What really motivates creators?

Bill Gates’ statement on CNET that “There are some new modern-day sort of communists who want to get rid of the incentive for musicians and moviemakers and software makers under various guises. They don’t think that those incentives should exist” has receive much comment from Dan Gillmor and others.

But a recent survey of 419 writers, artists and musicians showed that 83% of them created their first works before they had heard of copyright, showing that the creative drive is not motivated by “those incentives“. OK, I made up that figure; there is no survey, but I bet you were’t surprised when you read the numbers. Think about creativity. It is not a job, a tedious task made palatable only by the thought of royalties; it is a flow from within. The money isn’t needed to tease it out, like bait to lure the animal from its lair. Are the millions of new-found digital photographers doing it because they anticipate a profit? Does the teenage garage band ban recorders at their first gig? These creations do not come ex vacuo; they arise out of the existing culture, and the increasing intrusions into our cultural commons can only impoverish the raw materials.

I am in the world only for the purpose of composing.” Franz Schubert

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