Use Their Work Free? Artists Say No to Google

“Both of these jobs were high-profile and gave my work great exposure but both clients still paid me.”

Melinda Beck, an illustrator who is based in Brooklyn, wrote in an e-mail message to Google rejecting its offer for exposure instead of cash (right here).

There Are 22 Comments On This Article.

  1. Budgets are tight right now, so I think I’m going to have a sale. Here’s what I’m going to do for you… I’ll do this project as a favor to you and you pay me my full normal rate and use fees. And in return, I’ll promise you more jobs in the future with the same great results.

  2. “We don’t feel comfortable releasing the names of artists who are participating in the project before it launches.”

    So much for the publicity.

  3. Its silly that Google won’t pay for this, but I think its also silly to reject the exposure. Its not cash, but enough exposure can easily be turned into cash (if you’re motivated).

    Sure, Target pays for illustrations, but that isn’t necessarily exposure since you don’t get credited. Its funny that one of the quotes in the article is from someone whose work “appears frequently on the cover of The New York Times Book Review.” That gig pays practically nothing – ie it isn’t for the money either. I can’t think of a single commercial illustrator I know who doesn’t have a day job – its not at all like photography.

    • @Mason,
      There are plenty of illustrator who work as illustrator full time, you probably only know the ones who will be willing to work for google for free, therefore their need for another job. No, you’re wrong it’s very much like photography. Moreover the publicity value is closer to zero. Google is not giving the artist adword links, there is no link from the browser directly to the artist and google is not even mentioning the artist name in this article. Hard to measure value when the bulk of the publicity the artist get is, is the artist telling people they let google use their work for publicity, and finding out that people are going to offer them more publicity job. They could probably use it as a right off though….

      The first part of getting people to buy your design, art, music, photography is having something desirable enough that people will want to pay for it. The second part is the right marketing and business practice. If you’re working with a company like google that does not respect or value the design/art market enough to pay for it’s service, then you’re not helping your business.

      • @David O.,

        I used to work for a respected illustration agency in NYC. Ever notice how they have a million people on the roster? Bernstein+Andriulli has 119 at the moment. 119!! Because they have to, considering how low the page rates are for illustrators. There is a much much larger supply of illustrators compared to photographers, and less of a demand. This actually places a HIGHER value on exposure, because in order to succeed you need to not only market on multiple fronts but also diversify your income. Magazine illustrations, t-shirt designs at cafepress, adwords on a blog, illustrations for commercial clients (who are increasingly going towards CG), gallery shows, teaching classes, whatever it takes.

        If you’re an illustrator spending time complaining about Google not paying then you’re clearly not pushing the envelope in terms of how to make money in an industry that is being completely reshaped by the internet.

        • @Mason,
          t-shirt design at cafepress ? larger supply of illustrators then photographers ? You’re kidding right ? If you top notch illustrator with commercial clients you don’t need to sell t-shirts on cafepress, second if you kick a tree in NYC ten photographers will fall out, same thing in most cities. Very talented illustrators are hard to find, and it does not matter if an illustrator use a computer or oil canvas to illustrate, it does not change the occupation, still an illustrator. Regarding agency, illustrators don’t really need them, and many of them have non-exclusive contracts with their agents. So perhaps agents will need more to compensate for that. As for the so called “complaining about Google not paying”, well that’s called real free publicity. I never heard of Melinda Beck until she rejected Google’s offer. And it did not cost her money, just a few minutes to write to the media, and now her name and work is spreading, and it’s viral.

          • @David O.,
            You’re very right about that last thing – refusing was the best thing she could have done, unintentionally or not it got her great exposure.

          • @David O.,
            Melinda Beck is extremely well know in Art Direction, Editorial and Illustration Circles. And yes this Times article will get her name out to many more both in a good and bad way I assume. But Google, at the very least, should have offered some sort of trade compensation. If not out right cash, maybe placement ads for a year or something that really is useful for the artists.

        • @Mason,

          At the end of the day, Google asked these illustrators to do a job. In any other job no one would just hope that if they showed up every day and did what was asked of them then someone would notice and say “hey, he’s a good employee. We should start paying that guy”. You know why? Because they would have gotten used to that guy doing the job for free or at a cheap rate. The more illustrators settle for terrible deals, the more people will assume they can get away with devaluing the profession.

  4. Exposure is great, but when everyone wants to pay in ‘exposure’ what is it really good for.

  5. Rob, take a look into your site–the link for NYTimes.com is only pressable on the “m” in “com”; the rest of the link looks like a link but isn’t clickable. Happened to me a couple posts ago as well, and I remember a comment from someone else that it happened to (who wrongly thought it was you tracking clicks…). I’m on chrome 2.0.172.31 on vista.

  6. i’m an illustrator. recently got a call from a prospective client who said: “i love your work, i have almost no budget but if we click, there will be lots of work.” only thing better than lots of work is lots of work with almost no budget. no thanks… but still, at least they didn’t try to spin it as exposure. c’mon, google, loosen those purse strings.

  7. I have never had someone give me a good job after promising something better later after a low-paying/ no paying gig. Never. Better to use your energy making an effective promotional piece if exposure is what you want.

  8. We are all becoming willing hobbyists! Prepare to get yourself a regular job and do creative work for fun as there won’t be anyone left to pay you as this trend continues.
    I’ve just finished reading an interesting article at the British Journal of Photography http://www.bjp-online.com/public/showPage.html?page=862865 Great project but once again the creatives are not getting paid for their work.
    Simon Norfolk spoke about the future for professionals and it’s happening right now.
    http://www.enterworldpressphoto.org/ask_08.php?hilow=

  9. In light if this, I feel it is appropriate to post this again. I first saw it a year or so ago and Harlan Ellison says every single thing that I was thinking about Google again yesterday.

    One of our illustrators, Mark Ulriksen, was approached for this project a month ago and said NO. Not for free.

    Everyone should watch this: