As a consumer, you are empowered.
Even when you purchase a ticket to a concert, art exhibition or literary event, it is quite possible that your money is not being channelled back to the artist.
Art experiences are often offered to audiences completely free of charge, which is great in terms of accessibility. However, you are still entitled to ask how it is possible for the event to be free of charge – was the artist unpaid?
Artists are entitled to earn a livelihood through their artistic work. Paying artists fair remuneration for their work ensures thriving, high-quality and diverse art.
Audiences get to see only a tiny portion of all the artistic work that goes into the finished product. It can take years to write a book or create enough paintings to fill an exhibition. Even a short half-hour concert demands long periods of practice, not to mention all the work that went into composing and arranging the music and writing the lyrics. When preparing an exhibition or performance, the artist often pays other professionals for their work and services – such as costume designers and technical suppliers.
Artists often earn their livelihoods from multiple sources. Some artforms completely lack employment relationships, collective agreements and minimum wage requirements. Artists often occupy the space between entrepreneurship and paid employment, working instead as freelancers and self-employed people who can easily fall through society’s safety net.
Competition in the arts is intense, and artists have a desperate need to get their foot in the door. This is why they often content themselves with inadequate remuneration. Consumers should be aware that the visibility that is so often offered to artists cannot be converted into pay, even for the most distinguished artists, as long as the structures that enable unpaid work are maintained.