A few weeks ago my friend Cheryl Pallant rescued me with a poem. She found just the right one, “Love after Love” by Derek Walcott, and emailed it to me on a day when I badly needed to hear its truth. Words cannot express how grateful I am to Cheryl, and to Mr. Walcott, and it’s even harder to put a price on my appreciation. I passed the poem on to my friends, and it went kind of viral among us. While I’m sure the poet is happy we liked his poem, that hardly pays his rent. This frames up both the problem and the opportunity: at the height of my appreciation for Mr. Walcott’s work of art, I had no easy way to pay for my benefit. Sure, I could have searched around and found his website, and then which book the poem is in, and then logon to Amazon and….opportunity lost.
What is needed for poetry, paintings, stories, sculpture…all art…is a way for the appreciator to make a payment while it is being enjoyed and commensurate with the value the appreciator gets from the work. This would be like having a digital coin box right next to the art with a sign reading “Like it? Say thanks with a donation!” The payment option would travel with the art wherever it goes, like a watermark, and especially if it goes digital and gets virally transmitted via the Internet.
For example, when Cheryl sent me “Love after Love” by email, the payment option would have travelled with it, allowing me (and others) to easily make a payment with a few clicks. A digital widget? A Facebook app? A mobile extension? Yes. All of the above. The embedded payment option would create a whole new way for artists to get paid for their work, above and beyond the traditional methods of buying the original or a copy — both fine options for collectors. But I don’t collect art, I collect experiences, and that’s what I am willing to pay for.
Hackers — let’s find a way to make this idea work and help artists get paid for the good they are doing. I was rescued by a poet, and I owe him.