With so many other changes, the pandemic has accelerated the transition of our lives into the digital world. Artists were no exception to this development: With so many aspects of how they produce and distribute their work online, the disruption has opened up pressing questions about how to properly assess the creative work of independent artists.
Ahead of Artpreneur 2021 conference, Apt613 met with one of the panelists to talk about the newly adopted fee schedule, created and ratified by the Independent Media Arts Alliance (IMAA) and demystify the process of valuing the creative production of artists. Mariane Bourcheix-LaPorte is a researcher at the IMAA and a doctoral candidate at Simon Fraser University who worked on the fee schedule and the IMAA best practices document for digital art distribution.
This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
Apt613: What inspired the creation of this price list for digital media arts?
Mariane Bourcheix-LaPorte: For several years, the Independent Media Arts Alliance (AAMI) has established a fee schedule for in-person presentations of artists’ work. Obviously, in recent years, there has been an increasing use of online presentation platforms by media arts presenters. All guidelines or documents created by the IMAA are member-driven. They are developed by the community, for the community. There was nothing around the online presentations.
I think this project is really a sort of accumulation of “needs”. And really, what gave the final impetus was the pandemic, and most organizations are turning to online programming without having clear guidelines on it.
Is it fair to say that the pandemic-induced online movement of these artistic activities and presentations corresponded to a devaluation of the work of artists?
I think that’s still a problem in the independent media arts community because even if you look at some of the fees, they can be pretty low. So it’s always hard to say. The problem is, artist fees and other streaming costs are license fees. License fees are related to copyright – they are basically copyright royalties. And copyright relates to the use of the work, not to the work that was provided to create the work.
I think that’s at the root of the problems, in terms of always trying to figure out what the value of artists’ work is, because the system we have (at least for visual and media arts) is not about paying artists based on how much time they spend on it, or their expertise that way. This involves paying for the public exhibition, a public screening or simply the online distribution of the work. So this is where it’s always hard to tell what the value is.
What are the notable characteristics of the digital media arts price list?
We’ve put definitions in place around different types of “online presentation”, which might sound pretty straightforward. But it really helps define what we mean by online presentation. I think that’s the first thing: that everyone has a common understanding of in-person presentation versus online, hybrid, live streaming, on-demand presentation.
We have set some parameters for on-demand presentation, which in my opinion is also very important. Namely the on-demand availability period and the streaming window. It simply puts limits on how long the hardware can be accessible and for which the recommended fees apply. That’s not to say presenters can’t go longer than that; it just means that the more they make the work accessible, the more they should pay artists.
What we have done is delimit that each component is its own event, and therefore you have to pay for the separate events. This means that an organization does not have the right to assume that because they presented something in person, or broadcast it live, they can then make it available on their Vimeo channel or their website. website for everyone to see. In that sense, there was, I think, a feeling of protection of the artists.
What strikes me about what you mentioned is that by putting a price on all of these different ways that a presenter can benefit from an artist’s work, these are all ways that value is added to everything. what he offers to his community. And this price list only makes this value explicit.
It’s exactly that. Some artists have told us that if they give a talk it can be in person or online, whatever. The call is recorded, then streamed to the organization’s YouTube channel, Vimeo channel, or website, and is accessible forever. It hurt them. They were not asked to make this speech. Instead of inviting the artist to a classroom, the teacher simply projects the lecture.
What do you hope this new price list can accomplish?
Right now, we’re asking organizations to make a slow transition to full adoption of this pricing schedule. For a lot of organizations, their budget is already established, you know, for the next two years. For many of them, this will translate into increased fees for many organizations, especially if they opt for the recommended fee, rather than the minimum fee as a benchmark amount.
So when we get to that point, if the organizations are able to meet the recommended fees, I think that would be great, because it will mean a lot more money for artists than they would have received otherwise.
Often times I think these kinds of resources can seem intimidating for artists or practitioners, because they are made for organizations. But if artists understand what the organizations they work with are based, I think artists will have an easier time and feel more confident negotiating their terms.
Understanding all of these things gives you a head start when working with presenters and makes you feel like they’re doing you a disservice by showing off your work. They are in a working relationship with you. There is always a power dynamic, but you have to try to see it that way.
Discover Mariane Bourcheix-LaPorte at the IMAA panel to learn more about how artists can defend themselves, as well as online accessibility, artist consent, intellectual property management and Indigenous cultural property . Yesou can connect to this panel and much more by subscribing to Artpreneur, an annual multi-day conference dedicated to providing space and resources for artists to build their professions. Artpreneur 2021 will take place on October 23 and 25, 2021.