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  • Writer's pictureChristopher McHale

Dear Tech Bros, we don’t buy it anymore

The contract between artists and tech has changed

I don’t know a single musician, writer, painter, poet, singer, voiceover, actor who agrees AI is a positive thing for creative, copyright is over, theft of our work is inevitable, and the horse is out of the barn.

I’ve been a working artist my whole life. My art is how I bought houses, sent kids to school, paid for food. All my friends are the same way. We work for a living and our work is our art.

We don’t need the internet for our art, or computers, or blogs telling us what to do, or You Tube videos, or Tik Tok. We don’t need a ‘democratization of creativity.’ We don’t need to end the ‘gatekeepers’ or wrest control of art out of the hands of ‘giant evil corporations.’ We don’t fear ‘missing out’ or ‘being left behind.’ We don’t need likes, or followers.

None of that has a damn thing to do with making art.

Look, we’re artists. We get ripped off. It’s so easy. We like to make art. We’re happy with a pencil, paper, and a space to work in. People know that about us. We’ll write the song for free. It’s not about ‘monetize your brand.’

None of the tech world comes within a galaxy of understanding the true value of creativity. All I need to do to come up with an idea is take a walk. Just me and my imagination. It’s the process that sustains us, not the result.

We don’t need the data. We don’t need the help. We certainly don’t need the endless lectures about creativity

The truth is life was much better for artists before you showed up. We had unions. We had royalty. We had decent fees. We had agents who made deals that made sense. We had copyright. More than anything we had space to create. We had time. We had standards, editors, publishers, critics. It was a gauntlet to walk, and tough as hell, but if you had the goods you got paid.

So please, keep your AI, keep your Metaverse, keep your social media. If we get left behind so be it. All we really want is to be left alone so we can work. When we’re ready we’ll share what we do. You of course will take it and sample it, and pretend. You do that well. We’ll be onto our next piece, because it’s who we are.

You don’t know us. You can’t help us. Your tools are cool, but more like paint brushes are cool than anything else. There hasn’t been a revolution, a new horizon, an evolution or anything else. We’re born with our creativity. Most of us knew it by the time we were in kindergarten. Our humanity is all we need. I learn more reading 4000 year-old Greek philosophers who carved their words into clay tablets.

It’s hard to describe where our creativity comes from, but I didn’t download it. Beyond that we’d have to go metaphysical.

Since the 90s I’ve been conned about tech and creativity. I kind of bought into it for awhile, but I don’t anymore. I don’t know any artist that does.

Save your Silicon Valley apologetics. It reads as desperation, like you need us to agree AI should be free to rip us off. We don’t.

We’ve begun to question all of it. We’ve begun to strike, and stop sharing so freely, posting music to streamers, or posting our writing or pictures. You’re going to have to figure out a way to pay us. You changed the deal, and the deal was pretty shitty to begin with. You’ve watered-down the world. Every single artist I know, working artist, agrees. We don’t need you. Can you say the same about us?

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