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This listing that includes commentary, evidence and advice provides a selected reading list for artists and those who work with them to explore the issues and concerns about artists and pay as part of negoti­ating the terms of exchange and collaboration.

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. 

Artist Opportunities

Alistair Gentry discusses common types of adver­tisement for unpaid work in journalism and the visual arts, noting the processes whereby the applicant is expected to make a lengthy and profes­sional appli­cation, in a mode that suits the employer”, at consid­erable effort to themselves and for an oppor­tunity that is unpaid, but may provide income for the adver­tiser, who may well also be in receipt of public funds. 

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 AIR: Artists Inter­action and Repre­sen­tation, and supported by UK and inter­na­tional artist and arts agencies, this is a strategic, long-term campaign steered by artist activists that 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 makes the case for artists’ fees as part of achieving equality and diversity policies. Manifesto, video, case studies, supporting state­ments and sign up at www​.payin​gartists​.org​.uk.