Another Reason Not to Work for Free

I know I didn’t want to dwell too much on KYOU and the Sirius deal, but I thought of another big reason for folks not to work for free. While responding to a comment on my other post on this subject recently, a thought occurred to me. If either or both of these experiments succeed, it will give sponsors an out to avoid sponsoring individual podcasters, and go instead to existing players to put their money. So, instead of having to deal with many anarchic members of the great unwashed, sponsor dollars can go to two places and the sponsor can still claim the buzz of “sponsoring podcasts.” Of course, because both of these places get their content for free no actual podcasters get paid, just Sirus and KYOU. So by submitting, you give sponsors an out to avoid paying podcasters and help bring about a new world order that is just like the old world order in where the money goes, except that now the air talent doesn’t get any of it anymore. Is this the revolution you thought you were signing up for – the revolution that allows radio stations to fire the DJs and talk show hosts, instead tapping you for nothing?

Again, I urge everyone to not submit under terms that involve you not getting paid. In fact, send them an email that says you’d like to submit but that you ethically can’t until there is some form of revenue sharing back with the content creators. This is something that can happen if everyone hangs together. Both places are invested in doing this, but if the spigot dries up they’ll have to do something or have egg all over their face. Make them pay you folks or else walk. I think you have less to gain that you believe, and you have a whole lot more to lose than you’d wish by playing their game under these miserable terms.

Here’s what I wrote in the comment that started me thinking:

It’s a basic rule of economics – people don’t value much the things you give them for free. From KYOU’s perspective, what reason do they have to value any individual podcaster? No one can ever negotiate anything like a wage because the queue is full of people waiting to work for nothing. If they succeed in this experiment, individual podcaster might find it harder to get sponsors because instead of ad buyers dealing with these unknown entities, they’ll just put that money into KYOU of which zero will get back to you. All this talk of new media and new power structures will revert to the money going to the hands of the same bad stewards that ran radio into the ground already. Stand up for yourselves, for christ’s sake, and refuse to allow these people to sell you for nothing. You are being fucked for the promise of something you will never get, and you are selling out the future of your medium in the process. Not good.

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Dave Slusher is a blogger, podcaster, computer programmer, author, science fiction fan and father. Member of the Podcast Hall of Fame class of 2022.

8 thoughts on “Another Reason Not to Work for Free”

  1. Years ago, someone in radio suggested I do something because it was “good exposure”. My response: “People die of exposure”.

    BTW, I almost think it’s better to refer to KYOU as “Infinity Radio” so that people understand that this is a major radio corporation with 180 stations in 22 states — in other words, just a slightly tamer version of ClearChannel. No one in their right mind should be queuing up to give them anything.

  2. Thank you Dave.

    The revolution I signed up for has 2 parts in it:
    1. Lowering the cost of entry while simplifying the publication process.
    2. Creating a compensation structure supporting individual, independent voices.

    Without these two factors, podcasting is only a revolution in that we’re back where we started.

  3. I’m encouraging podcasters to stay independent and even go so far as to form cooperatives in order to strengthen the medium and counter the effects of PodShow and Sirius. We’ve got to stick together and stand firm or it will be business as usual with the same folks controlling distribution of content.

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Giving podcasts to radio, any kind of radio, is a step back for the medium and damaging to the movement.

  4. You wrote:

    “I know I didn’t want to dwell too much on KYOU and the Sirius deal … “

    Too late. Five blog posts, several comments and at least three podcast mentions later, it’s a bit late to climb down from your Clydesdale gracefully. You actually love dwelling on this. It’s starting to feel like an obsession.

    Every point you’ve made on this issue has been interesting – just don’t be disingenuous about your desire to leave it alone.

  5. RM (is this Richard?),
    You have a great point. I’m going to frame it that way every time I mention it from here on out.

    Garrick and Robert, I’m with you.

    Tony, maybe if you were doing this critical thinking I wouldn’t have to. I love your show, which is why I think your giving it to Infinity Broadcasting is such a disappointment to the whole medium. If it is good enough to air, it should be good enough to pay you for. Much in the way getting venture money allows a startup to be valued, you’ve helped place a dollar figure that businesses can use to value podcasts and it is $0.

  6. Reality Check.

    We’re talking about a 10.000 watt AM station at 1550 in a city with more electronic noise generating devices per capita than anything shy of Langley, Virginia.

    If material is good enough to air, and good enough to pay for, then it also ought to be good enough to send to a broadcast facility that might actually have some reach in the market.

    KYCY (KYOU) is an unrated dog that is most useful as a headline in a press release. Trying to launch a true alternative format on this turkey is akin to trying to launch an HD-video download site on a dialup.

  7. It’s bit like all the kids who cue up to try out for Pop Idol. The production company get their money – the ad money comes rolling in – the carefully placed cola beakers they make a shed load of cash and the kids don’t get a penny. But they did get on TV, which is all most of them wanted. 😉

  8. The last time I checked, not to many people give away $7000 plasma screens – probably because they have value. Giving a podcast away to a corporate that is going to make money from it, while simultaneously give the podcaster exactly $0 sounds to me like a lose – lose situation.

    I’m all for folk getting a good paying gig on radio, don’t get me wrong, but there is nothing more backward than giving away content that has immense potential value for zip.

    Any bargaining power a podcaster has, goes out the window if you jump into bed with commercial radio and get nothing in return.

    I’m not sure Adam C is helping with all the hyping of podcasting on commercial radio right now either (even though he proclaims podcasting is the way of the future)..

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