Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Street art for your cellphone - too bad it's going to fail

The New York Times has an article this week about Wooster Collective, an artistic organization based out of New York, who are offering downloads of images by graffiti- and other street artists for mobile devices. And as much as I hate to be critical of any group trying to get money into artists' hands, there are a number of details with this project that really bother me:

1. The group is charging US$2.00 per 160 x 160 pixel image. Has anyone actually demonstrated at this point that people will pay that kind of money for a 160 x 160 pixel image? I mean, besides porn? Why not simply give away the images and get a sponsor to pay for it? In my opinion, the actual dissemination of the work is what could profoundly help the artists the most, not the paltry money that comes from selling such images.

2. Speaking of paltry money, the artists themselves only get 11 percent of all money generated from their images - not even the 15 percent most artists get in, say, the publishing industry, which already is so low it should be a crime. Even more disturbing, the founders of the project freely admit that a whopping 77 percent of all revenue generated goes towards overhead costs. How could it possibly be that this website is having to pay $1.44 every time someone downloads an image there? Jesus, you could print paper postcards for a fraction of that cost.

3. Marc Schiller, the guy who started and runs the project, also freely admits that he's never actually tried the service himself. And how can you possibly run a tech-heavy project when you've never actually used the tech involved?

Like I said, I hate to dump on artistic organizations at this blog, because there's already way too many people out there dumping on artists as it is. But man, talk about a blown opportunity; run the right way, such a project could profoundly get the word about various artists out to a much wider audience than before, but this particular incarnation has absolutely no chance of this at all. Hey, Wooster Collective - when people make fun of artists' inability to understand basic business issues, they're talking about you.