Missed Part 1 of this article? Read it here.
The Revolution Part 2 – It’s Time for some Arts Education
The arts in Australia has been under rapid fire over the past 18 months with funding cuts, higher education slashes and a political backdrop that grossly undervalues the creative industries. Frankly it’s been making me really angry and frustrated about what’s happening to an industry I’ve dedicated my whole life to. But it also points to a much needed fork in the road and both arts consumer and creator have a part to play. Artists aren’t getting paid for what they do and we are all to blame. It’s time to turn the industry on it’s head and start operating under the same conditions as every other industry. Customers need to start paying us for what we do and we have to make it really clear why.
Obviously if you check out the industry stats, people are putting their hands in their pockets for arts and cultural commodities and experiences. If you missed part 1 of this blog you can get the low down here. We know folks will pay for the travel, alcohol, food, clothes and a range of other associated costs of cultural consumption but when it comes to the actual art itself the cash seems to be harder to elicit. Whether it’s a festival ticket, theatre show or handmade item, consumers and other industries seem to be drawing the line at actually paying the artist.
We’ve created a system where we expect our art to be heavily subsidised if not free, under a misguided notion that being an artist is a “lifestyle choice” (check out our minister for education and trainings latest) rather than something that’s of value to the community. Recently an Aussie band, Blackbird Hum, was approached by the Fairfax group to play live at an event they were hosting. The band turned down the gig with the following rant which has since gone viral –
In response to their turn down a journalist wrote this article calling them “ungrateful” and saying the following – “I assume most musicians love making and performing music, it is not one of those jobs that you simply decide to do as you don’t have any other choice” I would argue the same could be said for any range of professions that people choose to do, love and still get paid for. The fact that we are passionate about the work we do shouldn’t preclude us for payment and it’s time to turn this on it’s head.
We know the general population sees value in spending their cash on the arts because statistically people are consuming arts and culture. We know businesses benefit from creative contribution in a huge range of ways because the numbers reflect that. Yet if we compare GDP to artist income, somewhere along the chain of command the artist isn’t factoring as someone who should be financially rewarded for the product, pleasure and value they’re bringing.
As professional, skilled and experienced artists and creators, it’s time for us to start communicating our value to the public who consume the fruits of our labour. This means we need to start acting like business people. One of the reasons artists are falling out of the chain of cashing in on their creativity is because they’re not educating people to pay them for the art they create. It’s time for us as creators to start educating our market on what our value is by putting a measured price tag on it and requiring people to pay accordingly.
If you want to make a living from the creativity it’s time for you to understand who your market is and what value you’re bringing to them. Then you have to go about spelling this out, just like people in every other industry have to do. This way we can start a revolution where people finally put their hands in their pocket and hand their money directly to the artist’s providing the services they do.