Kids Today

This afternoon I gave a Sita Sings the Blues talk to a roomful of 15-to-17-year-olds. Near the end I explained Free Culture and my stance against copyright, which led to some interesting discussion. Turns out most of them are manga fans, and familiar with publishers’ complaints about scanned and translated manga shared freely online. They all read them anyway (except one, who prefers to read entire manga in the bookstore). I asked them how they would choose to support artists they liked (once they had some disposable income) and they said:

  1. Donate buttons – with the qualification that they want to know as much as possible about where the donation is going. They said honesty and transparency are important.
  2. Kickstarter – They all knew about it (which was notable because none of them had heard of Flattr) and valued pitch videos that explained how the money would be used.
  3. Custom drawings
  4. Merch
  5. Physical copies
  6. Live Shared Experiences, including ballet, museum exhibits, and concerts. The event aspect was important; they wanted to be able to say, “Remember that one time when that awesome show was here…” They agreed seeing things in person is a more powerful experience than seeing things online, and worth spending more on. One said she would buy CD at a live show because “it reminds you of the show.”
  7. One said he would support artists by promoting their work to his friends.

Semi-related, I took an informal poll of how many would prefer to read a book on paper vs. an e-reader. The vast majority said paper, but what they really seemed to want was dual formats: paper copies to read comfortably and collect, and digital copies to search and reference. Makes sense to me. Only two of them had iPads, and none used them for “enhanced eBooks.”

My favorite quote of the afternoon:

“We don’t want everything for free. We just want everything.”



Author: Nina Paley

Animator. Director. Artist. Scapegoat.

16 thoughts on “Kids Today”

  1. There’s also Kachingle for apportioning $5/month among websites you select and visit. In my case, all my Kachingle sites are bloggers, but it could be artists, too.

  2. I love that quote Nina! It perfectly sums up my experience with being online. I’m still waiting for a Sita picture book – something I can page through with my son and look at the pretty pictures while reading bits about the story. As those kids said – you might be giving away the movie for free, but we still want the PHYSICAL so we can enjoy it in multiple ways.



  3. @Nina

    Alert the media! Teens want shit for free! Wow, you really got the scoop this time, Nina.

    Tell me, how exactly does #7 promote artists to his friends? By stealing a bunch of the artists shit and saying “here, check this out, it’s really cool! What? No, go ahead and take it, I can steal more” lol.

    I’m guessing no one asked how the kids would feel if they spent a lot of time, talent, emotion and energy to create something, only to have someone take it without paying. Or what happens when the artist can’t afford to make merchandise because they can barely afford the supplies to make the art in the first place. But if the question was asked, I’m sure those kids would think it was totally awesome! And knowing you, I’m sure you’d want everyone to think it. What’s next on the curriculum? The wonder in a childs eyes as they experience the majesty of the five finger discount?

    But hey, feel proud girlfriend. Helping to foster, nurture and enable entitlement is a really loftly goal.


    re: “you might be giving away the movie for free, but we still want the PHYSICAL so we can enjoy it in multiple ways.”

    This is just delusional thinking unless, of course, you live on Sesame Street as opposed to the real world. Why not just get the bootleg? Oh wait…you’re too MORAL for that I suppose. Yes, download the movie illegally and enjoy the box later! Circular logic much? Good call on that one Leah.

  4. Usually I don’t approve abusive comments, but I’m leaving Jeannette’s up because her tone makes her look so bad. Sometimes the best argument I can make is letting people like Jeannette speak for themselves.

  5. For real. RTFA, Jeannette.

    I personally think this is great anecdotal research. These are the sorts of starter questions that smart artists and producers should be asking their prospective user base, whatever the age. Thanks to the advent of things like Topspin, the old divide between digital and tangible content is thinner than ever, and it’s going to become more important for “content creators” to offer products and services that bridge the two worlds. And the beautiful thing is that, as the distribution and fulfillment tools get more sophisticated, it will become easier to cater to individual consumers’ tastes. It’s an exciting time to be in the grassroots arts industry.

  6. Teen number 7 is most likely the most valuable person for an artist to have as a fan. The biggest problem MOST artists have isn’t piracy, it’s obscurity. If no one has heard of me, how on earth am I going to get anyone to pay me? I NEED people to promote my brand and be an evangelist for my work. And maybe, if I get lucky as an artist (of whatever kind), enough people will pirate my work that my name and brand become valuable and sought after. That’s when I can actually start to make some money.

    I’ll take kid number 7 anyday.

  7. @ Jeannette: Steeling means to take something away without paying. This expression simply doesn’t make any sense for a digital copy. In copying it you create a new version of the item every time and free of cost. The source remains untouched.

    It’s not the fault of the kids, that the copyright industry hasn’t developed new business models that are more appropriate to the digital area.

    That is why I like quote so much, it expresses exactly how I’m thinking too!

  8. “Usually I don’t approve abusive comments, but I’m leaving Jeannette’s up because her tone makes her look so bad. Sometimes the best argument I can make is letting people like Jeannette speak for themselves.”

    Apparently you have to belittle Jeannette rather than address the comments made. Kids want things for free. Yeah, not a shocker. Kids also typically have a very limited or naive understanding of economics – so this anecdotal evidence shows us what that we didn’t already know already? Not much.

    All that I see here is that these kids would benefit from ethics and economics classes.

  9. To MeMyself: I don’t see Nina’s reply as belittling Jeannette. While I think many people feel the same way Jeannette feels, she came into the conversation with a sarcastic tone and jabbed at Nina in the closing of her opening. (And then goes on to bite at Leah instead of actually discussing things.)

    I think Jeannette’s reply misses the fact that many teens do want to support creators when they can. When I read Chris Anderson’s book, FREE, one of the points he makes (that there comes a point when a younger person’s time becomes a limited resource and money becomes more available that they do move on to purchasing things) is something I’ve seen happen.

    Friends’ teenage children, who once downloaded so much stuff that some couldn’t even read or listen to all they downloaded (they just collected it), found themselves tired once they started going to college, graduating, and working a day job. Most of them shifted from spending time searching for and downloading things online to buying what they wanted. In every case, the things they bought are what’s familiar to them: things created by artists, musicians, and writers they once downloaded.

    Since the rise of people downloading music came increased concert and merchandise revenues. Many writers who were once unknown because they couldn’t get through gatekeepers, or sold very little, saw more than they ever made because finally, people had access to their writing. I can’t remember the name of the artist whose graphic novel ended up on 4chan a year or so ago for free, but I do remember he thanked members of the forum because he saw a bigger spike in sales of his work when it was available for free than when gave it a positive review.

    I’m not saying downloading one’s work for free is right, but to only see a sentiment of, “Bratty-assed teenagers want to scrape at the flesh of creators and deny them their fortune!” is an attitude that is a bit misguided. Most people engaging in a creative endeavor never make a living from it. Many now do because people had access to their work. Teenagers aren’t the greedy, entitled things Jeannette makes them out to be in her reply. Sure, some may be, but it misses the point of the rest of Nina’s post.

    That point is teenagers often pay in different ways. Maybe they download music for free, but they also buy the band’s merchandise and pay to see them live. They feel like a part of the process when they can pitch in what they can at Kickstarter; one can be so lucky to have people want their work so much that they have people help fund it.

    There’s a presumption that the kid who promotes the work of people he likes to friends doesn’t pay for things. That seems unfair. I buy everything I read, listen to, and watch, and I work hard to promote the things I like. When I was a teenager, I bought things and promoted what I liked.

    I’m 42, and it would be all too easy for me to take a “Kid’s these days!” attitude toward teenagers. But the teenagers I’ve chatted with, even when their faces are buried in their smart phones texting, are often brighter than the teenagers I knew when I was their age. They have an awareness of their surrounding that goes beyond who’s advanced on American Idol, and they will one day be the adults who find themselves with less free time, more money, and realize they’d rather just buy something than dig for it and download what is often an inferior copy from what they can buy.

    The creators they will stick with will be creators like Nina who understand that.

  10. So kids would benefit from ethics and economics classes? Yeah, not a shocker. Aren’t things like these why we send them to the school?
    All that I see here is that you would benefit from comprehensive reading classes.

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