PAY US FOR THE WORK WE DO
This morning The Stage has revealed the earnings of artistic directors and executive directors of some of our subsidised institutions. The league table published alongside brilliantly demonstrates who the biggest earners are – there’s no prize for guessing where they work.
David Hutchinson's piece also wonderfully dispels the myth that the arts are an inclusive sector. Women are paid £29k less their male counterparts and none of the top jobs are held by BAME practitioners. "Analysis of salaries of black, Asian and ethnic minority leaders in the industry could not be undertaken because there are none at any of the top 20 most heavily subsidised theatres"
The great thing about the arts is you can see where the issues are because everyone starts making work or consulting about it. From Deborah Coughlin's Radio 4 documentary on the artists exodus of London, Paula Varjacks #ShowMeTheMon3Y, Hunt & Darton’s Bank to Arts Council England's consultation on artist livelihoods and the '2018 and Beyond' consultation - the sector has been talking more openly about money, valve and worth. Bryony Kimmings' go to blog Show Me Yours and the tabloid response to Ellie Harrison’s The Glasgow Effect is also worth mentioning here.
Paula Varjack’s #ShowMeTheMon3y
I too have also been creating lots of reactionary work to the M word – I’ve spent ACE money on lottery tickets, set up the live arts syndicate and I’m learning lots about no risk-match betting as well as stock and shares. Money is on my mind.
However, the elephant in the elevator seems to be free labour. Last week I was asked to chair a panel discussion for a subsidised theatre festival. I would need to spend time researching the artist, see the new piece, research the panel and lead the discussion – the fee? Nothing.
Angered at yet another request to work for nothing I took to twitter and suggested a standardised response for requests to work for free – the response from artists was epic. It seems we’re still being asked to work for nothing all the time. Producers, directors and institutions know its difficult for us to say no, they know we need them more than they need us – its this abuse of power that annoys me. How often do they work for free?
The lame, dusty excuse that there is no money, it could lead to money or they’ve run out of money means only one thing – they need to get better at spending their money – call a financial analyst not an artist if you can’t balance the books. If you can’t afford to do the activity then don’t do it.
Keeping my promise I have a punchy start to prevent us being asked to work for nowt. I’ve set up Pay Me For The Work I Do. It’s simple to use, just ask the work-for-free offenders to email their request for free labour to email@example.com. A standard response is sent immediately declining the offer and outlining the average wage of an artist.
If I can manage to pay ITC, Equity and A-N rates of pay to those I employ then our institutions should be able to do the same. This is the start of a conversation – one intervention. If we all put our foot down and say no then the expectation that artists will work for free will no longer exist.