Musicians and writers are creative types. Creativity can be a tough gig from which to earn money. Hey, I have nearly 900 articles here and have earned a whole $192 from it!
I constantly see writers “selling” their books for free or 99 cents on Amazon. All that hard work, yet people are getting it for free. Having published a book myself, I know that painful feeling of wanting people to read it, but not being prepared to give my life away for free.
Today I came across two articles, both from creatives with resumes far exceeding mine.
“I am sick to death of your hollow schtick, of the inevitable line ‘unfortunately there’s no budget for music’, as if some fixed law of the universe handed you down a sad but immutable financial verdict preventing you from budgeting to pay for music,”
I thought of all the people I hear of downloading “free” music. I never have, it has never seemed at all OK to me to steal people’s livelihoods. OK, I get it: Deep Purple and The Beatles and Led Zeppelin have more money than I will ever have, would they miss a dime or two? Probably not. But what about all the struggling musicians out there who haven’t yet made millions? I know the musician doesn’t actually get a lot from each sale – I found all that out when researching publishing! Authors don’t end up with many dollars per book either!
A contact pointed out a more local, but related article, by our own Andrew Stafford. Andrew is a journalist with twenty years experience and a resume with “cred”.
Would I like to be the website’s music writer, covering everything from big stadium events to smaller shows that might be worthy of wider exposure? Jobs such as this are rare indeed.
The snag? There was no budget to pay for this job. Andrew makes it very clear he struggled with his decision to decline the job.
I’ve been there too, in my own small way. The offer of speaking engagements for free. I did one, but I now insist on payment. Speaking is easy – writing not so much. I don’t have the years of writing experience that Andrew has, but I know the time it takes to go over and over something. I’ve been editing my book with a writing mentor and I have written a new first chapter a zillion times. Stuff goes in, stuff gets pulled out, the end result looks nothing like the original. It IS painful. I know the skills develop over time and I am a novice, but I am sure Andrew still edits his fingers to the bone.
Music! I cannot imagine ever being able to write lyrics or melody, I have zero talent for music. We’ve all heard the stories of number one hits being scribbled on a beer coaster in the pub in ten minutes or a melody being in a musician’s brain when he wakes up. I am sure for the majority of songs it isn’t that easy. Even if it is, it doesn’t matter to me, the reader or the listener, whether the artist spent ten minutes or ten hours on a sentence or a riff. I just enjoy the end product. The artist is entitled to fair and reasonable remuneration for effort and/or natural talent.
What is your job, your skill, your talent? You are a lawyer, you say? What would your response be to a potential client who just “didn’t have a budget for legal representation”? I go to work each day and I expect to get paid. So do you. Creatives are no different really, but are dependent on someone valuing their creativity: liking the music, appreciating the prose in a novel, wanting a painting to hang on their wall. They often have to work with no promise of remuneration. How many painters were never rich in their life time? Yet, just like you and I, Andrew is entitled to eat. He is entitled to be paid for his labour, even if creativity is a labour of love.
It seems to me the richer a nation becomes, the more we want for free. We have fare evaders on public transport and people cheating on insurance claims, never considering the cost to their fellow citizens via loss of improvements to public transport or increased insurance premiums. Does society’s attitude infect our politicians and lead them to expect free travel to private weddings?
The next time you pirate a movie, a song or share a book off your kindle, think about going to work tomorrow for free.
To the companies like Betty TV, don’t write letters like this to artists: “Unfortunately we don’t have any budget for music but it would be great if we could use the track”.
If you don’t have the budget, do without the music. Just a suggestion.
PS: I didn’t edit this nearly enough!