Philip Glass on paying artists real cash money

Philip Glass has a straightforward response to the culture of free: it’s not working.

We swim in a sea of music. We have more art, books, shows, movies and ideas at our fingertips than the poor sap working the Library of Alexandria circulation desk could ever handle. If you’re bored these days it’s due to lack of effort, not availability.

There is a downside to all that free shit. Over at The Creative Independent, composer Philip Glass insists we’re wrong to assume artists should surrender their wares, gratis, for the common good.

I own the music. I never gave it away. I am the publisher of everything I’ve written except for a handful of film scores that the big studios paid. I said, ‘Yeah, you can own it. You can have it, but you have to pay for it.’ They did pay for it. They were not gifts.

This is crucial to understand. People don’t drop projects for the greater good (although ultimately, the world is a better place because Song Circus’ magnificent Anatomy of Sound exists) but because they also want to make money, which allows them a livelihood that leads to more music, TV, films, paintings, what-have-you.

In one sense, we don’t care about the art belonging to the people anymore. But in another way, we do. I’m not sure about this, but I think that on YouTube, they’ll play anything. […] Their position is that art belongs to the people. On the other hand, the revenue from the advertising that’s done with your art belongs to them. [laughs] If you get to make the rules, you can make the rules the way you want, right? That’s how this all remains.

Glass doesn’t offer any elegant solutions, but he does have a good litmus test for whether a particular platform is artist-centric.

Just follow the money. See where it goes. If none of the money goes back to the person who made it, then I don’t think that’s a good idea.

Sounds simple, but it’s hard to do. Read the whole thing here: “Philip Glass on controlling your output and getting paid for what you make.”

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