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Author Archive | Joe Patti

Have You Gotten To The Point You Care When People Steal Your Work?

You know how you are supposed to check the batteries in your smoke detectors every time we go on or off daylight savings time? It may be worth having a similar rule for checking your intellectual property licenses for your online presences. Maybe every time you renew your domain name?

There was a recent story about a photographer who had set his Creative Commons License to allow commercial use with attribution.

When a map company used his image on one of their publications giving him full attribution, he sued them for their use of the image and lost.

The tone of the article is that it was sort of silly of him to be protesting the use of his work in a way explicitly allowed.

But it occurred to me that it would be very easy for many artists and organizations to accidentally find themselves in a similar situation as their online presence evolved.

For example, maybe your website or blog just starts out as a source of information for people about what you are doing. You set your license to require people to quote you with attribution or a link. You aren’t trying to monetize anything and you would be happy if people quoted you all over the Internet.

Later, your organization starts a new exciting program where you are producing all sorts of interesting stuff (or if you are an individual, you take up a hobby/refine your skills and get really good).

You start putting images and examples of your work online, forgetting your license is so permissive and the next thing you know you are seeing your work appearing all over social media, people are selling tshirts and tote bags with your images and are using your video and audio tracks in their own videos.

If you have been publicizing/bragging about achievements and have realized ambitions much greater than when you first established your blog, website, Pinterest, Flickr, etc, presence you may want to go back and review how much permission people have to utilize the content of those pages.

A similar issue may arise if you are featuring other people’s work and their more stringent use requirements aren’t clearly discernible.

Upon review, you may be surprised by how lax your settings are. Or maybe you will despair that no one wants to steal your stuff despite how lax your settings are.

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I’ll Love You Foreve…About A Month

About two years ago, Non Profit Quarterly (NPQ) had a piece discussing the external influences on non-profit organizations.

There are quite a number of external forces that exert pressure on non-profits, but thanks to the ease of communication and dissemination of information, among the latest to emerge are: push for transparency and accountability; the ability of different stakeholder groups to mobilize and influence each other and social media’s ability to make a escalate local issues to national visibility.

While these are all very interesting, the one element that caught my eye dealt with the transitory nature of relationships.

There is much less reliance on cradle-to-grave relationships between people and institutions (no longer the standard). And more free agency and greater reach of communications technology require stronger and more consistently engaging attractors. Maybe a core image here is that of the contracted and relatively unprotected worker—the worker with multiple short-term jobs, or the employee who commutes remotely. Socially concerned people are replicating these shorter term, more tenuous relationships—taking their energy to a Habitat for Humanity construction project one month, a race against hunger the next, and participating in a campaign against constrictive web legislation in between. If you want to compete for people’s attention and money and names, you had better be giving them something that they can get very interested in and over which they can feel a sense of accomplishment and partial ownership. They do not always need to do the work themselves, but they do need to feel engaged at a spirit level.

This struck a chord with me because it illustrates a new stage in the relationship between arts and communities. We have gone from the ability to assume a relatively long and stable relationship that was the hallmark of Danny Newman’s Subscribe Now, to the need to gradual cultivate a relationship through a successive series of steps laid out in the book Waiting in the Wings to this current news that you are lucky if you can get someone to support you for a month.

This probably doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone, but it is a little depressing to see it in print. As to what is to be done, I would say make a consistent effort to communicate what you are doing and why they should be excited and interested to keep yourself on people’s radar.

And be prepared for churn. We know it is more expensive to attract new audiences to performances than to retain existing ones. While it is definitely worth working to maintain the loyalty of existing audiences, churn is likely to be a growing issue and needs to be factored into budgets. From the NPQ piece, it needs to be part of unearned revenue projections as well as earned because that is likely to fluctuate as well.

A big rally of support like the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge of last summer can help you advance your cause and expand your service exponentially, but it may taper off just as quickly so be prepared. This month ALS researchers reported on how much progress the $100 million boost they received last summer benefited their efforts. There isn’t any mention about what percentage of those who gave last year continue to do so now.

(To be fair, the report and Ask Me Anything were delivered by the researchers, not the ALS charities)

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Eliminated 50 Resumes Immediately? Maybe You Are The Bad Job Candidate

Last week I wrote about the trend among employers to monetize the apparent happiness of employees. One of the examples I provided was a job listing requiring people to be passionate about cleaning buildings. I pointed out one of the ways this already impacted the arts is the belief employees didn’t need to be paid to perform their roles since they are doing something they love.

But even arts and non-profit administrators who are resolved to pay employees fairly in line with current market rates are apt to have expectations that exceed the reality of their work environment.

A couple months ago Seth Godin made a post regarding, “The fruitless search for extraordinary people willing to take ordinary jobs.”

“It’s unreasonable to expect extraordinary work from someone who isn’t trusted to create it.

It’s unreasonable to find someone truly talented to switch to your organization when your organization is optimized to hire and keep people who merely want the next job.

It’s unreasonable to expect that you’ll develop amazing people when you don’t give them room to change, grow and fail.

And most of all, it’s unreasonable to think you’ll find great people if you’re spending the minimum amount of time (and money) necessary to find people who are merely good enough.”

When I was writing my post last week, I had a vague recollection of reading a post about how too much focus is placed on formal credentials and education when hiring people. I searched around quite a bit trying to find the source. Fortunately, in his post today, Vu Le linked back to the very post he wrote in April I was thinking about.

In that post, he mentions lack of formal education, typos in resumes, short term vision and “grass is greener outside our field” thinking as short cuts employers use to eliminate applicants and make the resume review process easier.

In essence, like Godin, he says employers have high expectations of a process in which they invest minimal effort.

In addition to making the effort, Vu advocates:

Change the philosophy and definition of “qualification”: Qualification should be based on whether a person will do a good job or not in the position. Since we can’t know for sure if they will, we use proxy characteristics, such as formal education, as a predictor of performance. But formal education, as mentioned above, leaves behind a lot of people. Set it in the “Preferred” section if you have to use it. This opens up doors for people who have equivalent working experience.

He also encourages people to be hired based on their passion. That isn’t generally an issue in the arts where people are replete with passion. But he also adds the need to hire based on potential, a sentiment that is echoed in a Fast Company article from a year ago that recommends hiring on potential over experience.

While it’s easier to measure past performance, it’s also possible to evaluate potential, he says. Zehnder looks for indicators such as the right kind of motivation: great ambition to leave a mark in the pursuit of greater, unselfish goals. “High potentials … show deep personal humility and invest in getting better at everything they do,” he says.

Four other hallmarks of potential, he adds, are curiosity, insight, engagement, and determination.

[…]

Businesses may focus on hiring someone with eight to 10 years of experience, Seville says, but sometimes that’s really “one year’s experience times eight.”

That emphasis is the article’s not mine. When I read it, my first thought was that it sounds like the description of a large segment of people who work in the non-profit arts. So if the corporate sector starts to orient more toward those qualities, there is a potential for a bigger talent drain away from the arts.

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Arts Colleagues, Act More Miserable And Less Passionate!

Most of us in the arts have probably heard the argument espoused by others that we shouldn’t care if we get paid a lot because we are doing what we love and apparently having fun.

After reading a recent article in the Atlantic, I started to wonder if businesses were trying to use the same psychology on a broader scale to keep employee pay low.

In one section, of the article, writer Bourree Lam interviews author Miya Tokumitsu who suggests employers are trying to monetize employee enjoyment. Essentially making customers feel good about the employees feeling good.

Tokumitsu: When I found that Craigslist posting [for cleaners who were passionate], I was super depressed. You’re demanding that this person—who is going to do really hard physical work for not a lot of money—do extra work. On top of having to scrub the floors and wash windows, they have to show that they’re passionate too? It’s absurd and it’s become so internalized that people don’t even think about it. People write these job ads, and of course they’re going to say they want a passionate worker. But they don’t even think about what that means and that maybe not everyone is passionate.

Later they mention McDonald’s recent Pay With Love effort to have employees and customers trade smiles, high-fives, hugs, dance, etc.

They say there is something of a subtext to all this that if you are theoretically passionate about your work, you shouldn’t be complaining to the boss.

As a contrast they offer the dynamic in Japan where your entire identity isn’t necessarily closely tied the job you do.

Tokumitsu: Japanese work culture is ridiculed in the U.S., [for example] the caricature of the soulless Japanese salary man. It’s not the answer to emulate any one country, but I feel like in Japan there’s a lot more respect for service workers: You do your job, and serve the public, and then you retreat to the private world. I also think there’s a sense of purpose in work that’s not based on achieving yellow smiley-face happiness. There’s a certain satisfaction to be taken from performing a certain role in society, whether you’re driving a taxi or working at a convenience store. “I’m doing something that other people are relying on,”—and that’s such a different way to regard work.

So should arts people bitch and moan a lot more about their jobs to emphasize just how much work it is?

To be honest, even without this article in the Atlantic, some sort of effort that underscored how much work went into the creation of a work was probably necessary. Some form of the “why do you want money, you are having fun,” sentiment has served as a common thread in recent orchestra contract negotiations.

But artists publicly grousing about how awful their jobs are isn’t really constructive for the arts sector.

Well, unless you are The Smiths…

Most people in the arts are genuinely pleased to do what they do. Regardless of whether they get paid a lot or not, they experience a high degree of emotional satisfaction while performing their jobs. There is little to be gained by telling them to pretend to be more miserable.

The fact they experience this emotional satisfaction is one reason people in the arts will accept lower pay than they should. But they are also increasingly realizing that the existence of  emotional satisfaction should have no bearing on their financial remuneration.

You generate your own damn feeling of satisfaction, not your employer. They don’t own it and it isn’t any of their business. They aren’t giving you an opportunity to feel emotionally satisfied by working for them. It comes independently of their involvement.

Being emotionally satisfied and being financially satisfied are two separate things and arts people need to recognize that and not confuse them.

All this being said, it still comes back to the issue that some sort of awareness raising effort is probably going to be required over time to combat the perception that it is all fun and no blisters and sacrifices.

I am not sure what the most constructive manifestations of that might be.

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