Friday, July 27, 2012

No, I will not pay for that

I will never, ever, EVER in my life pay for a tutorial. EVER.

This has been my practice for years, and I never really questioned it, but the debate over whether or not to charge money for tutorials/brush sets/what have you has popped up.

On its surface, this could seem like I'm just saying that I won't pay for digitally distributed resources, but that isn't it, because I will pay for brush sets if they're awesome enough, and people are expected to pay for resources like stock photography. Plus, I mean, music. I pay for digitally distributed music all the time and am happy to do so.

But the tutorial thing...I dunno, man, it's different, and I think it's different for a couple of reasons.

One of these is that when I see people asking to be paid for a tutorial, they're usually not the sort of person that's, how to say this, from here. From the internet. Internet culture is a thing; we've got customs and dialects and even our own twisted ethic. It's a strange place to be from, but we're all in this together, and that makes it easier.

And, for me, the internet has always been where the open source and creative commons movements live, where we can have honest talks on the nature of appropriation vs theft even as we're having (repetitive, useless, overzealous) discussions about traditional vs digital media. I mean, if there's something you want to learn, youtube is right there. You'll probably be able to find ten videos on even the most esoteric subject. For free.

I've made liberal use of these resources over the years. That's why I've started to do these process videos; other people have been posting them for years, and I was hugely helped by them. I want to give back to the community that gave me the tools to succeed.

So then you've got these people who come along, who are more used to giving lectures and teaching classes than anything else, asking for money for their privileged information. Except's not. There is no one on the internet who is the only person who has an essential piece of knowledge. The other folks may not be easily accessible, but they exist, and a bit of persistence usually turns up someone willing to help you out.

I also happen to think that that sort of expectation places a bias on the online art community toward folks who have the kind of scratch to pay for potentially useless tutorials, which, quite frankly, is

It's my suspicion that this comes down to one big disconnect. We've been told that when someone is paying for a class in the real world, what they're paying for is knowledge. Which, quite frankly, is false; I've known more people who left college with less knowledge than they went in with than the other way around. So it's natural for people who aren't from the internet to see the tutorial format as an extension of the real-world class format.

But, y'know, it isn't.

So, if you're not paying for the knowledge when you sign up for a class, what are you paying for? Lots and lots of things, as it turns out.

  • the space in which the class takes place
  • the teacher's time
  • the teacher's attention
  • the way in which the teacher structures the knowledge
  • the context
  • access to a larger discussion (both with the teacher and with peers, if this is not a private lesson)
  • the right to ask questions and expect an answer
  • a grade (if the sort of class to have grades) 
And probably more things that I haven't thought of. 

I started reading a book recently (Bunch of Amateurs: A Search for the American Character by Jack Hitt) about which I'm sure I'll post more thoroughly in the future, once I've finished reading it. But at the very beginning, Hitt paints the larger American context as existing as a flux between a state that values the elite (though he didn't use that word; I'm well aware of its currently negative connotations) and another state that values the amateur. 

The tutorial thing is really just another reflection of this argument. In this, as in most things, I am firmly on the side of the determined amateur. Despite having been to university to study painting and having the good fortune to take a couple of classes here and there before that, I have a hard time thinking of myself as anything other than self taught because that's where my first skills came from. Just...tinkering. I imagine a world in which helpful hints and technical knowledge is locked up tight behind a toll booth, and I don't know if I'd be spending my days making art in those circumstances. 

Plus, I mean, who's to say that your tutorial is worth the money you're asking for it? Jeez, it could be totally useless, poorly put together, anything! 

What I'm saying is: if there's something that I know how to do that you want to know how to do, ask, and I will tell you. If I don't know, I'll try to point you toward someone who does know. 

off topic note: my main computer has decided that it really wanted to eat its face for no reason at all. I'm trying to fix it, but this is a super weird problem. I'd been hoping to get a lot more work out in this last bit of time before my final move out to Baltimore (and then I would continue doing work, obviously, but I have personal projects that I wanted to get out of the way, dammit!) but now I don't know if it's going to go as smoothly as all of that. 

There have, however, been a few text posts that I've wanted to do for a while, and this should give me something to focus on other than the fact that my computer is sitting here, failing to boot. This was one of those posts. 


  1. I've always thought of the internet as a resource for free information. Wikipedia sort of is a perfect example of what I envision the internet to be: tons and tons of information available for free, you just have to be able to sift through it to find what is useful to you. It may be easy to get distracted, and you might find the information in bits and pieces, but it's there for people willing to try hard enough to find it. To me that really levels the playing field for people who want to learn things but don't have the money to have access to information in other ways.

    And yeah! Their tutorial could suck! I read a lot of tutorials that aren't very good and some that while they aren't good have one or two good pieces of information. Then of course there are the ones that are awesome. Paying for something like that seems a bit like buying a lottery ticket to me. I could win $10,000. Or $1.


      And yes, this, all of this. I think the one exception I would ever make would be to, but that's more paying for the platform/the context, not the individual tutorials, so even if there's one that's useless, there are others that won't be.

      I dunno, I'll have to see how I feel about that one in the long run--MICA seems to have an agreement with them, so I think I can get access without having to pay the subscription fee. I'll probably post a review later in the year.