If We Won't, Who Will? How artists hurt themselves by undervaluing others
Updated: Dec 22, 2019
We believe that our work has a value; that we should be able to continue to pursue our meaningful work and also pay our bills. We don’t think that’s crazy.
I just met with some music theater professionals. They're planning to stage a show to a nonprofit company for children, and I was attending as the probable music director. They love what they do, love theater, and love the kids. They're planning to use published music without even checking to see if they can license it. In other words, they're planning to steal it because “everyone does.“ I pointed out that using music this way lacks integrity, sets a bad example, and makes me uncomfortable. The director dismissed my concerns without discussion.
There's a new club in Chicago which was started by a working musician. It features live music. (It is in no way hyperbole to state that live music venues in Chicago have not raised the amounts they pay live musicians in over 30 years.) This club - did I mention the owner is a working musician? - is not only paying musicians an insulting amount of money, but is actually charging them to appear on stage.
This club is not only paying musicians an insulting amount of money, but is actually charging them to appear on stage.
A colleague, a voice teacher who teaches music theater style singing, was approached by another voice teacher for coaching. She posted a question to her fellow professionals asking whether or not she should charge for her time, considering this was a fellow voice teacher as well as someone with whom she wanted a closer professional relationship. She was concerned, not unreasonably, that if she charged the other voice teacher, said voice teacher may decide not to study with her.
Recently my friend’s very talented daughter took part in a cabaret night that was organized by a local theater director/producer. That producer was paid, as was the pianist, and the venue. The singers were not paid. Not a thing. Nada. Zilch.
My husband creates and sells music. I create and sell informational products. We believe that our work has a value and that we should be able to continue to pursue our meaningful work and also pay our bills. We don’t think that’s crazy. We think it’s fair. We think it's an idea that represents the kind of world we want to live in.
Apparently my husband and I are in a very tiny minority.
The examples here - which are all true, recent, and not at all unusual - are of artists having issues about paying other artists for their work, their art.
If we won't pay one another for our work,
if we won't value each other's contributions to the world,
if we can't recognize that it's hard enough to put a price tag on a piece of our soul without having to fight for it,
how can we expect others to?