Have you been asked/expected to donate your art? Play for free? Speak at an event for no charge?
It’s often for a good cause.
Or my personal favourite… exposure!
When I’m asked to perform for exposure I say, “People die from exposure!”
Of course, as artists learn their trade, sometimes they have to do projects for experience, which differs from exposure. With experience, you get your mistakes out of the way so when the Big Show comes (whatever that may be for your art), you’re ready!
I read a Facebook post several years ago by a woman, a professional speaker, who was approached by Oprah’s team to present at their up-to-$1000-per-seat event.
The conversation went something like this:
The author of the post asked the producer on the phone, “Are you getting paid?”
Oprah’s producer replied, ” Yes.”
“What about the receptionist? Is she getting paid?”
Again, Oprah’s producer replied, “Yes.”
Not surprised but disappointed, the author said, “Yet you expect me to work, after taking 16 years to get my education, practicing for years, becoming better with every performance — so much so that I’m considered an expert — for free?
To which the producer responded, “But it’s Oprah.”
(Hmmm… this reply has a bit of “exposure” odor to it, doesn’t it?)
Not shaken, the author queried again, “Is Oprah getting paid?”
I’d like to tell you the producer eventually saw the light and was able to negotiate an agreeable speaking fee for the author. But, it was Oprah and things were done her way.
Being expected to work for free is common among my fellow musicians, poets and speakers and my numerous friends who are painters, dancers and other creatives.
Why should artists be paid? Here are 13 good reasons. I’d love to hear your reasons.
- Art education costs money. Lessons, classes, degrees and certificates all have their price.
- Art costs money to produce: paint, canvas, instruments, costumes, demo CDs, studios, props… the list goes on.
- Art takes time. Think of the hours you invested getting good at your art — playing an instrument, perfecting that move, capturing the curve of a face, getting your speech timing just right.
- Artists need to eat.
- Artists have marketing costs like any business: business cards, website, travel, supplies, instruments, technology, etc.
- Artists cope with criticism, pain, pressures, self-doubt and rejection, perhaps more than others because of their vulnerability when exposing their art to the world. (Maybe they deserve hazard pay!)
- Artists must create and cultivate a fan base to be successful. There are many ways to do this, but they all cost money and time.
- Being an artist carries greater risk than other professions. There’s no safety net of a weekly paycheque here. Gigs and sales are often sporadic and unpredictable.
- Art is vital to our culture, our education and indeed, our happiness. Why do we not attach higher value to it?
- Few artists get filthy rich, but shouldn’t all artists be able to make a living using their gifts?
- It’s a myth that getting paid demeans the art. The greatest art in the world has monetary value.
- Everybody needs money. Artists are part of the everybody.
- It’s not a sin to be paid for doing what you love. Many people do it and haven’t been struck down by lightning!
Your art is a valuable contribution to society.
Your being PAID allows you to make that contribution. Otherwise, you’re relying on others for sustenance or earning a paycheque with busywork that doesn’t scream who you are like your art can. Why should you have to let these distractions stifle your creativity and productivity when others are “allowed” to do what they love and earn a living doing it?
Today I challenge you.
Change your beliefs about artists and money.
Artists deserve to be paid.
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