How pony are you? Do you devote several hours a day to pony news, pony media, pony discussion, and pony thoughts? Do you decorate your house with pony posters, pony plushies, and pony figurines while you blast pony music through the halls?
A good number of bronies are young enough to still be living with their parents, and a good number are also stuck in dorm rooms that they have to share with others who may not be as understanding of brony culture as one would like. The question is, would you if you could?
A quick disclaimer: The opinions herein are my own; anything said in this article is based on observations which lead to opinions, and none of it is factually true to my knowledge. This holds true with pretty much all my editorials. As with all of my editorials, these opinions don’t reflect those of The Daily Oat as a whole.
Semi-recently, I came across an article that surprised me, something which I had never known prior to my finding the article: Sethisto’s job is to work for bronies. He actually quit his job so that he could work full-time on Equestria Daily. His dedication to his news site and his fandom is that great.
Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Well… it’s all in the eye of the beholder.
On the one side, the high number of visitors to the site consistently means that more news about more stuff is necessary to keep those visitors interested. If you want to make a website your life, you need a whole lot of people who have a reason to visit every day, possibly multiple times a day. The extra time needed is recognized either in getting more workers or just quitting your day job, putting up some ads, and going full-time on your site (running solo is really the best way to make sure things get done properly).
On the other hand (or hoof, as it were), there is such a thing as being too invested in a project. How much is too much?
Put simply, I feel that the only people who should get paid to work in pony are those that are part of the show itself. The fandom has never been intended as a means to an end, and seeing a pony music album with a $5 price tag to it or an artist who charges $30 for a drawing saddens me to no end. I like to think that my fandom doesn’t have to succumb to the greed which is prevalent in all of modern society.
I’m also being extremely unfair in this mindset, aren’t I?
Pony music takes time and effort to craft; that time and effort can be freely given, sure, but at the expense of livelihood, it’s just not all right. So, it’s not a shameful act to ask for a few dollars for pouring your creativity into something for your fandom.
Art falls into the same category; if you want to make a decent picture, it tends to take several hours to craft it. Those are hours of your life that you won’t regain, so you want something more to show for it than just a picture.
Plushies are a little more complicated because they take materials which need to be bought. Asking for payment for not only making the plushie, but also for the time and effort to craft it, can often add up to a hefty sum.
What about stories? Ah, now things get a little hazy. What’s wrong with a talented story author asking for payment for a story commission?
Why not ask for payment for making PMVs? Running news sites? Hosting conventions? Because these people are greedy? Only as greedy as an artist, or a musician, or an embroiderer.
The brony fandom didn’t begin because one person looked at another, said, “You know a great cash cow? My Little Pony,” and spawned the fandom. No, the fandom started as something far different, and we all know it.
Ideally, everyone should do pony things because they love it, right? I write fanfiction and news. If I was as popular as Kkat or Sethisto, would I ever think to receive payment for my being a brony? Never.
Kkat, to my knowledge, has never given anyone a chance to donate for the creation of Fallout: Equestria. Simply put, that was not a motivator in the creation of the story, and she is bound and determined that it never become one.
Sethisto, to my knowledge, doesn’t ask for donations (don’t quote me on that). He gets funding from running ads on Equestria Daily based on the high number of visitors, and, based on the popularity of their site, I’d say this business model is working astoundingly well.
I’m not going to say The Daily Oat is better because we don’t run ads and our site costs are paid out of pocket. In reality, we are a very small site with an even smaller number of unique visitors. I’m okay with that, and anyone else involved with The Daily Oat is okay with that, too, otherwise we wouldn’t all be a part of this news blog. We don’t get the sheer amount of news out that Equestria Daily does because our site doesn’t pay the bills, but that doesn’t mean we don’t love what we do, and that doesn’t mean we don’t love having readers for our content all the same.
Charity is an altogether different case. Never should someone confuse that which is asked for out of hope or desperation with that which is asked for out of greed. You know, paying so that children in another country can have education or clothes, that kind of stuff. That, to me, is always a better usage of money than buying a music album or commissioning a drawing.
When it comes down to it, we can be pretty selfish creatures. That doesn’t mean we should revel in or promote such behavior; it’s simply who we are, and there isn’t a whole lot that we can do about others, only ourselves.
I will say this: I ask for payment for doing my job, not doing what I enjoy doing. I involve myself in the fandom by writing (and now drawing pictures) because I love doing it. Isn’t that why we choose to involve ourselves with ponies? No ulterior motives, right?
I haven’t yet met a person who (admittedly) only got into the brony fandom just so they could make money off drawing pictures, or making plushies, or composing music. Equestria Daily started out non-profit, too. What changed?
I understand the motivation to do something that I enjoy. I do it often, sometimes multiple times a day. Things that don’t feel like working to me… I can’t take payment on. Donations are one thing, but requiring money to do something I want to do anyway is just sad.
I’m not meaning to bash anyone for their lifestyle choices, but I will say this: If you love doing what you’re doing, you shouldn’t want to get paid for it.
Does someone who’s devoted ask for payment for doing something they love? Nah, that’s greed. Want to put that to the test?
All right, let’s say that The Daily Oat gets regular submissions to their e-mail inbox of fandom news. We have at least one news-pony who keeps tabs on it regularly, even during work and on days off. The only time the news inbox isn’t being monitored is when we’re sleeping.
We will not ask for monetary pay for this service. Why? Because we love doing it. Simply put, we don’t want to be paid for doing something we love.
What if we get tired of doing it? Do we force ourselves to keep doing it? Well, if it paid the bills, that would be pretty likely.
Whenever someone takes money for doing something they claim to enjoy, I question if they love doing what they’re doing or if they love the money they get out of doing it. It feels to me that getting money throws a wrench in the works: How do you know if someone enjoys what they’re doing?
The easiest way to find out if someone loves doing what they’re doing is to take away their paycheck and see if they keep doing it anyway. Much as I like the job I’m doing, I don’t know if I would willingly volunteer for it. I need money to live independently and feed myself and my roommates, including the ones without jobs. If I had a guaranteed home and food and no one was relying on me to survive, maybe I’d try volunteering and see if I still enjoyed my job. I like to think I enjoy the work I do, but until I find out by trying, maybe I’m just as greedy as the very people I’m trying to condemn.
Words are big, but actions speak louder. I’ve never once profited from anything pony-related, though I have sunk more than a few paychecks into fandom events in the past, and I’ve also paid to commission work because I can’t get it for free or donation and I really wanted a plushie and a picture. Maybe that in itself makes me a hypocrite, seeing as I’m enabling people to do something I don’t agree with.
When it comes down to it, I guess we can’t rely on Hasbro for fandom news or fan works, so the only people we can turn to are the fandom. I do know that the early bronies never asked for money to do what they loved, but if we hope to sustain ourselves and keep expanding as we have been, some changes are necessary.
Whether it be getting money to run ads so that our biggest news site can report more reliably and frequently or paying for a picture to be drawn that deserves to be seen by the rest of the world, I guess I’m not the one in the driver’s seat for these things. The wealthy and powerful decide how the world works, not a lowly news-pony who writes editorials.
Perhaps it’s just the unwillingness to let the corruption of money enter what I consider to be a truly good thing. I’m happy with the fandom without money coursing behind every transaction I make, and the desire to preserve what’s already been proven to work as one of the best possible things in the world is what I’m truly after.
I hate to be a doomsayer, and I hate others being doomsayers. “Things are so bad now, they were so awesome three years ago.” “Why does everything have to suck now? I really wish things were like they were before.” These sentiments irritate me, because nine times out of ten, they are completely unfounded and are just some ridiculous glory days rationale.
And, much as I don’t want to admit it, perhaps the doomsaying of “the fandom used to be good” has some grounds in truth due to the mainstream implementation of money. I mean, look at Las Pegasus Unicon: A budgeting snafu wrecked what otherwise was a great convention. We could say they didn’t care about money enough and just tried to give the attendees a good time, and that could be very true… but I’d rather have one big, awesome convention that covers several city blocks run by all the financing bronies than a ton of really tiny conventions, a large number of which have a pretty respectable chance of failing due to management not specializing in this kind of stuff.
Why can’t we just love ponies for the sake of ponies and leave the money-earning to the talent behind making the show (and perhaps licensed toy lines) in reality? If it wasn’t for money and creative pursuits knew no limits, I’d be willing to bet that Lauren Faust would still be heading the charge on her series. If it wasn’t for money and fandom talent only did things for the fandom because they loved doing it, I’d be willing to bet that we wouldn’t have a bunch of dissatisfied bronies griping about how awful everything is now. If it wasn’t for money and the human race hadn’t devolved to a bunch of Wall Street-grade greed-induced crazies, I bet the world would be a pretty nice place to live in, too, doomsayers aside.
Perhaps, as with everything, I’m overthinking this topic. Maybe money is a good stimulant to keep the community creating and distributing. It’s terrible to have to say it, but I’d rather have a fandom of good people who don’t care about money than a fandom of greedy people who keep creating things for profit, even if it means a sharp decline in the amount of pony media that gets pumped out. Being a brony has never been about making money to me, nor will it ever be.
I don’t, however, call the shots. I’m not the final say on what can or can’t have a price on it, and creativity is simply one of the many marketable skills an individual may or may not be born with and may or may not learn during their lifetime.
Maybe the moneymaking is for a noble cause; I can’t very well say that someone who’s donating 80% of whatever they make to charity is causing harm to the world, can I? Well, that to me communicates that someone is being 80% selfless and 20% selfish. Maybe I’m selfish for taking a paycheck for doing Information Technology work, but it just feels too wrong to me to put a price on creating pony things as a brony, no matter how selfish I may be.
Of course not everyone thinks like I do; I just like to think that ponies can at least stay pure from the corruption of money. With everything that bronies stand for, the least I can hope for is that one doesn’t open their palm and ask for money simply because the other person is a brony. I consider that akin to parents giving their kids an allowance, then taxing 80% of it away and forcing them to put the other 20% into “savings.” It’s highway robbery, and the other person will grit and bear it because they like to think the person on the other end isn’t as greedy as they suspect.
I will never fault someone for donating earnings to charity; in any act of selflessness, however, one must give all that they have. That means 100% of earnings. If you’re making a living, that’s one thing, but being a brony… being a brony probably means a lot more to me than it does to the average joe. My family and friends are only just beginning to discover this.
Keep in mind that this story is only a case in point–I’d rather not be quoted on this. I lived in Job Corps for about 2 1/2 years of my life, and it was there that I became a brony. While I was attending, there were several events I set up nearly singlehandedly and solely for the bronies who lived at the Job Corps center with me. I hosted multiple parties, and I spent every cent that I had buying food and drink for the attendees to enjoy themselves. By the time I left, even a few friends ended up selflessly contributing to the parties. It was the best way for us to spend our money: For others to have fun and enjoy themselves. We got nothing out of it except knowing we gave our brony friends a little more enjoyment.
Not once was there a donations box, nor did I ever ask for help in hosting these parties. I would routinely spend all I’d saved up for others to enjoy themselves. That seems a relatively dead concept in the greater fandom from where I stand. Sad, isn’t it?
I’m not trying to say that money is inherently evil, only that its hold over so much of the brony fandom is something of a shame. Were it up to me, would I restrict the brony fandom to non-profit only? Not in a million years. It’s a conscious decision to be charitable, and that’s the entire beauty of having a choice: We’re not forced to be good people, but we choose to be good people. Isn’t that a far richer ideal than outspokenly lusting after material goods?
So, the next time you ask for money for doing something in the pony community, ask yourself: Is this why I’m a brony? That, to me, is the question of true devotion. It’s not how many figurines you have displayed or how often you watch the episodes… but what you do as a brony to affect the world around you. Devotion is doing what you love because you love doing it, and that, to me, is what it is to be a brony.