Beggars can’t be choosers
I tend to oscillate wildly between waving my wooden pirate sword around and shouting ‘all content should be free’ from the yardarm. A yardarm is a nautical thing right? The rest of the time (when I’m not channeling Edward Teach) I’m thinking some content should be free, with the rest available, should you so desire it, through patronage (where if you enjoy someones content you can donate what you feel the content is worth). My position tends to fluctuate wildly between these two extremes throughout the day before resetting itself at nightfall, ready for tomorrows internal moot and aggressive discourse. Har har har.
Of course content creators need to eat. And buy MacBooks and Teslas. And fulfil all manner of other consumerist and probably Maslow-vian (I have no idea how to turn that into an adverb) needs. Why then do I begrudge giving them my money so much? I mean, they give me stuff in return. Rage… anxiety… hives. Although some of them also make me smile or give me something cognitive that I appreciate or even end up mulling over and considering for days…
The above made me laugh. I was in Cape Town the other day and a beggar came up to me as I was getting my laptop out of my car and asked me for money. I almost never have cash on me, but I was driving a rental car and someone had left all their coinage in the center console cup-holder (which leads me to believe their cleaning service was somewhat cursory) In any event I explained that I didn’t have any money… but then I remembered the coins… and said ‘Wait a second’ and scooped the contents of the console into my hand and gave them to him. He looked at me disgusted and tossed the coins down onto the sidewalk and shuffled off, muttering to himself. ‘God, even the beggars are uppity fucks here’, I thought to myself before skipping across the street to order a skinny red chai latte and a vegan croissant.
In any event, apparently beggars can be choosers.
I have been thinking about this lately. Not the beggar so much (that was mostly an aside that suddenly occurred to me), but rather how one gets past this psychological imps arse (Terry Pratchett) of paying for content. I guess the options are free, fan-funded, advertising, product endorsement, data mining or selling your own consumerist claptrap. On the last item, seriously, there is nothing so lame as buying a podcasters coffee mug or ironic t-shirt. I don’t care how much you like them. In fact seeing you parading yourself in public with your virtue signalling attire makes me involuntarily scrunch my face up (which may incline those around me into thinking I’m having a stroke… it’s actually the acute pain of embarrassment). You are actually hurting me, physically, with your sadness. Is this worse than having to listen to your favorite podcaster prostitute himself by reading advertising for mattresses, underwear or haemorrhoid cream?
Weirdly my reticence to part with my currency does not (broadly speaking) occur when someone has written a book or is hosting some sort of live event (like a debate or a comedy evening or… even I guess some sort of Ted-esque type talk). Then I’m totally happy to hand over my credit card details. But ask me to donate as a form of patronage so that instead of having a crappy office job you are free to create content that entertains me and chances are pretty good that I will be mortally offended. ‘You goddamn freeloader’.
I used to think maybe it was the anxiety of managing my inner turmoil that holds me back. If I support this one person I really like with $5 a month… what about this other person that I also kinda like, maybe he’s worth $2 a month. Doesn’t this start to add up? I mean none of us follow just five people anymore. Are we expected to patronage all of them? Some of them? One of them? Maybe ad-hoc donations as we go? Do they accept other forms of payment? Left over festive season fruit cake, Nguni cattle or blowjobs? Having actually never performed a blowjob I wouldn’t necessarily pick the latter as your go-to reward, since you are likely to be left feeling unfulfilled and/or horrified. And maybe even injured now that I think about it.
Why is this so complicated? Why do you even have to go pro? Can’t you just be an amateur? Have a day job and create content (for my pleasure) at night when you should be sleeping or spending time with your kids. Sacrifice yourself on the altar of having to express yourself. Just don’t have any expectation of being rewarded for it, that would make everyone happy… except you of course. But life is hard, and getting to tick those self esteem ticky-boxes is not necessarily a given, despite what you’ve been lead to believe by the self-help/entrepreneurship industrial complex.
I have (at the moment) largely automated my patronage. I budget $50 a month which gets chopped up into ten donations, more or less the equivalent of a grande Cinnamon Dolce Latte, that then get distributed to various creators that I like. I have no idea if thats a good number… it actually brings me incredible consternation when I start thinking about it and breaking down my mental models around this. This also means that once I’ve hit my limit I’m done. These days I often find myself having to step over the prostrated form of a creator asking for support (while I peruse his wares), sorry guy, I don’t have anything on me right now I lie. Maybe next time?