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Understanding The Real Cost Of A Bargain Or ‘Craftsmanship vs. Commoditization’



In the golden age of digital platforms, it’s tempting to believe that sites like Fiverr, an online marketplace for freelance services, democratize the field for professionals. At a glance, it offers the promise of opportunity: a world where every freelancer, from illustrators to audio professionals, musicians, and producers, have a chance to showcase and utilize their skills, and earn income. But the reality is harsher, particularly for audio professionals and musicians. (I am speaking to that demographic as that is my personal area of experience and expertise.)

The fundamental flaw with Fiverr’s model is that it reduces craftsmanship, technology, and creativity to mere commodities and then said services sold based on a Free market economic model where competition lowers the costs and fees to be almost non-existent. It’s akin to visiting a market where precious gems are sold alongside common pebbles, with little regard for the art, effort, and expertise required to shape them.

Craftsmanship vs. Commoditization

To understand the impact on audio professionals, consider the art of sound design, mixing, and mastering. It’s not just about having the right equipment or software but the years of training, honed listening skills, and intuition developed over time. A seasoned audio professional can transform raw recordings into auditory masterpieces.

Yet, on platforms like Fiverr, these seasoned professionals are inadvertently placed in the same pool as novices, leading to a race to the bottom in terms of pricing. As sellers attempt to outbid each other, the art of sound becomes disturbingly undervalued.

At the very heart of the issue is another poignant dilemma: craftsmanship vs. commoditization. Within the intricate world of music, the predicament is glaringly stark.

Take, for instance, the professional musician—someone who has dedicated years, even decades, mastering their instrument, understanding the nuances of rhythm, tone, and timbre. Their performance is not just the act of producing sound but a conveyance of emotion, history, and profound creativity. Each note they play, each rhythm they embrace, is the result of countless hours of practice, countless failures, and an undying commitment to the art.

Yet, in the modern marketplace, like Fiverr, these musicians find themselves pressured to offer their services, their art, for prices that barely cover the cost of their instrument’s maintenance. It mirrors the grim reality of talented musicians feeling compelled to play in clubs for free or, even worse, pay for a slot to showcase their craft. The romanticism of “playing for exposure” has always been a contentious one. Still, platforms like Fiverr have amplified this narrative, making it almost mainstream.

This paradigm shift creates a concerning precedent.

As musicians are pushed to provide top-tier performances at abysmal rates, it sends a message to the wider audience that the magic of live music, the depth of creative composition, and the essence of musical craftsmanship are cheap, if not free. Such perceptions endanger the very fabric of the global music community.

It’s not just about the immediate financial implications for the artist, though those are undoubtedly significant. This continuous devaluation erodes the respect, appreciation, and reverence that musical arts have historically commanded. When we foster a culture where exceptional musical talent is expected to be delivered at bargain-bin prices, we are inadvertently snuffing out the passion and zeal of budding artists who may view the craft as financially unsustainable.

Moreover, this trend perpetuates a damaging cycle. As clients searching for artistic and technical input and solutions get conditioned to these rock-bottom prices for stellar performances, their willingness to pay a rightful amount dwindles. This not only undermines the current generation of musicians and craftsmen, but casts a shadow of uncertainty on the future of the musical and technical world. The question then arises: In our pursuit of economical artistic services, are we stifling the very soul of music and service? Is it even realistically sustainable?

The Boat-Fixing Parable: Value Beyond Time

There’s an enlightening tale of a boat mechanic called upon to fix a large ship. The mechanic listens to the engine, takes a hammer, taps a spot, and suddenly, the engine roars to life. When he sends an invoice of $10,000, the shipowner is flabbergasted, asking for an itemized bill. The mechanic writes:

  • Tapping with a hammer: $2
  • Knowing where to tap: $9,998

The lesson? The real value of a service isn’t just the time or material used but the expertise and experience behind it. By reducing services to a basic and overly competitive and reduced price tag, platforms like Fiverr miss this nuance.

The Ripple Effect and Future Generations

What’s more, this skewed valuation trickles down, influencing perceptions. Those seeking audio and music services on Fiverr come to expect high-quality work at rock-bottom prices. This not only impacts seasoned professionals but poses a formidable barrier for emerging talents. The new generation finds it increasingly tough to secure viable opportunities, caught in a vicious cycle where they’re compelled to undervalue their own work to secure a gig.

Profits over Professionals

It’s essential to recognize the beneficiaries in this scenario. Fiverr thrives as the mediator, connecting clients to service providers. They earn money from service and transaction fees between the client and freelancer. Their economic success rests on volume. The more freelancers they host, the more their coffers swell, even if those freelancers are barely scraping by.

A Call to Rethink and Revalue

This is an appeal to recognize the true value of experienced and qualified professionals. The business models of today need to align with fairness, ensuring that platforms are not just revenue-generating entities but spaces that uphold the dignity, worth, and potential of every professional. (Fiverr is not the only connecting and distribution entity that earns revenue off the backs of others. Spotify is another example of a company earning huge returns off of the creative and technical efforts of others.) It is now an accepted fiscal model to create non-functional distribution entities that supposedly connect or distribute content and yet do nothing to realistically support the content providers.

For the world of musicians and audio professionals, and indeed all creative spheres, it’s time to assert that our work is not a mere commodity.

It’s the culmination of years of training, passion, and dedication, a lifetime commitment to the passionate pursuit of creativity and excellence. And that’s a value worth paying for.

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