Artists, don't be afraid to ask for pay

This is a personal letter to all my fellow artists out there trying to make a living through their passion and love of their art. And to those who hire artists.

Have you heard of a saying where artists need to do free gigs in order to gain exposure? I never have and most likely neither have you. But, there's an unwritten "rule" that many artists seem to have been following for decades, even centuries. A misconception of artists needing to perform/ draw/ paint/ sing/ act/photograph etc... for free before they can get paid.

I personally never believed in this but had done my share of free gigs in my earlier career, sometimes even paying to perform! If a TV producer says, "Look, this is going to be great exposure for you, you'll be on Live TV and you know how many people would be watching?" and you've never been on TV before, chances are you might think "Yeah, that's amazing! I'll be on National TV on prime time! I'll do it for free!" But, stop and think. What about the classes you'll need to ask a fellow dancer to sub for you and won't be making any money that day. And what about all the time and money you've spent training so that you're as skilled as you are now? Who's gonna pay you for that? Are you willing to pay to perform instead of getting paid? There's something wrong with this picture.

It's going to take more than a few of us to change this misconception and mindset and it'll take time. But I'm willing to invest my time and effort into ensuring artists receive fair pay so that some day we artists can thrive in doing what we love and sharing our passion with others and not have to work 3 jobs while doing this. It's possible. And it starts with you.

So, my fellow artist, don't be afraid to ask for pay. And don't hesitate to ask for pay that reflects the value that you bring to the table. There's a reason your services were requested. Think about all the classes you took, all the rehearsals, all the time you spend continuing to practice and hone your skills. You don't have to do things for free because your time and effort is valuable.

Value yourself.

And for those who hire artists, think about the time it takes to choreograph a 3 minute show. The choreography doesn't come to us in a few minutes. We search for the perfect song and once we find it we listen to the song over and over again to decide which part of the song we're going to use, then we edit it. Then we try this and try that, until we feel the movement and the song match harmoniously. It takes time, usually for me at least 5-6 hours to choreograph a 3 minute show. From there, we rehearse our dancers and teach them the choreography. This takes at least 4 hours. Then we think about costumes. So, when we deliver a 3 minute performance, you're not just paying for the 3 minutes that you see. You're paying for all the time and effort that goes into creating that 3 minute piece. So, in order to deliver a 3 minute performance, easily it would take at least 8-10 hours. Please keep that in mind next time you hire artists.

This is one of the main reasons why I founded my company, The Unified Wolves, so that artists can continue to express their artistry and receive fair pay, never for free.

Photo by Daoudi Aissa 758143 via Unsplash.