Last week a very wonderful and talented blogger announced another round of an annual artsy swap. I participated in this swap last year and I loved it. The only difference is that this time she charges a few dollars for participation, because it is so time consuming for her to organize it all.
This really got me thinking about artsy stuff, blogging, money and time and how more and more blogsy people are starting to look for ways to generate either money or recognition or some other form or reimbursement from their blogs or whatever they offer on it. And frankly...I'm getting a little annoyed by it. In fact...I'm apparently so annoyed that a week later I'm still thinking about it and wondering if I should write a post about this or not. As I'm writing this I still don't know if I should, so if you're reading this it means that I decided to share my (not so) little rant just to see what you think about all this.
First of all let me say that there's nothing wrong with wanting money for your time (if you're a professional it's even a given) or recognition for your work (that's just common decency). The costs for the above mentioned swap for instance are very small. Really, what am I upset about? I can afford it, it's worth it, the hostess deserves it. Of course. But my naggy voice won't leave me alone and says "If as many people were to participate as last year she would make as much from this swap as I make in three weeks at my regular job".
In my experience art swaps are free, they fall in the range of art trading, you just don't ask money for them, unless it's for material things like stamps and envelopes. It's a matter of principle, it's an act of love. I can see that hosting a swap with hundreds of participants takes a lot of time, but asking money for it will not in itself diminish the amount of time it costs. The asking of a fee will however probably help cut down on the amount of participants, but then that wil also cut down the amount of time required which kind of counters the reason for asking money for it in the first place. Wouldn't it be smarter to limit the amount of participants or to go for a different system where the participants do more of the work? I don't know... and it's none of my business of course. It's this person's swap and she can do it any darn way she wants. And no, it's not my intention to diss this person at all (she's a great source of inspiration to me and thousands of others), it's just what got me thinking about this whole subject about money, reimbursement and artsy blogs.
More and more I feel like I'm confronted with the following kind of stuff:
- A whole group of bloggers promoting and praising a book (or class, or blog) of one other blogger and all acting as if they're doing it so spontaneously, when you just know it's just a publicity stunt.
- Bloggers giving away a freebie if you link to their blog.
- Bloggers giving away a freebie if you become a follower.
- Bloggers using their blog just to promote their Etsy shop over and over again. That's what sidebars are for, people! (I'm not talking about someone who mentions their Etsy every now and then, I mean people who only post when there's something new on Etsy.)
- Bloggers mentioning their online class in every post they publish.
- Bloggers referring to their posts as 'content'.
- Bloggers reffering to their projects as 'services'.
- Bloggers reffering to their art as 'products'.
- Bloggers giving away awards to other bloggers but only if you follow this and that rule and so promote them and at least three other bloggers (I wrote a whole post about awards here).
- Bloggers doing giveaways if you put their 'button' on your sidebar.
Nothing is free and everything comes at a prize. So much marketing is going on that I'm getting frustrated by it sometimes. Why can't a giveaway just be a giveaway? Why does it have to boost your amount of followers? And why would you want those kinds of followers anyway? People that become followers because you give something away are not the same people that become followers because they love your blog!
A positive opinion about a book because the author asked the reviewer to promote it is worth nothing really. I want real opinions, both positive and negative! I want information that's not biased.
Whenever one well known mixed media artist has something going on you can bet that ten of her colleagues will tell us about it on their blog too, which is annoying if only because you want original posts, not the same thing on ten different blogs. I'll scratch your back, if you'll scratch mine. It's not the promotion in itself, it's the way it's orchestrated, faked.
I like people who promote something simply because they came across it and loved it. I like people who give stuff away for the sheer joy of knowing that it will end up in the hands of someone who adores it. I like people who trade art, because they love to exchange little treasures with like minded spirits. I like people who keep blogs just to share what they do and inspire us, or to get feedback on their work, and who don't worry about things like 'building an audience' or how to artificially upgrade the follower count. I like blogs where people post information without asking anything in return, just because they thought you might find it useful.
I guess it comes down to two questions: why do we make art (or do crafts) and why do we blog about it? As time goes along it feels like I'm moving in the opposite direction of most blogs. More and more this blog becomes and act of love, something for the sheer enjoyment and connection it gives and so does my artsy stuff. Less and less I have the need to be receiving anything for it. Yes, of course I love it that my follower count goes up. Yes of course I'm over the moon with every positive comment I get. Yes, of course I was thrilled when I was published last year. I have an ego too! But I don't want it to be the focus of my art and my blog. While this is happening to me it seems more and more bloggers are trying to choose the more professional route. There's a reason artsy business classes like Kelly Rae's are doing so well. But it influences the simple honest quality of the blogs involved and that worries me a little sometimes.
The blog often no longer is a place of expression and community alone, it becomes an instrument for promotion and marketing or even a source of income. This is understandable but it still makes me sad and even more resolved to just keep things the way they are on my own blog (no awards, no advertisements, no tutorials for a fee, honest book reviews, giveaways without strings attached to them, etc.). No, this will not make me famous and generate thousands of followers, but that's not why I got into it in the first place, so who cares?
I know I'm not alone in this and I need to believe that there are still many bloggers out there for whom the joy and love of the work itself trumps the marketing or the need to be reimbursed for their efforts.
Now I've written all the above I am decided to post it as is. I run the risk of being misunderstood, but so be it. I am very interested in your responses and opinions even if they are completely opposite to mine. If you've read thus far I am in awe by your patience and thank you for your attention. ;-)
Hope you're all having a wonderful artsy week! I promise my next post will contain some pictures again!