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Why artists are so often cheated


I know a lot of artists, and they're wonderful people. And if they've made a living from their art, or tried, they all have one thing in common: they've all been cheated. Or swindled, or stolen from, or however you want to say it.

And I'm not just talking about small-time commercial artists like me. I mean even big, famous, successful artists have been cheated. Ask any musician about a record company. Ask any artist who copyrights and licenses their work. And I can really feel their defenses come up when I ask them about it. And it's mostly the fault of the artist mentality, which means that the more artistic a person is, the less they want "dirty their hands" talking about money.

Most of the successful artists that I've known are part of a successful team. The artist does the art, and someone else handles the copyright, licensing, pricing, advertising, promotions, referrals, quarterly tax filing, that sort of thing. Most artists have no interest in that kind of stuff, and are happy to leave it to someone that they trust. The successful ones find people that they can actually trust, the unsuccessful ones get cheated.

But it runs deeper than that. Just about everyone seems to be OK cheating artists, and stealing from them. When "Piracy is Not a Victimless Crime" flashes up on the screen, most people wonder who the victims could possibly be? The movie moguls? The big record companies? Yes, and ultimately the artists who rely on those businesses to keep the money coming in so they can buy more guitars, or paint, or whatever.

I've been doing commercial art all of my life, and luckily, I got cheated at a very young age. It surprised me that someone would steal my work, and use it without paying for it, but it was a good early lesson for me. So I'm one of those people who won't work for free, I won't give away my work, I won't create work to see if maybe someday someone might want to give me some money for it. If someone asks me to, I simply say "no". I don't know why artists are asked this all of the time, but they always have been, and they always will.

If you're an artist, learn how to avoid being cheated. If you're cheating an artist, or stealing from them, please stop, and look at how much you value them. If you can't give them a lot of money, promote them, tell people where they can hear them in concert, where they can buy their music, where they can buy their prints or posters. Support the arts.