Should Artists Own All of Their Work?
The unspoken side of contract disputes
Why shouldn’t an artist own all of their creative output?
Well, if they want to, then they should. As long as they do ALL of the work too.
However, if they want to align themselves with a business, to leverage that company’s:
or other assets
… then they need to give up something.
That ‘something’ is usually control, final sign-off and a piece of the profits.
A piece that some artists will contest, given enough success and time.
There is a cost to risk
As an artist, if you want to share in the success of your output, you should be willing to share in the risk. If it doesn’t sell, then you should lose money too. That makes you a partner and not an employee.
If 100% of the risk is taken by the company you’ve signed with, they need to offset that with a bigger slice of the deal. Something that shouldn’t be complained about later.
Of course, there are bad actors in the space. Some industries (namely music) over-inflate costs to reduce royalty payments to artists. Some have ridiculous contracts.
However, I see the opposite occurring too. Where the entitlement of artists is to blame. Where they want more money for making a business profit, but never want to lose money for making the business a loss.
They want the lion’s share of success and to be shielded from risk or failure.
Often the artist’s fans and customers have rallied to champion this sentiment and shame the partner company for somehow ‘using’ the artist or ‘exploiting’ them.
The truth is, if you sell art, you’re no longer just an artist, you’re a business too.
So creative industries can’t ever work under absolute idealism, because not everything that’s creative is good—and even if it was, not everything that’s good is profitable.
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