UGC (probably) Doesn’t Represent Too Great a Threat to Workers

At this point in my contesting, I’ve gotten to do a few different interviews. Some larger like the Times interview, some smaller like the GW Hatchet interview, but in general, the interviews have followed a similar pattern. I’m sort of being covered as a “feel-good” story about a weirdo having fun with a camera and turning it into a living (which, I confess, I totally am).

That’s what made today’s BBC interview (airing next Tuesday) so exciting – the woman asking me questions, Jamilah, was actually pushing me in terms of some questions I think warrant answering, and things I’ve worried about myself. One of the biggest is (and I’m paraphrasing into the question that’s been nagging me personally) as a supporter of unions and labor rights, is the entering of contests totally antithetical to my position on fair treatment of workers?

Are the companies running these contests bypassing the advertising agencies who they would normally be paying, and benefitting unfairly from the amount of cheap labor the User Generated Video world provides? Or is it fair because so many companies can’t afford the enormous sums required to buy and produce ad content, and the TV time required to air it?

In one sense, my Woody Guthrie-traveling-the-country-with-guitar-singing background wants me to unionize, to demand fair practices from the companies creating these contests and then pulling shady moves (i.e. Honda of Bowie). On the other hand, when the premise is “open to everyone,” there will always be a source of ready video-creators. Though I like to think of it as a skilled labor market, by its definition, it isn’t.

(And if you don’t believe there is no skill required to enter online contests, you should start checking out some of the competition.)

In some ways, I have to address it from another angle to reach a decision. Like this:

I stopped stealing music a long time ago, when iTunes came out, because I wanted to support the artists. But I totally supported my friends who DID steal music, because it was pushing the recording industry into positive directions and away from the monopolies of the big, shitty, record labels (and their often equally shitty taste in which musicians should be signed.) Same thing with advertising – if every ad agency out there was making commercials as awesome as the people who do the Burger King ads, maybe I’d have more respect for the concept of the professional advertiser.

Or if everyone in the contest world was making entries that were, at a bare minimum, watchable, then maybe I’d care about establishing their rights. But as long as so many other contesters maintain an obstinate anti-editing, pro 4-minutes to get to a single punchline strategy, I’m cool with this thing staying pretty capitalisty. (That’s my new word.)

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