Blog / 2019 / Pop-up Paywalls Versus Donation Doors

January 10, 2019

You’re all set to check out the new documentary that finally and fully condemns R Kelly. You find the right page, press play, and up it pops:

SIGN IN TO WATCH
select your TV provider

Don’t have television? You won’t be watching the doc any time soon.

It’s one of the many irritations of the internet age along with algorithm-driven social media feeds and the alphabet soup of passwords that you must memorize. I’m talking about the dreaded pop-up paywall.

Subscription paywalls exist because companies insist that they need the fees in order to make their business models work, despite the fact that most of them are also simultaneously making bank selling your eyeballs to advertisers.

But who am I to argue? Maybe companies really would go broke without us paying monthly money. Or, then again, maybe they’d go broke if they couldn’t track us so efficiently via our subscriptions and sell our data to marketers. I don’t know.

What I am sure of is that companies aren’t the only ones making cool content. And most of the independent artists who create yummy things for your brain don’t force ads on you or require you to pay for a membership.

Instead of subscription paywalls, many artists have what I’m officially dubbing Donation Doors.

We publish our content freely. You instantly and automatically have access to some version of everything we make, and you also have the option to come to our content through the Donation Door if you want.

Why you might want to enter through the Donation Door:

  • Supporting real people (instead of legal people like companies) feels good.
  • You like the idea of letting artists know that you believe their work is worthy of payment—and, specifically, that it’s worthy of payment even though the artist doesn’t demand it.
  • You understand that your donation might allow you to start to build a kind of relationship with the artist, and being closer to the art that inspires you makes you happy.
  • You want to prove to yourself that, despite how hypnotic and ubiquitous corporate content can be, you still have a mind of your own.
artist Joy Murray is kind and lovely

A while back, my friend Joy Murray publicly gave up her Netflix account in favor of supporting my art through Patreon. While this specific gesture isn’t for everyone, it is deeply meaningful—and not just to Joy and me. It’s a statement about the value of independent art as opposed to corporate art, an acknowledgement that art is not a luxury but a necessity.

chimpanzee and canary by Gwenn Seemel
Gwenn Seemel
Intuition
2016
acrylic on canvas
24 x 24 inches
(There are prints of this image in my Redbubble shop.)

To be clear: it’s not my intention to denigrate all paywalls with this article. Every single artist who makes any amount of money with their art uses them—even Bob Ross did! It’s the subscription paywalls that are so irritating.

If you are an artist trying to understand the concept of paywalls, this half-hour talk about how to free your art from coypright includes a segment about how to set up your paywall in the best way possible for you.

What’s more, I am not saying that donations are the only way that artists can or should make money, just that these kinds of funds have always been a part of the artist’s business model. To see a pie chart breakdown of all the ways I make money, check out this post.

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