Taylor Swift Wants to Control Her Own Destiny--And Why Not

You probably know Taylor Swift from her music. Maybe you even heard her public outrage about not owning her music and not having a say in who controls her catalog (of songs). Such outrage is easy to understand and agree with. That said, the vast majority of us working creatives don’t own the rights to our work, nor do we control who owns our work or what happens to our work in the future.

Taylor has been extremely fortunate to have found success, to have found labels willing to back her work, and even to get ownership of her newest work. Being an A-list music star helps tremendously. Meanwhile millions of creatives have never had full ownership, nor control over who does.

Millions of creatives have never had labels lining up to back them like the fortunate few, Taylor included. If A-listers didn’t need labels, they wouldn’t go to labels and labels wouldn’t exist. There’s a fine line to cut between control, ownership and labels. It’s a catch-22, an evil necessity, an ouroboros—the snake that eats its own tale.

The music industry though has been on the bleeding edge of changing the rules, allowing creatives to maintain more ownership and control—if not complete ownership and control. The music industry celebrates those who maintain ownership and control of their own work. The music industry celebrates small labels. The music industry celebrates independent artists. Together, they are indies—and there’s a whole world out there celebrating indie music.

In stark contrast, in the world of publishing, independents are derided, relegated to second class, trotted upon. There is intolerance—even hate—directed at independents. Those who independently publish are derided as frauds, failures, fakes, largely by those who fear the slipping away of the status quo. This despite nearly two decades of revolution in independent publishing.

It’s no secret that historically creatives get the short end of the stick. I’ve made no secret of the fact that my first publisher (Macmillan) ripped me off, nor of the fact that without those early contracts I might not have gone on to sell millions and millions of books. I have both thanked Macmillan for the opportunity and condemned Macmillan for taking advantage of me and countless of others. Substandard royalties, work-for-hire contracts that paid a pittance, more. Whatever they could get away with really.

I’ve made no secret of the fact that my publisher of 20 years (Microsoft) was more generous than others in the industry when it came to contracts, though I feel my work was still misused and also that there was tremendous usage of my work that I was never compensated for, including worldwide usage within and by Microsoft as well as third parties with relationships with Microsoft. I am, of course, eternally grateful to Microsoft and especially those that I worked with. Those who oversaw the publishing of my work did the best they could to keep the hungry machine from swallowing it and they ensured a graceful exit when the publishing world changed so dramatically that there was no longer a place for Microsoft Press within Microsoft Corporation.

Over 20 years, my work also was used in thousands of training courses (outside of Microsoft’s control and consent) that instructed millions of students around the world for which I was never paid. These students paid hundreds to thousands of dollars for short—3-5-7-day—training courses, amounting to billions of dollars of instructional training that I didn’t receive a single cent for. It makes the millions I was shortchanged by publishers over the years seem like a drop in the proverbial bucket—a single tear in a lake of tears.

The industry finds ways to further suck the marrow from your bones, to squeeze and wring out your blood. There are managers, agents, publicists to pay, not to mention accountants, others and the IRS, leaving the creative with pennies on the dollar. Point of fact, somewhere along the way, I figured out that over a 20-year period, after everyone got paid, I got about .03 on the dollar while my publishers collectively made well over $100,000,000 off my work (and retailers who sold my work made even more).

Thus, it both alarms and astounds me, that there continues to be so much hate and intolerance in the publishing community for authors who decide to go independent, who decide to self-publish, who decide to embrace new technologies and new means of getting their creations to the world. It boggles the mind that there are still so many fighting tooth and nail to prevent, deter and destroy those who simply want what every working creative should want. To own and control our own work, our own future.

Thanks for reading, I’ve written much about this and other related issues. You’ll find articles at Linkedin (https://www.linkedin.com/in/williamstanek/), in my personal blogs (http://robertstanek.blogspot.com/ and http://williamstanek.blogspot.com), at Go Indie (http://readindies.blogspot.com/) and on my websites (http://www.williamrstanek.com and http://www.robert-stanek.com/). You’ll find posts about related problems going back to 2003 here @ http://www.robertstanek.com/rsblog.htm. I do of course write as William Stanek, Robert Stanek, William R. Stanek and William Robert Stanek. I am of course the author of over 200 full-length works of fiction and nonfiction, having been a successful published author since 1995.

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