(This post is with respect to creative endeavours only. There is a whole wriggly can of worms waiting to be opened if I start talking about normal joe jobs as well.)
I am not an Amanda Palmer fan. Nor do I hate Amanda Palmer. My sum total knowledge surrounding her before this morning was “Partner (or something) of Neil Gaiman who does music stuff. Oh, and Andrew likes her.”
Then, through the magic of the Internet, I came across the kerfuffle around her. Briefly, she did a Kickstarter for an album release, made scads of money, spent said money on album production costs, is now going on tour.
Her tour vision requires classical musicians to help play in each city. Rather than hiring a touring group, or paying for musicians in each city, she is crowd sourcing out for classical players to come rehearse and play for a night in return for beer and possibly a hat passing around. In some cities, like NYC, she is actually paying pros to come in and do the show.
So where to start? Ordinarily I would be “MOAR PAY FOR ARTISTS”, but Ms. Palmer makes the good point that musicians have the freedom of choice to volunteer or not volunteer. I am guessing she has huge respect in the musical community, so this would be a great opportunity for selected people to play on stage with one of their idols.
On the other hand, some of the comments I’ve seen are really nasty toward anyone suggesting getting paid to perform is a good thing. They invoke both the invisible hand of Adam Smith and the cheerful friendliness of Ayn Rand to tell pro-payment people that the arts are changing and almost no one makes a career out of the classical music scene and if they can’t get that, then they should go to a workhouse and decrease the surface population.
(OK, there might have been a BIT of hyperbole in that last paragraph.)
I can only speak from the perspective of a mostly unpaid actor. If Patton Oswalt was coming to town and offering people a chance to improvise a public set with him for beer and thanks, I’d be phoning in sick and elbowing people in the face to get into that audition hall. However, I would not be telling myself I’m doing it for my career. I would be doing it because Patton Oswalt.
(DISCLAIMER: Patton Oswalt might not do improv. Try and stay with me as I acknowledge I hate doing research into celebrity careers.)
People who say I’d be doing it because wow, it’s great exposure and would look good on my resume…I agree with people who have commented on blogs about this that a one shot appearance with a celeb or group of celebs isn’t necessarily going to rocket your career to the stratosphere.
The other thing this does is open a slippery slope. I tweeted back and forth a bit this morning on Twitter with @ProResting. (She helped inspire this blog entry.)
She’s one of my favourite people who tweet, and one of her main interests is how auditions for actors are basically offering no pay. Indeed, there’s a huge number of low/no pay gigs out there. Up to a point, you can tell yourself (and it might be true) that these unpaid gigs are helping you to network and hone your craft.
I don’t want to see what @ProResting has documented already, paying to be in a production. Performing artists live to perform, and the unscrupulous will do what they can to get them to perform while delivering back as little as they can.
AND I DON’T THINK AMANDA PALMER IS UNSCRUPULOUS. She’s offering fairer terms than most unpaid gigs, which is some beer and a lot of respect, and a chance to actually interact with an idol. So if people want to go for that and be on stage with their idol, that’s great. But don’t demonize people who can perform at a professional level and want money for demonstrating that skill. Just because some artists will always work for free doesn’t mean every artist should.