“Payment in exposure?”. These words will grind the gears of any hard-working freelancer who is trying to make a buck in today’s competitive artistic industry
Why would you accept such a payment? after all you’re an artist with overheads just like any other business.
In fact, this happens so much that a Twitter account has been set up publicizing examples of people trying to get art for free.
Is payment in exposure exploitation?
Artists will be asked for performances in exchange for “exposure” of their work to a larger audience. Their art has the potential of reaching the right people at the right time, which could indirectly lead to more gigs and even fame.
In principle this should work, right?
Artists offering creative services are nearly always getting the short end of the stick.
People cost cut wherever they can. For many, this means getting cheaper creatives. It could be that the company can’t afford to redesign its logo professionally. It could be that an event promoter has gone way past his budget and can’t afford an artist payout.
No money? Then what can we do in exchange? Artistic exposure – exchanging art for the fact of more people knowing about your art.
This could mean a social media post, a public display of your work, or a breakthrough performance to a large audience.
Only that many artists find out the hard way that exposure has limited value if it is not being directed at the right people. Exposure, in this case, will not lead to a payout, but to exploitation. Ironically it can lead to more people asking for more freebies, on the basis that the artist has worked for free in the past.
Why it’s important to pay
Two reasons, one more obvious than the other: Firstly to pay an artist is to support his employment.
Like any other job, being a graphic designer, graffiti artist or musician comes with costs. Overhead costs such as rent, utilities, and equipment repair are something that the artist puts into the account, like anyone else running a business.
Secondly to pay someone, albeit a small amount, is an act of recognition for a service rendered. It is an act of gratitude, something that humans have been doing since we could scratch our asses. A gift, no matter how small, is still better than no gift.
After most small-time performances in New Orleans, it is commonplace for one of the artists of the group to go around with a hat for donations. Those who appreciated can offer a buck or two for appreciation of the music.
This tradition should go beyond jazz, as tokens of gratitude are small steps in the journey for any artist.
We asked a few questions to three artists in different artistic professions, in the knowledge that what was being asked will invoke a frustrated yet passionate response.
Since you are a creative yourself, could you tell us a little about what you think about the issue of exposure versus payment?
“I myself am very careful in which events I perform and always make sure there is a sort of payment involved”.
“A lot of promoters book you in a party to use your name for their own benefit, which is wrong of them. If the promoter offers me opportunities instead of money, I am always willing to negotiate, but I never forget my worth and don’t let the promoter manipulate me through his/her words”.
“I’ve heard it all. The truth is that when you live music, the way I live it, people that live this lifestyle deserve a payment plus exposure because most of the time we spend money to bring the set to the listener’s ears, and there are levels to this game”.
“When I say levels I mean: imagine an artist (Example A) who has just started, but sucks (because he/she still needs experience) but has money to promote themselves.
Now imagine an artist (Example B) that has been doing this for ten years and is a master of his/her craft, but doesn’t have money to promote themselves because they spend all the money on studio or DJ equipment”.
A deal is a deal
“Example A will be more of a hit with the crowd and people will think that this person is better than Example B In this instance. I personally don’t expect a lot of things in life however I do expect the club owner/event organizer to help push the artist in question”.
Have you had experience with being told before a show that you will be paid x amount but because the organizer doesn’t make what was expected they try to renegotiate or give you a take it or leave it an option?
“I don’t take that anymore. A deal is a deal, could even be with my mom. Business is business”!
“I ask fifty euros per hour. Every organizer should be able to pay what’s asked. If not, they shouldn’t be doing parties in the first place. The DJ isn’t a jukebox”!
Eddie Fresco on payment for exposure “It’s Bullshit”
What’s your take on exposure versus payment?
“The problem is that Maltese exposure doesn’t really get you anything”.
“The best way I can explain this is if a big act is coming from abroad and your sound is good and flows well with the show, I will agree that’s the type of exposure where no payment will be needed due to the size of the act it’s guaranteed exposure and increase in social followers”.
“I have performed in front of a thousand people and four thousand here in Malta people and my social followers simply don’t go up. in my opinion, it’s because people don’t really care”.
“The above has its exceptions”.
“My best experience was when I performed at Wicked in front of the younger generation who actually really care about the music, after this show I saw a big increase in social followers”.
“I feel that people are a bit too proud in Malta to champion the artists and talent that we have, they just don’t believe that we can do something that’s bigger than Malta”
“I also think exposure could work with people who are just starting out and want to test their craft in front of a live audience”.
“The first time I performed was for exposure. I was not very good at the time so I wouldn’t dream of taking someone’s money, however, if the person has been a year in the game and has a fan base behind them don’t dare offer exposure cause in Malta that just doesn’t work”!
We as artists have to understand what power we have
What are your thoughts on promotors saying they will pay you paid x amount but doesn’t keep his end of the bargain if the event’s a flop?
“This is one of the most fucking disrespectful things someone can do”!
“I experience this a lot! The only job of the artist is to perform! We don’t have to care about that unless it says so in a contract! It’s your job to get the people to your event”!
Do you think a collective effort by artists to form a union to tackle these issues could work?
“I think we could and I don’t believe it’s too hard to do”.
“We as artists have to understand what power we have. We have to learn to say no to deals that sound wrong to us. I’ve said no to plenty of paid shows because I don’t think they want to pay me as much as I deserve. No one has the right to tell me my worth. I say how much my price is”,
“If you don’t agree with it go get someone else! You have to understand that you have the power that person came to speak to you, to book you because they know you’re good, you didn’t approach them”!
It’s just fucking crazy
“I would like to add what is absolutely ridiculous to me is how low payments are in Malta and we just accept that like it’s nothing. This is because of how long these organizers have been playing us and allowing us to believe that a forty-five-minute set is worth one hundred euros for the years of work that we as artists have put in”!
“It’s fucking bullshit! One hundred euros is not a lot considering we have to support ourselves which is fucking crazy”!
“I’ve performed abroad for two hundred people and been paid five hundred euros than in Malta I’m paid one hundred euros to perform in front of thousands…
It’s just fucking crazy”!
Cheryl Loffreda (Concept Of Movement)
“Exposure” and payment have different worth, It’s always dependent on one’s goal”.
“I receive various messages regarding different jobs & I refuse some because of this Issue. As an artist/creative, I love my job and my job is my art. I really do take my art seriously and work hard to get a great final product: choreographing, movement coach, video shoots, photoshoots, showcases, theater, competitions, and more”.
“Organizers don’t always take into consideration how much work choreographers/artists have to do to create let’s say a two-minute showcase, so that is why some people expect you to work for free”.
“For now, I have never worked for exposure, but I worked for free for legit charity events and I do not regret it”.
“Personally, I think that once people work for free; they will be expected to always work for free. Unfortunately, this creates an issue on its own, artists working constantly for free in the industry are destroying their own industry”.
Benefiting me and my academy
“In today’s world exposure can be achieved by various means. When offered exposure one must consider what the actual result will be”.
“Sometimes exposure is a word that is being thrown and overused, meaning the organizer is offering “exposure” in return for the artist’s work, but when asking what kind of exposure will be given and what is the targeted audience the answer give is very vague”.
“If someone is offering exposure in return for work the exposure either is very evident (top TV program or high social media following) or very detailed information is given on what exposure will be given. When someone is offering exposure, I first check the events/organizers’ work to assess what is the real exposure, which I and my academy will benefit from”.
“I would work for exposure ONLY if it is exposure that will benefit me and my academy”.
“Honestly speaking about myself, I do not want exposure to get students or to be famous. I want to be known for being professional, and that in the end my art and dancers are appreciated. It really is satisfying at the end when the customer is happy with the end result”.