Firstly, I’ll start out with this: I am not the origin of this argument. I read it on Facebook, or Reddit—somewhere. I’m going to expound upon it, and add to it some personal experience(s).
I spend a lot of money on coffee. It is a relatively recent, and passionate expense of mine. I only buy from local coffee shops: I will drive 10-15 minutes out of my way to avoid Starbucks. I’m not a connoisseur, per-say, but I can tell you the days my coffee isn’t up to par, and the two shops I frequent know my name, what car I drive, and that I usually like a muffin with my drink. According to USNews and USAToday respectively, the average cost/cup for coffee is $2.70 + a 20% tip, with 83% of US adults drinking an average of 3 cups a day (587 million cups). That’s 1.8 BILLION dollars a day—assuming that each cup is purchased.
And while coffee is a delightfully flavored beverage, filled with caffeine to fuel your day, it doesn’t serve a lasting purpose. Chances are, you won’t remember yesterday morning’s first cup of joe, tomorrow morning when you get up and brew or buy your first cup.
Music—on the other hand—will last essentially a lifetime as a digital download. According to the LA Times, [in 2015] over 20 million people in the US used a peer-to-peer (P2P) or file sharing network to illegally (and freely) download music, versus only 7.7 million who paid for a legal subscription service.
Roughly THREE TIMES as many people illegally downloaded music in 2015 than paid for a legal subscription.
Yet, a song on iTunes costs what—$1.29? Half the cost of one cup of coffee after tax. Spotify Premium sits at $10/month, for a subscription to a service that lets you listen to unlimited, ad-free music, that’s downloadable and able to be listened to offline. That’s worth it if you buy 8 songs a month from iTunes. And the cost is roughly equivalent to a day’s worth of coffee purchased from Starbucks (bleh) or a local roaster.
Many people take this approach to photography as well. I charge around $75/hour for a photo shoot, and many people balk at that price (even though it’s on the low side in town for a professional photographer). Like a digitally-downloaded song, one of my images will likely last forever. Even as a $0.99 print, images can last for over a hundred years, just as many records are still playable today!
Yet, people plagiarize, steal, rip-off, and claim as their photos as their own, EVERY DAY. I’ve been lucky, and only had to deal with one such issue since I’ve been shooting. But I know photographers who WATERMARK THEIR IMAGES (something I don’t do) and deal with that sort of theft on a weekly basis.
Like a digitally-downloaded song, one of my images will likely last forever.
The worst part is, that I used to pirate. I used to be one of those who would download songs from various sites on the internet, or convert free YouTube videos to audio files. I was more concerned with saving a buck, over supporting an artist (often little or unknown) and promoting an honest, hard-work culture and ideology.
I ceased that years ago.
But when I read an argument on Facebook about how people are willing to pay top-dollar for a coffee from Starbucks that likely only costs pennies to produce, and that is prepared by a person who needs extremely limited training or knowledge to create and serve you the drink—but refuse to pay for a song or piece of music that takes INCREDIBLE experience to make, and an imagination to design…well, that argument stuck with me, and I realized the exact same argument applies to photography.
So. I implore you—the next time you drop a couple dollars here or there on a coffee, or think about torrenting that free music download…think about the artists, like myself, that you could be supporting.
So below, I’ll leave some links to both the local Tallahassee coffee shops I frequent, and a couple links to photographer friend’s websites, and the two or three most recent songs that I’ve bought. All for you to consider supporting as well.
So with that, I will leave you. Thank you for your time, and I hope this brief post has made you think at least A BIT more about where and how you spend your money and show support. Big and little artists alike will thank you.