Cartoonists face a similar problem. As print publications slash content, radically downsize and ultimately cease publishing, we look for websites that want to pay for content. Sadly, they barely exist. But not due to lack of funds. Vampire capitalists like Ariana Huffington are raking it in with their highly trafficked websites that pay nothing to their contributors. The only form of compensation you get for being on the site is "exposure." ( I should note that I'm writing this on the same day that I announce my new ACLU strip--a paying gig, so I shouldn't be so glum. But these outlets are drying up fast for mosts artists).
The musicians who posted their work on Bebo.com are no different from investors in a start-up enterprise. Their investment is the content provided for free while the site has no liquid assets. Now that the business has reaped huge benefits, surely they deserve a dividend.
What's at stake here is more than just the morality of the market. The huge social networking sites that seek to use music as free content are as much to blame for the malaise currently affecting the industry as the music lover who downloads songs for free. Both the corporations and the kids, it seems, want the use of our music without having to pay for it.
When I started out freelancing I was willing to work with papers that had little to no revenue just to get illustration pieces in my portfolio and someone printing my work. The whole idea was that this would lead to better clients who could pay. And that happened.
But online even the top dogs won't shell out a few dollars a week for a cartoon. There are 90-some staff cartoonists in America right now, with a few being laid off every year. There used to be 2,000 in the early 20th century. When the lucky ones make it to retirement, it's a good bet most papers won't replace them. I'd be willing to bet I live to see the day you can count the number of staffers on your hands.
Jen Sorensen and Ted Rall have both done comics recently on the subject of providing free content, while Get Fuzzy comments on the state of the comics page.