Elan Vital Media | Opinion: Magazines. Why they suck.
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Opinion: Magazines. Why they suck.

Make art great again?

First, let me be blunt. Magazines don’t really suck. I’m talking about the business model that has taken the precedent during the “age of information”, which has led to a steep decrease in artists getting their work known and paid for.

Magazines make money off of free content given to them by artists from all over, in all types of genres, in all formats. Artists are basically giving away their work with the intent to become better known, potentially famous. People are so vain and judgmental these days, and most artists are niche, it’s really like the artist walks down Criticism Avenue, to wait for the Struggle Bus, only to get slammed by the Who Cares Cab and has to go to the Steal My Soul Hospital in the Whambulance, to get slammed with so many bills they can’t pay off, so they are forced to SETTLE doing a job that makes them depressed, or worse, and no one ever really, truly, sees any of their work until much later in their life. And that’s if they’re lucky.

Why is it that publications don’t pay for artwork anymore? Well, in the “Age of Social Media”, everyone already sees content for free now. Free selfies, free videos of whatever, free music downloads, free blogs. Most photographers and models seem to want only to get popular on social media, or “instafamous”, that they don’t seem to care too much about making a steady living, since they seem to think the more “likes” they have, the more clients they’ll get. What’s the point of submitting work just to be told you suck; or, “We’ll give you exposure” – Every magazine ever; or, “No, we don’t pay for submissions but we love to charge people to see your work and make a huge stack of cash off of it. And a lot of people will see it. That’s cool, right?”
‘Cause Art should be appreciated and no artist ever wants to get actual money to pay off debts or live in something other than a 1 room flat in a city they can barely afford to drink water in.

When historians look back on our generation, or this era, they’re going to go “Wow, this person took 8,000 selfies in a month and everyone liked it, but she died a month later and she got 8 sad faces, 7 likes, 5 loves, 12 angry’s, 1 laugh’s, and 4 wow’s. ‘Cause there’s always that one asshole that LOL’s at every status, ever. People were so vain back then.”

No one makes money off of “likes”.

How, as artists, do we start sticking it to “the man” and get paid for our work? How is that even possible when the mantra is “work hard and you’ll succeed” when you have rich parents forking over thousands of dollars a week for recording studios to make off-key kids sing better, when lower income families can barely afford a CD player for their kids to sing along with. Well, today I suppose instead of a CD player, it’s an iPod or cell phone.

I’ll tell you how. Stop posting free photos all over social media. Shut it down. If it’s exclusive, ask people to pay for it and help you continue living your dreams. Join Patreon, Bentbox, or dozens of other “pay-for-content” websites that are popping up. Demand publications pay you for your work. The more people that do this, the more it’ll swing to the way it should be. Damn “the man” and damn the “.01%” or the “.1%”, or even the “10%”.

Oh, but you may say, well, I want to be published in Vogue. Okay, go for it! In the meantime, don’t screw yourself over by wasting years getting to that point. Take life by the hips and fuck it, instead of letting it fuck you. As you’re perfecting your badassery of modeling, makeup, hair styling, photography, writing about fashion, you’re making money, then Vogue will eventually take notice of how fucking epic you are, and they’ll put your work on the cover. But ’til then, I say, post a teaser on social media, link it to your page, and stay firm. Don’t give in. It’ll be hard at first, but eventually you’ll get there.

Another reason the business sucks is that print is going away. How many of you are actually in the gas station, at Barnes and Noble, or another book store that’s still around, and actually buys that Guns ‘n Ammo, Vogue, Sports Illustrated magazine? Some of you might, but most of you will flip through from one cover to the back cover, looking for the content you want to see, skipping over hundreds of ads, seeing something, or two somethings, that are cool, maybe a cool review or hot swimsuit, then getting on the computer or your phone and googling the shit out of it. Yet, everyone is really enthusiastic about getting their image in a print magazine because it’s considered prestigious.

We now are in a state on the internet where self-publishing is possible and more accessible than ever. Magcloud/Blurb, JooMag, Issuu, Yumpu, etc, they all charge overpriced per-page rates, then these self-made magazines have to upcharge to make their profit, but even then, they still don’t pay their contributors. Why? Say a magazine on Magcloud charges $20 an issue and their fan base is awesome and that magazine issue ends up selling 100 print copies. If their markup was $8, that magazine just made $800. If they featured 6 artists, they could afford to do a payment of some kind. They choose not to, because they probably aren’t getting enough income from advertising. But the principle is still there: free content for them to make money and give you “exposure bucks”. How many artists have profited from “exposure bucks”? I love ‘em, personally! Exposure bucks pays for my photography equipment, I don’t have to pay taxes on them, everyone thinks I’m loaded from all the exposure I’m getting and I get constantly barraged with offers from other pros for me to pay them rates to work with them. Or maybe I am just “not good enough” to be able to get paid rates. Who knows. Either way, exposure bucks are helping. A lot.

I think that’s why I like Elan Vital Magazine. At least they want to create a change in the world. At least they’re wanting to get people interested in multiple types of art. And at least they’re willing to fork over a little bit of money to help the cause.

So, magazines don’t suck. But the business behind them do.

This is just the internal ramblings of a frustrated, part-time, semi-pro photographer that’s trying to make it in the world. Stay tuned for more!

PS. If you liked the article, or have any points of view or want to just say, “yeah, bro, I support you!”, feel free to comment on the facebook page on the post that brought you to the article! I would love to have conversation with people within the community about it!

Phoenix is a legend. He is dedicated to creating scenes that are devised from his imagination, which depending on the day may or may not be NSFW. His passions are Star Wars, paintball, journalism, photography (right?!), jeeps, being from the South, and his dog Trooper Duke. He is fluent in American sarcasm, bacon, and donuts. He's probably eating bacon or donuts as you read this.