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This resource that includes com­men­tary, evi­dence and advice is intend­ed for indi­vid­ual artists, arts organ­is­ers, com­mis­sion­ers, train­ers and pol­i­cy­mak­ers intend­ed to achieve equi­table and inclu­sive con­di­tions in which indi­vid­u­als can flour­ish. It’s a basis for explor­ing fric­tions and mis­as­sump­tions about artists and pay and under­stand­ing why indi­vid­ual nego­ti­a­tion is a vital to ensur­ing pro­duc­tive exchanges and collaborations.

Struc­tural­ly f*cked

Report by WeIn­dus­tria pub­lished in 2023 that expos­es through Artists’ Leaks data col­lec­tion the depths of artists’ poor pay from arts work, with reveal­ing insight into actu­al reward lev­els and asso­ci­at­ed cura­to­r­i­al and com­mis­sion­ing attitudes. 

No mon­ey is included’

This expo­si­tion of the #Artist­sLiveli­hoods and (poor) pay con­text and issue was pro­duced by FRANK, a CIC and mem­ber­ship body ini­ti­at­ed by curator/​writer, @FatosUstek and artists @annnehardy and @lindsayseers that is advo­cat­ing for fair­er work­ing conditions.

Fair Work resources

Fair Work is one of Cre­ative Scot­land’s and the Scot­tish gov­ern­men­t’s strate­gic pri­or­i­ties A port­fo­lio of relat­ed resources aims to sup­port organ­i­sa­tions, employ­ers and indi­vid­u­als to devise and deliv­er Fair Work policies.

Art Work­ers – Mate­r­i­al Con­di­tions and Labour Strug­gles in Con­tem­po­rary Art Practice

Presents case stud­ies from the local art con­texts of Esto­nia, Fin­land and Swe­den with artist-tes­ti­monies, dis­cus­sion of activist prac­tices and map­ping con­tem­po­rary and his­tor­i­cal forms of organ­is­ing and activism with­in the inter­na­tion­al art field. Analy­ses the impact and impli­ca­tions of the exhi­bi­tion fee sys­tem (MU), sets out the dichoto­my between intrin­sic and instru­men­tal approach­es to sup­port for artists and use­ful­ly con­cludes with three sce­nar­ios for how artists in future might respond to their finan­cial precarity.

Artists’ low income and sta­tus are inter­na­tion­al issues

While some argue that it’s the absence of col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing mech­a­nisms that result in such exploita­tion – once that’s in place here every­thing will be fine in terms of pay and con­di­tions, they say – evi­dence col­lect­ed by Susan Jones indi­cates that even in coun­tries where there are well-devel­oped fees sys­tems such as Cana­da and Swe­den, low pay for artists remains the burn­ing issue. 

Cul­ture crash: the killing of the cre­ative class

Change is no stranger in the twen­ty-first cen­tu­ry, with con­stant adjust­ment to an evolv­ing world, to trans­for­ma­tion and inno­va­tion. But for many thou­sands of cre­ative artists, a tor­rent of recent changes has made it all but impos­si­ble to earn a liv­ing. Per­sis­tent eco­nom­ic reces­sion, social shifts, and tech­no­log­i­cal change have com­bined to put artists of all kinds out of work. Scott Tim­berg con­sid­ers the human cost as well as the unin­tend­ed con­se­quences and iden­ti­fies social ten­sions and con­tra­dic­tions — most con­cern­ing the artist’s place in soci­ety — that have plunged the cre­ative class into a fight for survival. 

How are Artists Get­ting Paid?

Alex­is Clements, on Hyper­al­ler­gic states that It has become ever more obvi­ous that vir­tu­al­ly none of the mon­ey that flows into major arts insti­tu­tions, com­pa­nies that dis­trib­ute cre­ative con­tent, and art mar­kets actu­al­ly reach­es the artists who gen­er­ate the work.” Dis­cuss­es five modes of activism that have changed labour rela­tions in the past. 

How to Earn a Liv­ing as an Artist

Action Hero’s 17 tips on how to earn a liv­ing as an artist, with­out com­pro­mis­ing your prin­ci­ples or your art. Start with the art, then design a way to make it pay”. 

If oth­er pro­fes­sions were paid like artists…

Why do so many artists get asked to work for free, so often? And what’s the best way for an artist to deal with these requests, and ensure they’re finan­cial­ly secure and their work is val­ued? Michelle Aldredge explores the prob­lem and encour­ages mind­ful deci­sion-mak­ing’ as a way forward. 

Let them eat buildings

Along­side all the cap­i­tal grants for new and extend­ed arts build­ings, Alis­tair Gen­try asks when invest­ment in the work of new, finan­cial­ly strapped artists will be giv­en the same pri­or­i­ty. You can put up all the car­bon neu­tral offices you like. What are we going to do with these won­der­ful art facil­i­ties when we’ve got no artists of any qual­i­ty, ambi­tion or diver­si­ty to make and show art in them, because all but the rich­est and most priv­i­leged of us have giv­en up work­ing in the arts for lack of income?” 

Help­ing you answer

This is one of a num­ber of use­ful resources on Jes­si­ca Hiche’s web­site. It pro­vides a polite and infor­ma­tive pro for­ma reply that artists can use to reply to requests to work for free. 

Mar­garet Har­ri­son sup­ports pay­ing artists

One of the Pay­ing artists campaign’s high pro­file advo­cates, this artist asserts that The increas­ing reliance on the art mar­ket means the squeezed mid­dle and bot­tom of the pile, the most­ly – but not exclu­sive­ly – young artists, face an almost impos­si­ble strug­gle to gen­er­ate, invent and pro­duce vital and inter­est­ing art work…This sit­u­a­tion doesn’t fos­ter exper­i­men­ta­tion and leaps of the imag­i­na­tion but rather is designed to main­tain the sta­tus quo of invest­ment. The first item to be dropped from pub­lic exhi­bi­tion pro­grammes is artists’ fees, often on the grounds that the artist is being offered show­ing space free of charge’. Inevitably, that means favour­ing artists from upper income families. 

Nego­ti­at­ing a bet­ter rate of pay

Get­ting paid a fair fee is not sug­ges­tive of a rev­o­lu­tion. So why does it some­times incur resis­tance, both from those who pay and from artists them­selves? Rod McIn­tosh intro­duces ideas towards get­ting paid what you want and indeed deserve.

No one defends a starv­ing artist’: why pro­fes­sion­al respect begins at home

If artists reg­u­lar­ly self-qual­i­fy them­selves as starv­ing’ in such a casu­al and off-hand­ed way, what kind of respect can they expect to gain? Mar­garet Lam says it’s time tell a dif­fer­ent sto­ry about what it means to be an artist. You are an artist. Artic­u­late and defend your ideas and your place in soci­ety. This isn’t just a fight for your own sur­vival; it’s a fight to imag­ine and artic­u­late a not-so-dis­tant artis­tic future that can become a real­i­ty in our lifetime.” 

No-one owes you a liv­ing just for being an artist

Artist Steve Mes­sam argues that while the art should always come first, it’s time for artists to get more busi­ness-like and pro­fes­sion­al. While cam­paigns like a‑n/AIR’s Pay­ing Artists help make the case for appro­pri­ate bud­gets, artists need to be doing their bit too. If we want to be tak­en more seri­ous­ly and val­ued as pro­fes­sion­als, we need to all be more pro­fes­sion­al in the way we val­ue our own work.” 

Palerook blog

I feel bad about peo­ple pay­ing for my work because I think that the peo­ple who buy and even those who appre­ci­ate my work are some­how being duped. I keep feel­ing that at some point I am going to be found out to be an imposter. I feel bad when my work is con­sid­ered valu­able.” Describes the self-imposed bar­ri­ers to acknowl­edg­ing the artist’s worth finan­cial­ly and con­cludes by say­ing: I’m not going to sud­den­ly increase my prices or change the way I sell my work, but I’m no longer going to lim­it myself in terms of what I achieve through my work. I’m not going to pre­vent myself from earn­ing more than I think I deserve. From now on, I refuse to reduce my own value.” 

Per­form­ers tell muse­ums to get their act togeth­er on fees

Insti­tu­tions are spend­ing mil­lions on spaces for per­for­mance but some cura­tors are sur­prised they have to pay live art per­form­ers at all”, says The Art News­pa­per. Per­form­ers are begin­ning to set a min­i­mum for what they are will­ing to work for…it is a new, big pill for muse­ums to swallow.” 

The Arts in Aus­ter­i­ty: artist as entre­pre­neur 2.0

The idea of an Amer­i­can Mod­el’ of arts fund­ing has gained trac­tion in the UK, with calls for artists to be entre­pre­neur­ial’. But Amer­i­can crit­ic and cura­tor Andrew Hor­witz finds the US fund­ing sys­tem deeply prob­lem­at­ic, while those who espouse entre­pre­neur­ship miss the point that the real busi­ness of art’ is not for prof­it. Artists not only need to take the lead in this con­ver­sa­tion, they must reach across the table – as daunt­ing as it seems – to the fun­ders, insti­tu­tions and for-prof­it entre­pre­neurs, and help them to see what artists actu­al­ly do, see our resilient economies and inven­tive­ness, our col­lab­o­ra­tive cre­ative process­es, our abil­i­ty to cre­ate real val­ue, real change and real trans­for­ma­tion out of scarcity.” 

The Pay’s the Thing

Just because the motives behind my craft are not mon­ey-based doesn’t mean I’ll play a gig for noth­ing.” Louis Barab­bas explains his moti­va­tions for mak­ing music, which are pri­mar­i­ly about qual­i­ty of life rather than cash, but main­tains the key guide­line as: Don’t be exploited”. 

What to say when you’re asked to work for free

If you own a small busi­ness or are self-employed, soon­er or lat­er you will be asked to work for free. The more suc­cess­ful you become, the more requests you’ll get. Writer Rhon­da Abrams of The Star, Toron­to, Cana­da sug­gests that with the right response, you can turn these free­load­ers into some­thing positive. 

Who feeds the artist?

While being a musi­cian is a voca­tion and priv­i­lege, we still need to make a liv­ing. Xenia Pesto­va argues It is time to accept respon­si­bil­i­ty and to open a dis­cus­sion with each oth­er, our organ­is­ers, and our pub­lic. This con­ver­sa­tion might be a dif­fi­cult one to have, and it is doubt­ful that it will rad­i­cal­ly change engrained pro­fes­sion­al stan­dards and expec­ta­tions in the near future. We may even singe a few bridges in the process. How­ev­er, I invite you to join me and take that risk. If noth­ing else, it can pro­vide us with an oppor­tu­ni­ty to pave the path for the next gen­er­a­tion of pro­fes­sion­als who fol­low in our footsteps.” 

You Show me Yours

Bry­ony Kim­mings’ blog dis­cussing real-life earn­ings and expens­es in the false econ­o­my” of tour­ing the­atre, dif­fi­cul­ties of nego­ti­at­ing, and earn­ing a liv­ing as an artist, despite being estab­lished and award win­ning, and work­ing 14 hour days, six days a week.. The artist is always the one squeezed. I am sure venues will say that they are squeezed too… so stop with the false econ­o­my, be real­is­tic with your fun­ders about what their invest­ment gets them, stop bow­ing down.”

Pay­ing artists campaign

Insti­gat­ed by a‑n The Artists Infor­ma­tion Com­pa­ny, and sup­port­ed by UK and inter­na­tion­al artist and arts agen­cies, this strate­gic, long-term cam­paign from 2013 was steered by artist activists and advo­cates for fair pay for visu­al artists when show­ing work in pub­licly-fund­ed val­ues. Under­pinned by in-depth inde­pen­dent research and informed by strate­gies in Aus­tralia, Cana­da, Poland, Nor­way, Swe­den and US, it argues for pay­ing fair artists’ fees as part of achiev­ing equal­i­ty and diver­si­ty poli­cies. Man­i­festo, video, case stud­ies and resources pro­duced are at www​.payin​gartists​.org​.uk.