Virgin Records’ Pathetic Attempt for Free Animation

Virgin Records

Take a look at this distasteful work-for-free ad that Virgin Records posted on the Anime Studio Forum under the title “Volunteer your work for Virgin’s new online music show”:

Hi, I’m one of the producers of Virgin’s new global online music show Red Room. The show is aiming to be community-based and feature lots of user-generated content. Each week we feature new titles to go over new title music supplied by unsigned bands wanting a bit of exposure.

So-oooo – we are on the look out for animators who want to create a 4-8 second title sequence in turn for full credit and something to add to your showreel. Sorry we can’t pay you – but we’ve hardly any money oursleves right now to produce the show! The show has just started so it’s early days but we are aiming to get it shown around the world on different Virgin platforms as well as YouTube etc

If you’re up for it – let me know! To prove I’m real – here we are:

http://www.virgin.com/music/red-room/rr-3-jarvis-cocker-imogen-heap-funeral-for-a-friend

The company is part of EMI, the third largest music company in the world, and not affiliated with Richard Branson’s Virgin company which owns the airlines and mobile service providers. Yet when it comes to paying a few bucks to an animation artist, they have the gall to claim that “we’ve hardly any money ourselves right now.”

The readers of Anime Studio Forum are way too smart for this, and immediately called out Virgin for its embarrassing ploy to take advantage of the animation community. Forum user Rylleman wrote, “Isn’t Virgin one of the largest music companies of the world? To ask for free work in that position sounds greedy to me. Call a school and get an intern if you can’t afford to pay people for their work,” while Parker wrote, “I dont want to be rude but dont expect users work for you for free, please offer some money.”

(Thanks, Slowtiger)


  • Isaac

    You should have at least asked Virgin for comment before accusing them of authoring some anonymous forum post.

  • amid

    Isaac: Please note that the Virgin website also has a page promoting this work-for-free scheme:

    http://www.virgin.com/music/red-room/design-our-red-room-titles

  • http://www.torharaldblom.com Tor Harald Blom

    This reminds me of the plot in a cult film within the animation community called “The Wizard of Speed and Time” made by Mike Jittlov, a great film about the little animator against the big company.

  • Isaac

    Nice sleuthing, Amid, I stand corrected. Keep up the good work.

  • ZAR

    Greedy bastards.

  • squirrel

    Are they one of the largest music companies in the world?

    No they are not.

    In 2009, they closed down their biggest retail stores in major cities all because they couldn’t pay the rent or their own debts! The biggest one used to be in the center of Times Square, and now that area is A BIG FAT BLANK for all to see, as an example of how we run our government!!! The Disney Stores in the city just moved to the retail space.. NEXT TO IT… showing that not even Disney can afford to pay the space!

    Pathetic excuse for a company!!! Ab-so-lute-ly pathetic!

  • Oliver

    Here in Britain, we laugh at that clumsily self-aggrandising clown Branson openly in the street.

  • http://weirdurl.com Zekey

    the sad part is they will get plenty of submissions for this anyway. :(

  • stikkbomber

    i’ll belittle where the ad got posted more than the ad itself. posting a “work for free” ad in a forum called “jobs” is stupid. given this economic climate, people already in the business aren’t going to like the “do work for nothing” one bit, either.

    however, the ad on Virgin’s website seems fine to me. The ad reads to me as if they want people who are looking to build a portfolio or showreel. I question the part about sending them links to examples, too, but all in all it seems okay to advertise they way they did on the website. the forum post? not so much. it might not hurt the forum itself to have another area reserved for pro bono work, if they don’t already.

    and why do people assume that this red rooms web thing has access to huge sums of money of virgin records as a whole? just because it says “virgin” on it doesn’t mean it’s as well-funded as the name implies…which is another topic in its entirety, but still valid.

  • Bill Field

    It looks like they are being called out by animators, everywhere-
    Amid you, and other blogging professionals have been instrumental in alerting our community about these conmen, charlatans, carpetbaggers, THANK YOU.

  • http://www.frankpanucci.com FP

    I see more and more of these “no pay” offers every week, placed outside of appropriately-sequestered venues, for every kind of graphics, video, and audio job. Sucks.

    “Sorry we can’t pay you – but we’ve hardly any money ourselves right now to produce the show!”

    Amazing reptile speech.

    That damn logo pops up every time I turn on my crappy Virgin Mobile phone. I’d switch carriers, but it’s the only one I can find for $10 a month and a free phone.

  • Tobias Lind

    Amid
    a comment only to keep facts in the piece correct. The forum part you quoted should have a footnote stating that Branson actually has no part of Virgin Records since he sold it in 1992.

  • amid

    Tobias: Thanks for the correction. I’ve amended the piece to reflect that Virgin Records is owned by EMI, and not at all affiliated with Richard Branson’s company, which owns the airlines and mobile companies. I’m glad to hear this because now I can buy my tickets on Virgin America. My apologies for the incorrect information.

  • Michael

    As someone who has been looking for work in the film industry for a while now, I can confirm that the shady but sadly ubiquitous practice of unpaid work is present in pretty much every area of the industry.

  • Vintage Season

    Although I readily concede that the concept of asking animators to donate their efforts for a (presumably) for-profit program is bad taste, let’s remember at least this one key fact from the article:

    “Each week we feature new titles to go over new title music supplied by unsigned bands wanting a bit of exposure.”

    Notice that the bands are also UNSIGNED? If I’m reading that correctly, it means these are self-produced – or at least not label-produced – videos, for which the recording artists are not getting paid either. They are doing this to get exposure… meaning they HOPE someone will appreciate their music and image enough to give them a shot.

    In that light, asking aspiring (the art-world equivalent of “unsigned”) animators “to create a 4-8 second title sequence in turn for full credit and something to add to your showreel” isn’t as outrageous as it might otherwise appear, since those animators are also in the running for the opportunity to associate themselves with the music and image of that aspiring artist. If they do this well, and the band gets signed, do you think they’ll still be expected to continue for free? If they have contributed in any tangible way to the deal, there could well be considerable stakes when it comes to additional music videos down the road.

    Of course, I am coming at this from the perspective of someone who’s been on the side of the music biz… but given what I’ve seen about how it works, I am tempted by the offer!

  • cmd+v

    I love posts like these. Expose the idiots, keep up the good work.

  • Jerry P.

    Vintage Season: How does the band being unsigned make it BETTER? If I were going to do something for no money, I would need the other benefits to be as good as possible. In this case, they’re offering exposure. Doing work with a better-known band will get more exposure than a new, unknown one. Yes, the unknown band might get big, but it’s a much bigger gamble for the time invested.

    I don’t see if they’re exclusive or non-exclusive rights. That’s the real question: can someone make something for this and still use it somewhere else?

  • optimist

    The request for animators who presumably are expected to have a professional level of finish is that they are being asked to perform extensive work that they would otherwise/in the real world be paid for and do it for free. Is this “community-based” site being mounted as a labor of love on the company’s part? Is the producer working for the “exposure” on his resume? I mean, I understand Virgin is a famous record company but they apparently haven’t much money so-ooooo–I’m sure he’s working pro bono, right?

    It’s just ass-backwards. And I do not believe for a second it’s well meant-it’s manipulative and cynical. I know artists with websites who’ve asked friends who are animators to create short “intro” pieces for their sites and they paid for the work.

    Someone else had the right idea: go through the requirements to get interns who would receive at least actual school credits to do it. But of course, Virgin Records wants someone to do all of this at their own expense/location (no doubt taking unending notes/direction the whole way through the process) and do it fast and professionally-for FREE.

    Animation is not only an art, it’s a business and a high-end profession and it’s expensive to do in time as well as materials. They’re just being bloody cheap and they are just begging for every brickbat thrown at them.

  • http://www.enigmation.de slowtiger

    Animation competitions, OK. Chances for newcomers, ohh-kay, maybe. But a big company which still makes big profit (despite all their wailing) shouldn’t ever ask anyone to work for them for free. The “get a name, get famous” part nowadays doesn’t depend on their TV productions, fortunately – there’s youtube and the like.

    What bugs me most is that this is a part of the very same record industry which in court claims that no artistic work can ever be had for free.

  • Justin Spurlin

    “Oursleves”? No money up this sleeve. No money up this sleeve either. Trust us, there’s nothing up our sleeves at all.

  • John

    Ah, those sweet words “user based content”.

  • http://highlyrecommended.blogspot.com Satorical

    But wait, they’re aiming to have the spots placed on YouTube. Not just anyone can post there, you know.

  • DevilsAdocate

    I know I am young and do not know much about this scary world out there, but I’m going to have to agree with Vintage Season on this one. I understand that the offer may seem offensive to advanced and professional animators, but for some animation students like myself (aka aspiring animators) is would seem to be a pretty nice opportunity to experience something new, make new connections and pack your resume.

    The forum post does seem rather tacky, but the official post on the website does portray the project as a collection and collaboration of fresh artists (both animation and music wise) and looking for a way to get themselves a bit more out there.

    It would be awesome to have money offered or a famous band involved, but you have to start somewhere…

  • ShouldBeWorking

    If it is true, that a company or unfunded entrepenuer has no money Why The F is that your problem, Artist? Don’t work for free! Youn can animate; they can’t. Animate for yourself. They always seem to promise you glory but can barely glorify themselves.
    Animation is so accesible and democratized that the idea of having to do it for a big shot….FOR FREE…is insanity.

    I tell you what. Walk into one of their stores and tell them you don’t have any money for that DVD or Cd or book. You should tell Vrigin exactly what they’d tell you.

  • ShouldBeWorking

    @DevilsAdocate (sic)
    You get experience as an artist by creating for oneself also. It is no better and maybe at times less creative following the whims of a non-creative producer to produce for a “big shot”.

  • http://bruandboegie.co.za Mike

    Go slow!

  • Gerard de Souza

    Virgin should change its name with all the screwing of artists going on.

  • robert woods

    glad to see someone standing up for animators.

  • Tony

    While I deplore the act of “work for free” type of ads in a job-listing website, the advert itself isn’t so offensive. Are you trying to break into animation? This may be for you!
    However, with that being said, I’d like to know more specifics about the licensing and goals of the project being put forth by Virgin. Do they intend to hold all rights to the animation you create? Is it a for-profit venture? Will “credits” or *gasp* royalties be forthcoming if the venture finds success? If you say… created an animated character for the intro to this project, do they own the IP for said character? Music?
    There’s A LOT of questions to be asked about this. For a company that states no IP can be had for free, they have some big brass ones asking for it.

  • http://www.enigmation.de slowtiger

    “VirginBob”, the producer who posted the original call for free animation, at least has the courtesy (and the guts) to answer in the thread. His posting can be read here: http://bit.ly/tfctR .

    I still don’t get their business model. If they produce it, there must be a budget. They pay for room rent, web hosting, the lawyers for the contracts – so why do they expect to get animation (which will be part of the show’s design) for free? VirginBob wrote that working for free was the way he got into business, so he thought it was OK to ask for it. I say it’s not OK. Advertising agencies all over the world may practice it, but this doesn’t make it right. In Germany there’s already a political movement aiming at getting interns paid. Professionals in animation always advise to not work on specs. Never. As long as the content industry makes money with content (and I still haven’t seen any of them going broke), they have to pay artists for content.

  • http://www.enigmation.de slowtiger

    Sorry, the shorted link doesn’t seem to work. Here’s the long one: http://www.lostmarble.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=86872&sid=e50810b4d7850a26fbccaec8a59f965e#86872