Copyright is one of the defining economic elements of creative activities. You could almost say that if you can’t copyright something then it probably isn’t a creative practice. Actors, dancers, visual artists, writers, composers, musicians all have copyright. (So do architects and games designers and a host of creative industries workers). Artists copyright is protected by national and international law. It’s potentially one of the most powerful earning tools in an artists career. And yet, here in Ireland, for the majority of Irish Artists it’s almost impossible to collect. So here’s what could happen. Continue reading
I said on social media when this lock-in started that I would post some big picture ideas on arts and culture practice, policy and economics, so here’s the first in a series of what I hope will be useful provocations.
Direct government funding to the arts in this country cannot – and most probably never will – meet the EU average of 0.6% of GDP (regardless of whatever remarkable “changes” are expected after the Great Lock-In) We need to accept that and stop making it the central ask of lobbying efforts. Here’s why Continue reading
To follow up on my previous article about copyright, and as a contribution to the recently published Arts Council Policy, Paying The Artist, I thought I’d ask the question how much is copyright worth? Because nobody has ever given me a satisfactory answer (an actual number), and every politician and bureaucrat I’ve raised it with has dismissed it as either too insignificant to worry about or an irritating obstacle to foreign investment and job creation. So, I did a bit of digging and I came up with a number….
I was disturbed today at The National Campaign for the Arts hustings in Project Arts Centre that NONE of the politicians could answer a simple question on copyright, and further disturbed by some one on one conversations afterwards. So here’s a guide to a policy action that costs government nothing and is worth millions to ALL artists.
Why are artists poor? And, according to reports in Ireland, getting poorer? According to the official narratives artists and their art are a core component of the Irish economy and society. According to that narrative art is good for everybody’s wellbeing and is a cornerstone of tourism and soft diplomacy. Every time an award is won or a film starts principal photography there’s a politician standing by for a photograph like a proud parent at a graduation. Despite all this the income goes down and the cost of being an artist goes up.
Even as funding creeps up year on year it fails to alleviate the problem. The Dutch artist and sociologist Hans Abbing argued convincingly that as funding goes up more people are attracted into the funding market, so increases in funding – below a certain level – make the problem worse.
What is the root cause of this funding problem, the ongoing poverty of artists?
Its a mismatch.
Bear with me, because this is about a great truth underlying state funding and the cultural economy. It’s also a way that artists could secure almost limitless additional funding.
Section 481 is the tax incentive programme, managed by the Department of Culture through the Revenue Commissioners, for the benefit of the audio visual industry. Its a model of simplicity. Roughly here’s how it works.
I read a report recently – from Arts NI I think – about per capita spending on the arts. They were comparing the current absurdly low level of per capita funding in Northern Ireland with other territories in the EU. It struck me that there seems to be difficulty getting agreement on amounts invested and economic value created, costs and benefits etc., particularly at government level. A lot of the confusion stems from the old problem of are we talking about Culture or are we talking about The Arts, around capital as opposed to current funding, and around a fundamentally ideological problem surrounding the idea of state funding – is it investment or is it an expenditure. So I thought I’d skip back to the source data in an Irish context and see what I could find. The results are very interesting.
I was having a conversation recently with a colleague about organisational strategy and culture. We were comparing our experiences with, and approaches to, various clients. My colleague works primarily from a communications perspective, analysing how organisatins communicate internally and how they manage their external or PR functions.
The conversation began to focus on the nature of the stories we tell, both within organisations and the stories we tell to present ourselves and our organisation to the wider world. We did a lot of name dropping in the course of that coffee, invoking the remarkable body of academic work on the function of stories within organisations by Professor Yiannis Gabriel, and of course we had to talk about Campbell and the notion of the Heroes Journey.
Its been my experience, working in the culture sector, that some clients get very excited when the business tools are deployed. The BCG Box, the Blue Ocean Graph, The SWOT and PESTLE, Weisbord’s Six Box Model etc. etc. However, I have found a healthy suspicion toward these tools with some business clients and students, a sense that a rational approach alone will not deliver the necessary insights.
So I developed the Story Box. Because clients love a good Box. Its proven to be a really insightful, useful and popular tool. And here it is:
You would be rightly outraged if you discovered that Focus Ireland charged a homeless person for their services; and you’d probably take to the streets with pitchforks and torches if Concern Worldwide started charging famine victims for food support services. Such behavior is completely contrary to the principles of charity and works against the very heart of what we understand as philanthropy.
And yet this is precisely what arts organisations are asked to do: charge our end users for our services, and then ask them for charitable donations. This is like Focus charging a homeless person for their services and then asking them for a contribution!
Every arts organisation has experienced this absurdity. As a potential donor once said to me “My partner and I spend a €1000 each a year on tickets, our tax contributes to your grant, and you want me to give you more money?” Its a good question: either charge the necessary price at the point of consumption or make everything free at the point of use because its a public good. But there’s a sleight of hand about arts being both free and commercial, both public good and wealthy private interest that – interestingly – goes to the heart of questions on value and inequality.
This conceptual sleight of hand means that securing philanthropic support for the arts is different – very, very different – from securing it for “real” charitable causes. This difference means that if your organisation commits to securing philanthropic investment then your Business Model will need to make some very, very fundamental changes. Continue reading