Open Letter to CL (Craigslist) Administration

This letter was forwarded to NO!SPEC.
(Please note: Discussions are open, but inflammatory comments will be deleted)

Open Letter to CL Administration
Reply to:
Date: 2007-09-03, 8:34AM

To all creative professionals; please read this, and if you agree, please forward it in an email to Craigslist administration by sending them a note at this address;

Dear Craigslist,

I would like to take this time to bring a problem to your attention that you may not be aware of. It is a problem that is seriously affecting myself, my peers, and our clients… and it needs immediate attention!!!

The problem, in a nutshell, is freeloading.

You see, here on the creative gig boards (and, I’m sure, on many other gig boards, as well.) you will find a plethora of talented, hard-working, highly skilled professionals from many different fields. Designers, Illustrators, Photographers and more. These are not people who are hard-up, or starving. Some of us just seek the occasional extra bit of income to supplement our salaries. Some of us use CL as a primary source of that income. Either way, using CL does not, by any measure, define us as some sort of discount day-labor or bargain-basement boobs who will do anything for a dollar.

We are PROFESSIONALS, first and foremost, and expect to be treated as such.

This is generally not a problem, when dealing with serious, professional clients; True businesspeople who understand the value of hiring someone with specialized skills. They understand that their time is valuable, and so, then, should ours be.

Unfortunately, these clients are being driven out of Craigslist by an avalanche of “freeloaders”.

Every day, the CL gig boards across the nation are being inundated with posts seeking skilled, professional services for “free” or “cheap”. Some offer the “opportunity” to “build your portfolio”. Others offer payment “Once my project is sold” to a publisher, etc. Some are even bold enough to equate compensation with the chance for your work “to be seen” on their website/business card/letterhead/etc.

In short, they are looking for free work.

Now, I am not begrudging anyone’s right to ask for free work. But I am making you aware that, because of the hordes of these posts appearing on CL daily, it is becoming increasingly difficult and frustrating for myself and my peers to find serious gigs.

It is also forcing us to scrutinize what serious gigs we do find, to the point where, I am sure, many serious professionals are no longer willing to post on the CL gig board, for fear of being lumped in with these freeloaders. In short, it is hurting everyone but the freeloaders.

Now, I am not here just to bitch and moan. This is a problem we CAN solve, and I think I have an idea of how to do so… an idea, I pray, you will see merit in.

I ask you to create a separate, “FREE” gig board for these people. This way, they can post to their heart’s content, and be sure to reach their target audience, as only those looking to work for nothing will read this board.

Additionally, to further discourage them posting on the real gig boards, change the “pay” entry field to accept only numeric entries. (And restrict the entries from starting with a zero.) You could possibly also enter a “negotiable” choice, as well for those who do not want to offer a solid dollar amount.) Then, change the gig rules to plainly state that this board is for PAYING gigs ONLY.

This way, when we flag the non-paying ones, there will be no question whether or not we are in the right in doing so.

This is a fairly straightforward and simple solution to a plaguing problem. I urge you to take this action immediately. Myself, and my peers, would be eternally grateful!

* Location: All creative professionals, PLEASE READ!
* it’s NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests
* Compensation: FREE the FREE GIGS!!!

Original URL:

I Wish I Had Written This

To those who are looking for someone to do work for free… please wake up and join the real world

Every day, there are more and more CL posts seeking “artists” for everything from auto graphics to comic books to corporate logo designs. More people are finding themselves in need of some form of illustrative service.

But what they’re NOT doing, unfortunately, is realizing how rare someone with these particular talents can be.

To those who are “seeking artists”, let me ask you; How many people do you know, personally, with the talent and skill to perform the services you need? A dozen? Five? One? …none?

More than likely, you don’t know any. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be posting on craigslist to find them.

And this is not really a surprise.

In this country, there are almost twice as many neurosurgeons as there are professional illustrators. There are eleven times as many certified mechanics. There are SEVENTY times as many people in the IT field.

So, given that they are less rare, and therefore less in demand, would it make sense to ask your mechanic to work on your car for free? Would you look him in the eye, with a straight face, and tell him that his compensation would be the ability to have his work shown to others as you drive down the street?

Would you offer a neurosurgeon the “opportunity” to add your name to his resume as payment for removing that pesky tumor? (Maybe you could offer him “a few bucks” for “materials”. What a deal!)

Would you be able to seriously even CONSIDER offering your web hosting service the chance to have people see their work, by viewing your website, as their payment for hosting you?

If you answered “yes” to ANY of the above, you’re obviously insane. If you answered “no”, then kudos to you for living in the real world.

But then tell me… why would you think it is okay to live out the same, delusional, ridiculous fantasy when seeking someone whose abilities are even less in supply than these folks?

Graphic artists, illustrators, painters, etc., are skilled tradesmen. As such, to consider them as, or deal with them as, anything less than professionals fully deserving of your respect is both insulting and a bad reflection on you as a sane, reasonable person. In short, it makes you look like a twit.

A few things you need to know;

1. It is not a “great opportunity” for an artist to have his work seen on your car/’zine/website/bedroom wall, etc. It IS a “great opportunity” for YOU to have their work there.

2. It is not clever to seek a “student” or “beginner” in an attempt to get work for free. It’s ignorant and insulting. They may be “students”, but that does not mean they don’t deserve to be paid for their hard work. You were a “student” once, too. Would you have taken that job at McDonalds with no pay, because you were learning essential job skills for the real world? Yes, your proposition it JUST as stupid.

3. The chance to have their name on something that is going to be seen by other people, whether it’s one or one million, is NOT a valid enticement. Neither is the right to add that work to their “portfolio”. They get to do those things ANYWAY, after being paid as they should. It’s not compensation. It’s their right, and it’s a given.

4. Stop thinking that you’re giving them some great chance to work. Once they skip over your silly ad, as they should, the next ad is usually for someone who lives in the real world, and as such, will pay them. There are far more jobs needing these skills than there are people who possess these skills.

5. Students DO need “experience”. But they do NOT need to get it by giving their work away. In fact, this does not even offer them the experience they need. Anyone who will not/can not pay them is obviously the type of person or business they should be ashamed to have on their resume anyway. Do you think professional contractors list the “experience” they got while nailing down a loose step at their grandmother’s house when they were seventeen?

If you your company or gig was worth listing as desired experience, it would be able to pay for the services it received. The only experience they will get doing free work for you is a lesson learned in what kinds of scrubs they should not lower themselves to deal with.

6. (This one is FOR the artists out there, please pay attention.) Some will ask you to “submit work for consideration”. They may even be posing as some sort of “contest”. These are almost always scams. They will take the work submitted by many artists seeking to win the “contest”, or be “chosen” for the gig, and find what they like most. They will then usually have someone who works for them, or someone who works incredibly cheap because they have no originality or talent of their own, reproduce that same work, or even just make slight modifications to it, and claim it as their own. You will NOT be paid, you will NOT win the contest. The only people who win, here, are the underhanded folks who run these ads. This is speculative, or “spec”, work. It’s risky at best, and a complete scam at worst. I urge you to avoid it, completely. For more information on this subject, please visit

So to artists/designers/illustrators looking for work, do everyone a favor, ESPECIALLY yourselves, and avoid people who do not intend to pay you. Whether they are “spec” gigs, or just some guy who wants a free mural on his living room walls. They need you. You do NOT need them.

And for those who are looking for someone to do work for free… please wake up and join the real world. The only thing you’re accomplishing is to insult those with the skills you need. Get a clue.

DISCLAIMER: Apparently this well written post has been floating around on CraigsList. I first ran across it when Steph Doyle’s post I Wish I Had Written This came across my google alerts.

Steph got it from HOWmag forum where Cal posted before they could take it off CL (thanks Cal!).

The attempts to locate the author have failed. If you are the author, please contact us.

Edit: The author is Dave D’Esposito of ArtMonkey Studios, Inc.

Dear NO!SPEC: The Two Faces of Spec in the Music Business


In the music business, ‘spec’ has 2 faces.

As a composer, I have seen many situations similar to the graphic design examples as you describe. Most independent film-makers do not think to budget any money for music. At the very low end, they simply use their favorite CD’s, thinking they won’t get caught. Many enlist musician friends or local bands to provide music. There are those who have professional knowledge and, like bar owners, don’t want to pay for music. They know many musicians are willing to do it free and unaware of the legalities.

They offer exposure (as if they can provide it) and often run contests like the ones you describe. Usually, the terms dictate full ownership of the work with no compensation for the artist and perpetual license for the producer. One such film offer, recently posted on CL (craigslist), promised exposure in a movie distributed world-wide. Upon scrutinizing their contract, there was no provision addressing copyright, publishing, performance rights, licensing or performance reporting. I declined to send any music.

As all my musical works are copyrighted, owned by me and licensed through BMI, a ‘spec’ film can be profitable if all the proper contracts are signed. If a producer has already secured distribution or air-time, then there will be a performance royalty. If the producer agrees to file broadcast and theatrical performance logs, then it can be worth it for me to waive license fees. Even a full custom score can be worth doing for ‘free’ if the paper work is done right and there is a retail or broadcast revenue stream. Ownership of publishing rights and especially copyright would have to be a separate part of such an agreement.

In the recording studio, ‘spec’ means something entirely different.

It means the band wants you to record them for free because they are so good.

“You are undoubtedly rich because you own gear, and being so lucky, you owe the world something back for it, so why not start with our band? We are so amazingly great that you will make millions from recording our album.”

The truth-

The band usually does not get signed, More often than not, they break up within months of the recording, which languishes on the shelf.

If the band gets signed-

Any recording that has not been released AND sold 10,000+ copies is considered a demo and will be re-recorded by the record company with funds LENT TO THE ARTIST FROM FUTURE SALES which are collected first ahead of any payments to the band itself.

There is no royalty structure for engineers. If you mixed it for free, you’re screwed.

The record company will not recognize or honor any ‘spec’ commitment made by the band before their involvement. The producer of the original recording will not qualify for any percentage from the label unless his recording is released by them. He will get 3% of the net if it is. Most often, a new producer is assigned by the label and the old recordings are forgotten. Inevitably, both the band and label’s attorneys will insist that the original studio and producer need not be paid and will not have the strength to fight the issue.

Occasionally, a band makes it just like the fairy-tale and the original ‘raw’ rccord is a hit, elevating both band and producer. To say it happens once in every 100,000 such bands would be quite generous. The problem is that these instances are portrayed in promotional materials and media as commonplace, enforcing the belief by millions of young musicians that any ‘producer’ can make them famous.

As a studio owner, ‘spec’ means ‘free’, so the band better be really important to you to record them for nothing. Since studio reputations are best spread by word of mouth, it can be advantageous to record a group for free simply to get them hawking your services around town. Know that this is a give away and any speculative deal with the artist would have to be honored by them out of their own pocket. The label will not recognize your involvement unless they are buying a successfully distributed product.

With advent of online distribution, this may change. Nonetheless, a solid understanding of copyright, performance rights and mechanical royalties is crucial for a studio dealing with original artists.

I hope this viewpoint is useful to you. Keep up the good work.

Brian ‘Cousin B’ Ascenzo
Location; Las Vegas