So I have a floor I would like to have replaced in my house.  It’s one of the surfaces we have yet to touch.  I’ve decided to run a contest for contractors who do flooring in Portland to win the chance to replace it.

Here are the rules of the contest:

  1. Any interested contractor should contact me, come measure the space and then put forth their best ideas.
  2. The contractor must have all of their licenses and insurance in order to qualify.
  3. They should share their design concepts on social media and use #flooringContest when posting.
  4. Samples of the materials to be used, are to be submitted in person.
  5. The winner will be allowed to replace my flooring, free of charge, in exchange for lots of rave reviews on Yelp, Facebook, Twitter and the like.

Seriously… who would enter this contest?  NO ONE.  That is why you don’t see them out there.

But there seems to be a culture of art contests that just keeps growing and growing.  The most recent – that has gotten a lot of attention – is the art contest that Showtime is holding for the upcoming fight between Mayweather vs Maidana that will take place on September 13th.  Apparently they emailed information to some artists that they admired in an effort to get them to enter the contest.

fight contest

One artist, Dan Cassaro, replied and his response has gone viral.  It has started an important conversation, in my mind, about art contests.

Dan Cassaro’s response to Showtime was as follows:

Thanks for your thinking of me for this! Glad you are digging my style!

It is with great sadness that I must decline your enticing offer to work for you for free. I know that boxing matches in Las Vegas are extremely low-budget affairs, especially ones with nobodies like Floyd “Money” Mayweather. I heard he only pulled in 80 million for his last fight! I also understand that “mom and pop” cable channel like Showtime must rely on handouts just to keep the lights on these days. Thanks a lot, Obama! My only hope is that you can scrape up a few dollars from this grassroots event at the MGM Grand to put yourself back in the black. If that happens you might consider using some of that money to compensate people to doing the thing they are professionally trained to do.

Godspeed,
Dan

Of course this isn’t the good PR Showtime had hoped for so a spokesperson made the following statement:

Showtime is a strong supporter of artists around the world. This contest, like many others, is entirely optional. Under the contest guidelines, those who choose to submit their art are eligible for a grand prize of a Las Vegas trip, in addition to invaluable national exposure across multiple platforms.

I found this response and you can read more about it on BuzzFeed

Once again – many, many artists will enter this contest for a chance to get a trip to Las Vegas and gain “invaluable national exposure”.  Good for Dan – he is getting national exposure by calling a spade a spade.

Is there anything illegal about what Showtime is doing?  Of course not.  It’s a marketing plan to get people excited and sharing about the fight – and to get some free work.  And as long as artists are willing to do this sort of thing for the free exposure, they will continue to exist.  We live, after all, in a free market economy.  If it works and everyone agrees – it’s ok.

But what is the cost to professional artists?

Our value and services are deemed less valuable.  I’ve seen it in the art licensing industry as well.  If a company can run a contest for art and the winner gets 6 free samples and the company gets free art for products, why license or buy art?  Just hold a contest.

Does this mean I’ve never entered a contest where I too, had to try and drive traffic to a site to get votes?  No.  Just last year I entered the Chase Mission Main Street Grant contest in the hopes of winning a $250,000 grant.  I got the votes and got a chance for the money…. but I didn’t win.  I learned that I don’t like begging for votes in the hopes of getting money or exposure and won’t likely do it again.

I think this whole model is something to think about.  The next time you decide to take a deal “for exposure” – think about the true cost – not only to you but to all the artists in the industry.  Is it really worth it – or would things improve if more of us acted like Dan Cassaro and said “NO” – understanding the value we bring to the table?

Food for thought…

– Tara Reed