of a printed book which can be read on a personal computer or hand-held device designed specifically for this purpose."
An e-book requires minimal up-front costs. There is no requirement to publish 1,000 copies in advance, no need for a distributor. E-books can be delivered to buyers electronically or printed as orders flow, one at a time. (Amazon already operates printing facilities for e-books at many of its book warehouses.)
Anyone can be an author. The only requirement is a manuscript.
Amazon will pay a royalty of 70% to authors of e-books selling between three and ten US Dollars. The 70% is in contrast to the 20-30% which a publisher typically pays a writer in the current model.
In 2009, it is estimated that e-books accounted for only four percent of all publishing revenue. That number should grow rapidly as Electronic Reading devices become more widespread.

Still, unless someone is named Dan Brown or JK Rowling it's best to ensure other means of income, or find a wealthy patron. Best of all, keep your needs simple.
Faiz Ahmed Faiz (1911-1984) is one of Pakistan's most celebrated Urdu poets. During the later stages of his life he moved between the homes of several wealthy patrons. He lived simply.
Faiz only had one non-negotiable request from his patrons. A daily supply of scotch whiskey!

Ku'ch Ishaq Ki'ya Ku'ch Kaam Ki'ya.

Who Log Bohat Khush Qismat Th'ay,
Jo Ishaq Ko Kam Samujhty Th'ay,
Ya Kam Say Aashqi Karty Th'ay,
Hum Jeety Jee Masroof Ra'hay,
Kuch Ishaq Kiya Kuch Kam Kiya,
Kam Ishaq Kay Aary Aata Ra'ha,
Or Ishaq Say Kam Uljh'ta Ra'ha,
Ph'ir Aakh'er Tang Aaker Hum Nay,
Dono Ko Adhoora Cho'd  Diya'.

Faiz Ahmed Faiz

Loved a little, Worked a little…

Those were very fortunate people,
Who considered Love an obligation,
Or they just loved their task,
I remained busy all my life,
Loved a little, worked a little,
Sometimes love was a snag in the way of my work,
While sometimes duty didn't allow me to love with passion,
Ultimately I got upset of the situation,
And left both my love and my work incomplete

Translated by Qazi Muhammad Ahkam

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