|Commenters who claim I tell artists to give their work away for free are wrong – and they should focus on the real online villains |
Last week, my fellow Guardian columnist Helienne Lindvall published a piece headlined The cost of free, in which she called it "ironic" that "advocates of free online content" (including me) "charge hefty fees to speak at events".
Lindvall says she spoke to someone who approached an agency I once worked with to hire me for a lecture and was quoted $10,000-$20,000 (£6,300-£12,700) to speak at a college and $25,000 to speak at a conference. Lindvall goes on to talk about the fees commanded by other speakers, including Wired editor Chris Anderson, author of a book called "Free" (which I reviewed here in July 2009), Pirate Bay co-founder Peter Sunde and marketing expert Seth Godin. In Lindvall's view, all of us are part of a united ideology that exhorts artists to give their work away for free, but we don't practice what we preach because we charge so much for our time.
It's unfortunate that Lindvall didn't bother to check her facts. I haven't been represented by the agency she referenced for several years, and in any event, no one has ever paid me $25,000 to appear at any event. Indeed, the vast majority of lectures I give are free (see here for the past six months' talks and their associated fees – out of approximately 95 talks I've given in the past six months, only 11 were paid, and the highest paid of those was £300). Furthermore, I don't use an agency for the majority of my bookings (mostly I book myself – I've only had one agency booking in the past two years). I'm not sure who the unfortunate conference organiser Lindvall spoke to was – Lindvall has not identified her source – but I'm astonished that this person managed to dig up the old agency, since it's not in the first 400 Google results for "Cory Doctorow".