The Economics of Free Culture

I’ve spent the last 18 months in a period of self-development: learning, thinking and writing. There has been a vague idea of something ‘book-like’ at the end of the process that might generate an income but, to date, I have earned nothing. I am a kept man. In Mrs. Woos words recently, “It’s lucky you can occasionally make me laugh or you’d be dead”.

Last night I gave a 10 (11) minute talk in the form of a book review of a series of blog posts. I did all the preparation between 2pm and 5pm, without too many distractions and it was more structured than my normal on-the-fly blog posts. Ignoring the ideas that I slipped in from the previous research, this is the best data I have from which I can measure my writing productivity.

If we assume a rather optimistic income of £50,000 a year for a writer and an optimistic 2 weeks per year holiday (due to the constand flow of work, at steady rate which I can satisfy), we get a nice round target of £1,000 per week to aim for, or £100 per half day. So, to have a comfortable life as a writer, I would need to find someone willing to pay me £100 for a page of writing that I hadn’t even had to research, or at least double that if if they wanted me to go somewhere to present it, plus expenses. So, £250 per 10 minute speaking engagement or they could just read it here for nothing and I could get a bar job like most artists and musicians I know. As everything becomes free, our creative economy is imploding. I need a new commercial model.

Let’s imagine there was a micro-payment system for this blog. How cheap does information have to be, to compete with free, when people are drowning in an information flood? The Free culture of the Information Revolution is doing for new writers what karaoke did for pub singers.

For the first time in my life, I’m asking myself, “What would Simon Cowell do?” and the implications of that are too horrible to contemplate. When my childhood in the Sixties promised a future of 50% leisure time to weave a new kaftan or write poetry, I imagined the wealth and the leisure would be distributed evenly. I should have considered the broken promises of the industrial revolution to save us all from toil.

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