This post doesn’t quite say everything I want it to and i am hoping/guessing it will start quite a good conversation so I will probably come back and re-edit my thoughts at a later date…
It may be impolite conversation to discuss payment and wages at a dinner party but it is definitely one that needs to be brought to the table in the arts banquet.
I don’t know the legalities behind all the different ways of paying performers and artists for their time and work, and once again I have to admit to being ignorant. But, what I do know is that, even if I knew all of these, chances are it wouldn’t make a blind bit of difference.
There are so many ways of getting around the issue of payment, and so many excuses used by artists and the people hiring them to justify doing work for free.
I need the experience.
It’s a charity event.
It’s a great opportunity to network.
It’s a foot in the door.
I have used all of the above, and in many ways I think there is an element of truth in all of them. I have learnt A LOT over the past two yo from working for free, from interning to performing, and many of the experiences have been invaluable. But now I feel I have cut my teeth in this world and it is time I took a long hard look at what I believe my work to be worth.
When it comes to performing and touring with my “grown up” shows (let me stop your right there, I’ve already heard every ‘ooo adult show’ joke and innuendo under the sun) then I am well aware that I have to be flexible when it comes to fees, and that in most situations I will always have to find some way of funding this myself. To quote Whitney, it’s not right, but it’s ok.
However, more and more, payment is becoming an issue when it comes to my community and children’s work. Again, some ventures I am willing to fund myself in hope of a pay off at the end (ie. setting up my own workshops etc.) but the way I see it, it is up to me to OFFER free work where I see fit.
It is a simple case of give and take. I will give so much if I can take something from it.
The other rule I am implementing is the difference between asking and offering.
If you ASK me to take part in your event, then you should not automatically presume I will do it for free. The way I see it, is there is a reason you are asking me to take part. First and foremost, that reason is, you can’t do the work I do yourself. I spend a lot of time planning my children’s and community work, creating individual projects for each event and making sure I arrive with all the materials needed to carry it off. This takes up a lot of time, skill, dedication and talent.
If your sink breaks, you do not ask the plumber to fix it for free.
There may be times when I offer to work for you, to contribute something to help, to do something for free. And I will have my own reasons for doing this, maybe I have something new to try out, maybe I can afford to give my time to a charitable cause, maybe I just really like the festival. And that is MY decision..
People that work in the arts are some of the most dedicated and passionate workers you will find. They have to be in order to carry on and not to, quite frankly, go insane. The work that we are doing is work that not everyone can do. Not everyone can act. Not everyone write a play. Not everyone can create an innovative installation. And we have gone through years of practice, die hard determination, training and experience to get where we are now.
I understand times are hard, and by many art may seem like a luxury, and I have to confess that I sometimes see it that way myself. But if you are asking some one to work for you, you are asking them to work for you. And in the art world or outside it, I think that is something every sector has to appreciate.