Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Worth of Stuff

When I released a compilation of my songs on a CD, I soon came up against the great question about who to give the CD to and who to accept money from for it. It was difficult as an ‘artist’ to realize that what I was doing was worth something to someone so it was hard not to give it away to anyone who asked. But I was warned to value what I was doing; if nothing else the action of accepting money for my work assigns monetary value to all of the great musicians out there releasing music for a living. To date I have sold over 500 or so copies. Not a record-breaking success but far more than I ever expected. I've given away a few hundred and have also caught wind of a fair bit of "unexpected" duplication.

As a farmer, knowing the worth of what we do is much easier for me. I honestly feel that the products we are selling have the same value as gold. The price is comparable to similarly named items one can find in the grocery store. What our customers get as a bonus for their money is extra flavour, freshness, nutritional value, assurance of the safety and quality that comes from organic certification and the very short time since it was harvested. But I still find it annoying/amusing how many people still balk at the cost of vegetables at a market.

I’m a frugal person, but I’m willing to spend money on things that have value. This analysis can include the time it would take to find a different one, the quality of the item, how long I can use said thing, whether I can pass it along or share it and what the external costs might be (ie. I have a pet peeve about buying things new in packages because it seems environmentally wasteful).

Recently I read that blogging is a threat to professional writers. This statement took me off guard. The concern is that there are writers out there giving away their work for free, making it harder for ‘real’ writers to earn a buck. First of all, it is again difficult to imagine that someone would pay money for my words that tumble out on to the page. Using my previous strategy around music, however, I think that much of the stuff I read on blogs could easily be found in some of my favourite publications that I do pay for. Many writers out there absolutely deserve to be compensated for their work.

But I don’t think I have a Capitalist mentality. I don’t expect all efforts should be met with cash compensation. I’m kind of a Socialist. If I was a leader I would make us all share equally. But I know that it is probably a good thing that I’m not in charge. I do not want to underestimate the effects of a broken economy. I am just uncomfortably naive on these matters.

Then comes the discussion about freedom of speech. Isn’t it great that we have the internet to allow all size, colour and shape of voices to be heard around the globe? The power is in the hands of the reader to choose to read or not read what is before them - and not entirely succumbing to the censorship of those who put it out there anymore. Just like the power lies in the hands of the consumer to force our goods and services to be more ecologically friendly and made under fair conditions for everyone in the chain. Mass distributors of goods take very good notes on where we are spending our dollars.

I don’t want a world where the music I have access to is filtered by recording label executives who manufacture talent to make a dime. It was a great day for the musicians when artists were able to release their own music (also recording it with new technologies for a fraction of what recording studios once cost). But along with the internet and fantastic duplication technology came the ability to beg, borrow and steal music. It is a thin line again between allowing an artist wide exposure to audiences they may not otherwise get to and having the artist lose his shirt over the fact that his copyrighted music can now be taken for free without fair compensation.

I’m not sure where my opinion lands when it comes to bloggers. Are they giving the milk away for free, making it harder for folks to sell their cows? I always see my blog as a sort of a universal prayer where I can send my words out into the ether like a boomerang that may or may not come back. Professional writers provide specific pieces of writing that fit into the mission of a publisher or broadcaster that targets certain populations. Does the writer's work now lean heavily on the desires of the advertisers that support its release?

I never wanted my music to be written around what others expected of me. I did my own thing. Kind of the way I run this empire called The Feminist Farmer’s Wife (ha!). I don’t raise the food that others ask me to. I tell people what I want to do and they tell me whether they are interested or not. So far, it has been impossible to meet demand with the food we grow.

As for writing here, I’m going to save myself the trouble of putting a price tag on my time. This is the place where I get to roam free, do as I please, let it be what it will be. That’s worth a lot to me. Hopefully it means something to you as well. Am I taking away opportunities for other writers to be paid for their work? Oh, I doubt that very much. I think we all compliment each other. Again, probably naive.

But should you ask your friendly neighbourhood farmer for a discount on his wares, or expect him to give you the product of his work for free or complain about the price being too high, please think twice about whether this is the right guy to niggle a dollar from. If excellent quality food does not have value then what does? Apparently farmers are going to be rich one day in the future says a recent US Time magazine article, but for now suffice to say that the people who grow your food aren’t the guys who are adequately compensated for their work, in my opinion.

Meanwhile, have yourself a smorgasborg of most excellent writing for free in the blog-o-sphere. These are the untainted voices of your people. But please also remember that peer-reviewed, professionally vetted works are essential to get our facts straight and the whole picture a lot of the time. They may also have been pre-digested for your reading pleasure. Perspective, perspective, perspective – this is what we gain when we expose ourselves to a broad array of opinions, views and information.

A complete diet of wholesome goodness right at our fingertips. Lucky us.

Once again, thanks for reading!


  1. Wonderful thoughts! Congratulations on the CD - color me impressed...for as long as I can remember, I'd wanted to be either a singer, a horse trainer or a physical therapist (the kind at a fancy health resort). I sing at church and in my car, "train" my own horses and have been to a PT for a back injury. Ha! I get paid to give veterinary medical advice and do office work...far cry from my dreams, wouldn't you say??? So I admire those who can accomplish their dreams. Getting paid for ones' skills...difficult subject putting monetary value on things for me, but as far as blogging goes?? If the writers have to cry about the loss of income from us "writers" in the blogosphere...I'd say, don't quit your day job!! :) My blog is done by me and is my way at maintaining mental health and documenting our/my day-to-day life and thoughts. I would like to offer those folks a little cheese to go with that whine...

  2. I hears ya wife! I don't balk at the cost of quality food or a beautiful bottle of wine, especially when shared with friends. Throw in a little music? Woodoggie! That would be my frugal dollars well spent.


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