Saturday, April 23, 2011

Who's the Artist?


Easy quiz, right? It's right there on the video: Guster - Do You Love Me. You mean artists, no? Adam Gardner, Ryan Miller, and Brian Rosenworcel! Hold on, did you actually mean Jon Sarkin? That's my point. It's all of them. But we haven't included Chad Carlberg, the director of the video. Or anyone else who participated and might have improvised something important. Still is there a hierarchy of creativity? If yes, how do we determine the hierarchy? Is it intuitively obvious? Do we give most credit to the the root cause, the seed of the project? Or is it just a matter of being on the front page and political muscle?

This applies to any creative project, from video clips to software systems. Yes, engineering is not just science. It's an art as well. Is it important who the artist is? Yes. Because ultimately it's about remunerating someone for their contributions to society. We could say, let the market place decide. But in a project, monetary value has yet to be established. To make sure there's no violent conflict once the bear is skinned and the fur is sold, we bind ourselves contractually to how to share the potential profits. Saying that everyone is equal seems wrong at face value. If I hire someone to serve olives with little red dots in them, it would hardly be fair to give them an equal portion.

But that's where it stops being easy, especially when it's unclear what is to be created, such as a new software system or a very novel and difficult to make movie. We haven't even included the concept of capital. It's a very important part. But to stay focused on the "creators", I steer away from that here. Let's just assume the project is being financed with sweat equity. Sometimes, who will ultimately contribute is unclear at the outset. And, what the value of that contribution will be.

You could say, well, who knows? There no way of knowing and hence, whatever assumptions are made at the beginning and whatever someone can negotiate themselves to goes. Yes, and we can just stick with whatever we have been doing for the last X period of time and not improve our ability to fulfill the Basic Imperative. My question here is if there is a better way of establish who should be fairly remunerated so that their future endeavors can potentially be better financed. Who wants a bunch of millionaire olive caterers and an Edwin Howard Armstrong? Perhaps Armstrong is a bad case for project based remuneration. Maybe his case is more of corporate theft and political muscle. But how many ingenious contributors to a project were left broke and never heard of because they were unfairly treated in the initial settling of contracts? What about the Winklevoss Twins? Well, by no means broke. Perhaps I can't come up with a good example because we just don't know about these "lost" talents? Or maybe its just not a big problem.

I'm not claiming there's a better solution than what we currently have. I'm just wondering if there is perhaps a better way of doing things. Is there? I want to wake you from your dreams...

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