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Lost and Found: Cuts and Impacts

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By Dawn


Lost and Found

This is unashamedly a call to get involved. There are two projects going on at the moment that I would really encourage you to engage with. The first is specific to the arts and cultural sector but seems to me to be something that might be replicated elsewhere as an important piece of longitudinal social and economic research.

Lost Arts has been set up by eight unions whose members are directly affected by cuts to the arts: the MU, Equity, BECTU, the Writers Guild of Great Britain, the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), UNITE, Prospect and PCS. Over the next three years the unions have undertaken, to record and catalogue all of the projects, events, initiatives, performances, organisations and companies that will be lost due to the cuts in public funding.

They are not saying that the arts are more important than other sectors just that the effects of the cuts should be properly recorded, recognised and publicised. This seems to me to be a really important undertaking and will provide a unique set of data that can add to the debate about how best to value arts and culture.

The second, is aimed at the wider nonprofit sector but I think it is important that the creative and cultural sectors engage, it goes back to a point I made in an earlier blog (Valuing Culture) that if we don’t start creating our own measures someone else will do it for us. The Principles of Good Impact Reporting is another significant partnership project. It brings together seven[1] of the key organisations concerned with the performance of the nonprofit sector. Collectively, with the endorsement of the Charity Commission and the Office for Civil Society, they are endeavouring to set out a number of universal principles for charities and social enterprises to use when measuring and talking about their impact.

The aim is to help charities and social enterprises to shape the way they are perceived. By better defining ‘how’ and ‘what’ charities should communicate in terms of impact, it is hoped the focus can shift from arbitrary measures of effectiveness such as administration costs, to focus on capturing and measuring the real difference charities and social enterprises make to those they help.

The principles have been released for consultation and they are seeking feedback from anyone involved in impact reporting. Whether you support the approach or not it is important that you add your views to the consultation. I’m sure Bad Culture will be covering the project as it evolves.

For more information about the principles, or to give your feedback, email Tris Lumley at tlumley@philanthropycapital.org.

Do try and add your voice to these important projects.

[1] The seven organisations are New Philanthropy Capital, ACEVO (Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations) incorporating the ImpACT Coalition, CFDG (Charity Finance Directors Group), the Institute of Fundraising, The SROI Network, NCVO (National Council for Voluntary Organisations).

Where’s the feel good? Are we locked in a vicious cycle of despair?

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By James

I was speaking to a music exec last week – don’t worry, this isn’t quite another copyright rant – and he told me the industry lobby group the BPI had a policy of putting a negative spin on all sales news, because piracy was supposed to be killing the industry… And, if it didn’t appear that way, they wouldn’t get the laws needed to tackle piracy and create a sustainable future for recorded music.

But, my contact feels, this policy could be self defeating. The persistent negative slant could put off talent and investment.

A second contact from the industry tells me the indy sector is booming, but this message never gets out. The fact the message never gets out is again part of an orchestrated policy to bury good news and hype-up the bad.

My second contact is frustrated that the digital crossover sector gets no recognition despite the buzz it’s creating in some quarters.

I’m being told the internet has fuelled a renaissance of the small label record producer. It’s well known the internet provides a low-cost distribution model, but this alone doesn’t make the self-styled, self-recorded, self-produced and self-promoted band a viable model.

A Tumblr page is no substitute for promotion, it’s a backstop. The artist or band still needs promoting to DJs and online channels, and often the most effective way of doing this is to sit down and play it to them; despite the internet!

The web offering – whether it’s Facebook, Tumblr or Twitter – itself needs nourishing, or the feed just gets lost in the ever-increasing background noise. Fans need a helping hand to root-out even the most talented bands and artists.

And then there’s the business side; licensing, registering with collecting societies, clearing any samples or songwriter royalties.  Even the most organised and business-focussed bands would struggle to do all this and make the music.

So we have a new generation of musicians turning to a new breed of music publisher, where signing fees and advances are a rarity. Instead, the new publishers are out to give [what they claim to be] a fair return on each sale (minus, of course, promotion and other fees – we’ve all got to eat and pay the mortgage).

But I digress – a lot! The gist here is I’m being told there’s a lot of good news in the British music sector, but it’s being swamped by a cynical agenda driven by those controlling large back-catalogues. Indy labels have nothing to be gained from extending copyright, yet the majors – so I’m told – are already looking at a 90-year protection term despite having just won the extension from 50 to 70 years.

The rub for the independents comes when the gloom-laden publicity agenda of the majors starts to impact their own business. What self-respecting bank or angel investor would pump money into a business we’re all told – at regular intervals – is being “decimated” by piracy.

Yes, the term “decimated” is being used by industry press monkeys, see here and here, despite the Latin origin meaning “reduce by one tenth”. The irony being that the strict meaning is probably an accurate portrayal of the state of the sector as a whole, a 10% hit not being so bad considering the prolonged recession.

If good news doesn’t start to reach the ears of lenders and investors the death of the music industry could become a self-fulfilling prophecy, with overly cynical press and lobbying, not piracy, delivering the fatal blow.

The collision of rights

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By James

There’s been a lot written about copyright, including a fair bit by me, so I’m not going to say too much right now about the main battleground of online enforcement; suffice to say it’s just one area where rights are pitted against each other: the right of a web user to access information on the open internet, versus the right of the rights holder not to have their product available for free from an overseas web server outside the control of any competent copyright enforcement authority.

But the internet has brought far more instances where rights collide into the mind of the plain ordinary online person.

The photographer has established copyright protection, and also certain moral rights in many jurisdictions. But the rights of subjects – models, if you like, at least in a professional setting – were rarely considered, or understood, by many outside the circle of professional photographers, publishers and product marketing specialists.

The rights of the subject essentially depend on how the photograph is to be used.  A few photographers still argue they don’t need an official “model release” contract for pure works of art.  I’m not a lawyer and I don’t want to get into the details, however the situation is clear if a photograph is to be used to promote a product or service – the model has rights over how their image is used, and it’s necessary to get the model to release these rights before a photo can be used.

Meanwhile on the internet, we stick a photo of our friends on our favourite social networking site. We don’t have their permission, but they don’t object. Now what happens when we enter the photo into a photo competition run by our favourite brand of soft drink – and the photo wins? As photographer we had assigned a right for the brand to use photos entered in the competition in order to promote their competition, which in turn promotes their brand.  

We may also have signed to say we had permission from all “models”. But did we? Did we have it in writing? Did our friends understand they might just be in with a chance of banking a few of their allocated 20 minutes?

The sheer quantity of images produced and multitude of opportunities to publish mean (a) keeping track of assigned rights and releases is impracticable; and, (b) the lines between commercial and non-commercial, and between product endorsement, are blurred beyond recognition; and, (c) the sheer number of photographers and publishers makes education and enforcement a challenge, to say the least.

At least the subjects have a claim against any commercial organisation attempting to misuse such pictures. The same is not true where privacy rights meet art in the world of candid or street photography.

“Data protection” is often misquoted as a reason images can’t be published or a “right” individuals have against publication.  Google blurred faces on Street View therefore I can’t snap in the street and put the resultant art works online without blurring the faces of the subjects, right?

Wrong – or at least under the terms of the Data Protection Act 1998.  The Act quite rightly makes exceptions for journalism – after all it would be impossible to film a report from the street or cover any public event, protest or demonstration without capturing the faces of at least some participants and passers-by.

But it’s not widely known (outside the world of art, law and digital policy, at least) that the Data Protection Act also makes the same exclusion for art and literary purposes as journalism.  In fact, every mention of journalism also includes literary works and art in the same exclusion.

So, going back to Google Street View, it’s neither art or journalism; hence the blurring.

It’s not a blanket exemption for art, there is a “public interest test”.  But, especially in the highly subjective world of art, how can this be objectively assessed?  What is art and what is an invasion of privacy? How good does the art have to be to warrant placing an unwilling subject at a sensitive location – entering a sex shop, for example?  What are my rights if I accidentally become the subject of a famous work of art?

The problem with such a balance is that it needs someone to pass judgement.  If we’re talking about famous works of art then sure, let a judge decide.  But again we have a problem of scale; the sheer quantity of photographers and publishers means there aren’t enough judges or courts in the world to arbitrate over every grievance.  One website alone – Flickr – claimed this summer to have over 6 billion published photos!

And there’s another conflict, between the moral rights of the artist and the public interest.  As an artist I have a legal and/or moral right to control how my work is presented and reproduced.  But let’s say I capture a newsworthy event – an event the scale of which can only truly be appreciated in picture or video.

Few and far between, granted; but in these rare occasions is it really reasonable for me to be able to name my price and grant exclusive deals to selected news organisations, when the public interest in such circumstances lies in universal publication across all media outlets?

Some would argue yes, it’s a financial incentive for photojournalists to place themselves amidst newsworthy and often dangerous events.  We’ve all gotta eat! But now, when the defining image of a worldwide event is as likely to come from a citizen journalist as a professional photojournalist, is the financial incentive even relevant?


The wider charitable context

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By Tina

This week saw the launch of a new report, commissioned by Barclays Wealth and published by New Philanthropy Capital (NPC). The new report, entitled “An economic argument for philanthropy” investigates, not just a move away from needs- or even taste-driven giving, but giving on the basis of economic arguments and in a way that will induce not only benefits for society, but also for the economy. A sort of ‘preventative’ philanthropy targeted at the most “expensive” social ills would, in a nut-shell, ensure that less is spent by the government tackling would-be problems and more will be gained by enabling individuals to take better control of their lives to begin with.

This is indicative of what some mega-rich, results-driven individuals (eg Barclays Wealth clients) want to achieve with their giving, namely what they achieve with their financial investments: returns. In this case, it’s not direct gains that they’d be after but social impact, expecting therefore to see their money put to good use, where it’s needed most and where it can make most savings.

And charities are becoming increasingly transparent in proving the difference they make, how many lives they change and with how much money, therefore making a good case for ongoing support. 

But even so, according to another relatively recent study on the motivations of philanthropy, an economic argument to giving is probably not a very strong one for all philanthropists, considering that many of them ultimately give to causes that are close to their hearts. 

So where does culture fit into these rather fragmented but interesting arguments on philanthropic motivations and allocations? 

This week I also came across ACE’s updated Audiences Insight report – a cross-section of the English population grouped into detailed segmentations and providing a 360 degree view of their profiles, attitudes and behaviours (and a pleasant, insightful and engaging read I would add). According to this, 27% don’t engage with the arts. But that still leaves 73% of the population that do engage, and more specifically 7% that are highly engaged. So do they give to the arts? The brief exploration into their “arts patronage, charitable giving and volunteering” serves as a good starting point, but only to show that most segments are more likely to give to other charitable causes. This therefore seems to suggest, that contrary to the taste-driven argument, there is still a relatively low correlation between being interested in the arts and giving to the arts (though there is a need for more robust research in this area). 

And this brings us back to the two studies into the decision-making process of giving mentioned earlier – both rigorous in nature, but adopting a slightly different take on how individuals choose or should choose what causes and charities to give to, but neither include culture as major contenders for the increasingly competitive philanthropic pool.

And with local authorities’ culture funding now decreasing by nearly 6%, ever more pressure will be put on philanthropy and private/ charitable giving for the sector. The problem is that though cultural organisations have several strong arguments in their favour, appealing to both needs and taste-driven motivations, they seem to be quite insular and more detached from the wider charitable sector than other causes. This perpetuates a “them vs. us” mentality and differentiates the arts in a way that can sometimes be unfavourable. More efforts therefore need to be made to capitalise on the benefits of a collective with a strong voice, identity and case for support.

Worse culture

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By Jon

A fine example of public support for the arts in America via Michael Rushton

He sees no need to add comment. Beyond wondering whether ‘Made in Chelsea’ has any similar arrangements, neither do I.

What are the chances of that happening?

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By Jon

Here’s a nice (if long) article making a connection between skepticism and arts funding that hadn’t occurred to me before:

‘…natural skepticism often lets us down, especially when it runs up against another natural human instinct: wishful thinking.The desire to believe what we want to be true is powerful. On the positive side, wishful thinking generates millions for arts fundin via lottery grants. But it can also lead smart people to do very stupid things.’

So, not just casinos and psychics who profit from wishful thinking…

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