Thursday, January 23, 2014

Starving Artists Will Do Anything for Cheap! - A Cautionary Tale

Don’t accept the “I have no money routine.” at face value.
Starving Artist © 2014 H. Simpson

Below I’m sharing a letter to a prospective client, after I responded to an ad to do a financial comic strip weekly (about 4 panels) and spoke to him on the phone.

Hi Edward,
        I have some concerns and reservations. 
        Something bothered me after our last phone call. I had already checked to find info about your company, to no avail. Not unusual for a start-up. I also used Whois to see who owned the web-site. That normally shows me who owns it. Oddly, that was a dead end also. Okay, maybe they have a lot of sites and purchased domains in a group. 
        After we talked, I dug some more and found out you and David Travers work for Rustic Canyon - a venture capital firm that invests in entrepreneurs and the company focuses on Internet and Digital Media.
        If I walked into the Rustic Canyon offices with a proposal/business plan for starting a web site featuring financial comics and my pitch included paying standard fees for PR and marketing, web development and printing. And paying the comic creators $10 for the content being provided. What would the reaction of any venture capital company be? I can imagine the questions; Why aren't you investing more in your product? This is the core of your business, why are you short changing yourself? If I answered, “Because the artists can be gotten cheaply.” If I wasn't laughed at outright, I'm sure my proposal would be denied for trying to shortcut the product among other reasons. What’s going to stop a monster financial company in your space from copying you? They can pay your artists  a living wage with merits and steal them right out from under you. 
        I don't mind cutting my rates for a start-up company and getting in on the ground floor of a project I can get excited about; which I thought was the case here, since I feel that they are working hard and struggling to bring the idea to market and reality.
But I feel you guys are getting paid to do this, you have no skin in the game. Rustic Canyon has the ability to fully fund this. I find it hard to believe you guys can't get Rustic to fully fund this. It's insulting knowing that you only want to offer the artist a rate below minimum wage for their time and talent when I feel you guys can pay a good rate upfront and include a merit structure.  Ask the PR and Marketing company to accept a pay rate of $10 a  campaign and they’ll get more later if the campaign is successful. I sure they would laugh at the idea. But nooooo, your business plans includes $20 million for PR and a pittance for the creators the content.   
        How can you ask me to take time out of my day to put towards this and you guys are sitting snug and secure because you do this everyday. I feel like you guys are taking advantage of artists because you can. Because we really will work for just the love of it and do our best job every time. 

        What is your response to the issues I've raised?

I never heard from him again.

read next - The Business of the Comic Book Industry
previous - Writer Placing Ads for Comic Book Artists - What Works?

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copyright 2014 H. Simpson

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