Tuesday, June 02, 2015

If the artists starve, we’ll all go hungry

A few weeks ago I was trolling the internet (meaning searching, not writing snotty responses to postings!) and came across the linked opinion piece on The Globe and Mail website. After my posting of last week, I think it’s entirely appropriate to follow up with this view. It certainly hits the nail squarely on the head. Why don’t you read it? Click HERE. I’ll wait for you…

As you know if you’ve hung around Type M for any amount of time, I wear two hats, artistically speaking. Not only do I write, I also play music. I have many friends who are creators of art in many fields. I think we could all say the same thing: it’s nearly impossible these days to make a go of it.

To be honest, it always has been. In times past, artists used to have sponsors and supporters, people who felt that their art was important and valuable – and were willing to put their money where their mouth was to support starving artists. Sometimes these people commissioned works. Sometimes they just gave money. The important point was, the chosen artists had the financial means to devote their life to the creation of their art.

Such sponsors still exist, but they’re  few and far between. Philanthropists tend now to bestow their largesse on institutions. That’s worthy, too, but it doesn’t necessarily create new art.

When I first came to Toronto, I was playing in a band, a very good band called Devotion. We could actually make reasonable money playing in bars on weekdays and doing one-nighters on weekends. This allowed us to work days on original material, rehearsing it, refining it in front of audiences, all with an eye to getting that chance at the big time with a recording contract. It didn’t happen, of course, but that wasn’t the fault of anything but our own stupidity and inability to rise above our egos.

The point was, though, we could survive doing music full-time.

Now? Good luck. Very few clubs have live music and almost zero hire bands for a week. You’re lucky if you can get one night per week in a particular club. The money also hasn’t kept pace with inflation at all. In fact, it’s less than what we made in 1974! It’s said with gallows humour in music circles that a musician is a person who piles $50,000 worth of instruments into a $5000 van to drive 500 miles to play a $50 gig. The sad thing is, it’s actually true.

As noted in last week’s post, it’s pretty much the same thing for mid-list authors.

Even combining what I make in both my artistic endeavors, I wouldn’t be able to even make the dividing line between poverty and “doing okay”. Hence the graphic design job I also do.

Does anyone owe me a living? No. I do what I do because I’ve chosen to. I probably could have been an excellent lawyer or doctor. I chose music as my career (the writing came later and more slowly) because I couldn’t imagine doing anything else with my life. I spent a hell of a lot of time and quite absurd amounts of money to learn my craft, and I’m good at it.

It sure would be nice to be able to pay all the bills and have a little disposable money left over at the end of the month, though…

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