Exposure. Experience. Internship. Opportunity.
These seem to be common terms existing in the realm of both the music and creative arts industries globally. It is a particularly interesting issue when the balance between experience required and performance expectations are grossly imbalanced. There is a large volume of consumers that believe the value of music can be purchased for peanuts, that is by giving new artists, composers and producers ‘exposure’ and ‘experience’ rather than, well, money, that should suffice for their years and hours of dedication toward their instrument or practice. The scariest part of this accepted exchange is that most of the people employing the musicians and artists are creatives themselves!
In the film, game, dance, design, theatre, live music, studio work and music production projects I have worked in, almost all of them have created barriers around the value of my music and my practice.
As musicians, we have somehow collectively agreed that doing things for free is a part of our business journey and our musical progression, which is ludicrous. Let’s say I have been a diligent maths student, completing my skills in basic addition, division, subtraction and multiplication by the age of 10, now let’s say I am proficient in algebra, trigonometry and long division at age 18 and by the time I complete my university degree I am now accomplished in calculus and advanced mathematics. Now the bank has offered me a job as a risk assessor but I have to work the first 3 years for free, because I need the experience. Does it sound stupid? Yes. Because it is.
The expectation on creative practitioners creates an unrealistic work environment which in turn leads us to the deluded ideology that music and arts are not “real jobs”. The fact that musicians all over the world practice daily for years, study intensively for at least 3 years for a Bachelor and are then expecting to leave with no job prospects is a large factor into the ideology in front of us. The waves of change that need to be erupted to enact new concepts and practices in the music industry will have the greatest impact if we are all apart of the cause and affect chain.
I need a graphic designer to help me with this website, I pay them; now this is not always in dollars. It can be a percentage cut from royalties, it can be a trade exchange (photos for audio branding for example) or it can be a lump sum. There needs to be some kind of realistic exchange between the consumer and the provider in order to start creating a more realistic and enjoyable work environment for musicians.
Next time you need a professional creative for anything, make sure you calmly negotiate the terms of the exchange in a rational and fare way. Everyone’s conclusions will be different as part of the beauty of the arts industry is that the projects are always diverse and constantly expanding; but we cannot rely on exposure and experience once we have been credited for the years of time and effort it takes to become a proficient artist. We have experience, that’s why we are good at what we do. When it comes time to hire a professional, be realistic and you will always get the best result.
Creatives be realistic with other creatives and help create a more realistic work environment for musicians and artists everywhere.