Cartoon for March 24

Fellow CWA cartoonist Jen Sorensen pointed to a Wired article about how prices are trending downward–prices for our labor, anyway. What we buy always gets more expensive.

This ties in to a discussion among cartoonists and other info-floggers over the future of our business. If content isn’t king, information wants to be free and what we do is worthless in the new all online future (ha!), how will we earn a living? At a graphic novel symposium called Splat! held in Manhattan last Saturday, I was on a panel with “Diesel Sweeties” cartoonist Richard Stevens, one of the most successful webcartoonists around. Richard makes his living selling T-shirts and other merchandise, using his free comics as a way to draw readers to his website. He also draws a syndicated version of the strip for daily newspapers. Anyway, he and I disagree about whether others can replicate his success. The way I look at it, most cartoonists can barely come up with new ideas for cartoons. Coming up with T-shirt ideas is a whole other way of thinking, demonstrated by yours truly–I’ve never come up with a really successful T-shirt design, but I make money from cartoons.

The loss-leader model is being touted for musicians as well. No more will they receive real money for their record deals. Instead, they must tour and sell T-shirts. In the future, we’ll all sell T-shirts to subsidize our jobs.

Click on the cartoon to make it bigger.

14 Responses to “”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    The complete devaluing of music is yet another example of a society that is culturally bankrupt and ethically hypocritical. Here’s why:

    Case 1: a minority steals a TV set worth $500 from a local appliance store and gets caught. He/she will spend the next 2-5 years in jail. Guaranteed.

    Case 2: a white frat boy/sorority girl going to UW-Madison gets caught with $100,000 worth of music he/she downloaded in one big chunk from some server and ….. basically nothing happens. Mommy and daddy get involved (and their high-priced lawyer) and cry “EVERYONE’S DOING IT, SO IT CAN’T BE A CRIME!”.

    By all rights Bif and Buffy should be going to jail for the rest of their fucking lives, or at least 10 to 20 with a chance of parole.

    You see, once again Americans get it THEIR WAY, even when it’s completely inconsistent with the very value system they set up in the first place as “fair play” or “the rule of law”. It’s applicable only when it doesn’t apply to them.

    So what’s the end result? Corporate America says “we can’t stop this flood of free music downloads, so fuck it. Let’s find the money somewhere else.”

    I feel for you Ted, because you are really good at what you do. I’ve often read some of the same comics you’ve done over and over again. Your insight is unique in that you can see (and document in a creative and fearless way) the insanity that goes on in this country on a daily basis, and passes most people by.

    I’m grateful for that, and will buy your T-Shirt if it gets to that point.

  2. clem Says:

    You’re right that creators are being devalued or, better, decoupled from the economy. Producers are too, more and more. In a larger sense, it is nothing new. DaVinci and his fellow Renaissance men, those who weren’t born rich, mostly spent their lives kissing ass for money and wandering from patron to patron. You never hear of the ‘Newton fortune’ or the ‘Bach fortune’ or the ‘person who discovered fire’ noble lineage. The recent financial success of certain categories of entertainer is if anything an anomaly in the prevailing system. One that may well be unstable, at least if the lords of society and finance retain their power. If you have ever tortured yourself with Atlas Shrugged, you know that Rand’s depiction of the poor downtrodden captains of industry, geniuses and innovators one and all, is total bullshit. Tesla spent most of his life destitute while J.P. Morgan and others got rich(er) on his inventions. Edison, despite the companies bearing his name, was far from wealthy, and he invented the friggin’ stock ticker. The capitalist myth that you are rewarded for doing valuable work is just that – a myth. For a brief time, cartoonists and writers, like factory workers, could make at least a living wage doing what they do. The prevailing economic/social philosophy is reasserting itself now and more and more only the ‘privileged’ are to be deemed worthy of power, remuneration and, perhaps, acclaim. perhaps future histories will credit Hearst instead of Herriman for Krazy Kat just as they credit Gates instead of a guy named Tim, who actually wrote DOS, and a plethora of anonymous wage slaves who designed and created the Microsoft products that made him a billionaire. It sucks and I see creativity already starting to take a big hit in art, writing, engineering, and other fields. Of that Dark Ages are born. You seem to have become a mine canary.

  3. Edward Says:

    I don’t know what race has to do with the above. If anyone is caught stealing a $500 TV they will go to jail.

  4. Angelo Says:

    new fav since “shaivo”

  5. Angelo Says:

    how about just making a wiki version of the cartoon…
    Imagine: instead of arguing about Ted’s way of attacking an issue after he already prints it, we could all edit the cartoon and argue about which changes to keep until the deadline.

    I am not serious, of course, but epistemic communities are always good side projects. There is a music one called LADNA, but it has not taken off.

  6. G. M. Palmer Says:

    The above folks all no longer have day jobs — unless day jobs means shipping T-Shirts and books after drawing some cartoons. Their sale of books (people still use those things) and t-shirts and coffee mugs emblazoned with stuff pays for their creative work.

    Of course, the list could also have been:

    I Love Lucy
    The Honeymooners

    Professional entertainment exists in a symbiotic relationship with selling things — whether it was a Manor Lord in 1357 paying a bard to entertain the guests he was negotiating with or thesipians in 1000 B.C. selling their ideas of religion to the masses or Carol Burnett making us laugh in between soap commercials, entertainment and mongering have always been intertwined.


  7. Aggie Dude Says:

    I started as a music major in college (and agree with a previous column’s response about switching out for an easier major). However, what I determined was that I could still be a musician, which I am…and still even perform live, which I’m working on doing with a new band.

    The problem here is with trying to with capitalizing on something that is a) based on one’s personal talent in an economy of worth that is entirely subjective, and b) a public good, in the sense that once it is out there, it can be replicated at minimal fabrication cost, is that it’s impossible to truly replicate without draconian measures. Add to this the reality that the duplicability of intellectual property puts its creator in direct competition with nearly all other producers of similar work almost instantaneously.

    The problem I had with music as a profession is that my marketability was not only in competition with the top performers in my area, but also that it is fundamentally something people do for free, because the experience is payment enough.

    I’m willing to perform live for free, and while I may not be a virtuoso, the essence of profitability in music has become the live performance. This is why Napster did not threaten my favorite band (Jethro Tull) but threatened many others; Tull fundamentally understands that the live performance – a real and lived experience – is what people are willing to pay for.

    Commensurate with the live performance is the sale of paraphernalia (the Grateful Dead method of making money). This is the reality of digital replication of art. It is devalued, and I do sympathize with those who have to adapt to it. University faculty now have to as well, as syllabi, lectures and reading lists can be jacked over the net as well. What doesn’t change is the daily interaction with students and researchers.

    I think this fits well with your previous post, Ted. This is ultimately an issue of automation in modern society, and the ability to mass produce and amplify minimal human input (or the illusion of such) really begs the question: Why are some slaving away while others live in luxury?

    It’s really the same old dance, just a different tune….it makes my particular profession rather secure.

  8. Angelo Says:

    In music, assuming you are good, you can just start a cover band. Instantly, you have free drinks, tons of cash and chicks gallore. If that is all you want, you are set! I personally know a Pink Floyd cover band and a 80s and 90s band. They cannot keep up with all of the paying gigs they get. None of them sell t-shirts!
    They show up, play and get paid!

    Instead of shunning tired, old-school styles, Ted should be copying them!

  9. Anonymous Says:

    How many t-shirts is this world gonna need anyway? There is a disconnect among people over the concept of theft. If something has a physical presence, like a car, taking it is easily seen as a crime. In the case of intellectual property, which lacks that presence or the likelihood of getting caught and prosecuted, people seem to think it deserves to be stolen, regardless of the hours of work and creativity it requires. I wish I had an answer to this conundrum, but no one seems to give a crap, kinda like no one seems to give a crap we torture people or invade countries to steal their resources (as long as there’s no draft involved).

  10. Aggie Dude Says:

    While I acknowledge that many people probably don’t give a crap, I for one think this is an important issue but I definitely see a difference between the plagiarism of artistic material, which once created becomes a public good (in that it does not deprive one person to share it with another), and the theft of a physical object that can’t be easily duplicated. For example, if we had a Star Trek replicator….how much would that TV or car really matter? The reality is that people like Ted actually create a public good, in that his posting of his cartoons make people think and laugh (but not both, I swear!)…adequate compensation for this simply doesn’t fall into the Fordist production-consumption model that operates our economy right now.

    No offense to Ted…but what gives people a right to get compensated just for having worked to produce something? Indeed I agree it is a conundrum. How many t-shirts does the world need? One could ask the same question: How many mediocre alternative rock bands does the world need? How many times do they have the right to profit off their material through the enforcement of information control and punitive action?

    I think these are reasonable questions to ask.

  11. False Prophet Says:

    The idea that bands ever really made money from their music is ludicrous anyway. I can’t explain it better than Steve Albini.

  12. Marion Delgado Says:

    First, in the performing and recording arts, most of the money goes to parasitic ghouls. Capitalism is an insane model of anything, for anything. Moreover, a really large percentage of intellectual property litigation, so-called, is completely fraudulent. Someone who took things out of the commons wants to prevent someone else from taking out of the commons.

    Most of the factors affecting music theft, so-called, aren’t even moral. On the one hand, the big money is in fighting against movie downloads. On the other hand, the most-stolen music has saturated the market for bland idiocy.

    For cartooning, the issue is not theft, it’s free competition. In theory, the lower cost of web stuff and the elimination of one level of middlemen was supposed to make up the difference. It didn’t. Because capitalism is not magic.

    Honestly, if someone doesnt give a rats ass about the many abuses of IP, from the Eagles to Scientology to the pharmaceuticals, and most IP whiners do NOT, then I don’t care about them, either.

    By the way, I didn’t bitch when iTunes Music Store pioneered AAC DRM – and it’s a successful industry.

  13. Aggie Dude Says:

    False Prophet……wow dude, I’m glad I’m into Scandinavian heavy least I’m not going to kid myself about the possibility of ever getting a recording contract!

  14. Angelo Says:

    Seriously, if we are just wasting money anyhow, how about some state sponsored culture. I would rather be forced to pay for some shitty artists to exist than for some shitty war to exist any day !

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