Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Why are artists expected to work for free?

Today I received a second unsolicited email in my junk email box offering me yet another chance to work for nothing. A small gallery in Oxfordshire thinks that it is OK to spam professional artists with a ‘huge opportunity’ to design album covers and other promotional art work for a well-known indie band with no payment for the artist’s time and expertise.

The gallery says that the ‘purpose of the competition is not to solicit work for free, but to provide a low cost medium for artists to promote themselves’. The design of free promotional material is indeed a low cost medium, but I wonder if any of the professionals from the music industry or their promotional agencies are expected to provide their services to this band for nothing? Is this practice spreading to other industries now or do people just think that it is only artists who are too desperate to say no?

Why is the offer of promotion considered to be a valid trade for time and skill? Promotion is great, but you can't eat it. And what guarantee does the artist have that their name will even be mentioned? While the band and gallery will have their interests protected by contracts written up by law professionals how can an artist working for free afford such advice?

Paintings by the late artist Mati Klarwein were used for the covers of Santana and that did nothing for his artistic career. See http://www.matiklarweinart.com/

The worst part about this story is that the request for free work is coming from someone who represents artists. Even the Arts Council are supporting artist exploitation by listing unpaid jobs and exhibition ‘opportunities’ that artists are expected to pay for.

I urge every artist reading this to take a stand against exploitation by saying no to providing free services. It is time to demand fair pay for creative work. Together we can stop this madness.

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