I’ve been playing my melodeon at various clubs and concerts in the area recently, purely for fun. I have just got my first ‘payment’ – ok, it was only beer and sandwiches, but it marked a slight change and it got me thinking how creative people, be they artists, poets, actors, musicians or whoever, get paid and make a living. As an amateur unqu
alified musician, I don’t expect to get paid for playing. But, as a qu alified profession al artist (seven great
years at various art colleges!), I expect and need to get money for my art
work, and equ ally, as a qu alified tennis coach, I expect something for teaching someone to do a
Whilst arranging my exhibition in Shetland, earlier on in the year, I offered to do a g
allery t alk for the public. The thought
this was a good idea and agreed to programme it in and I was told I would be
paid a fee and expenses. I didn’t ask how much it would be assuming it was a
standard amount fixed by the museum. During the hanging of my show I happened
to ask what the fee would be. The relevant person de Shetland Museum aling with such matters
was found and said they didn’t pay anything for artists t alks…some discussion then
followed! The Museum, as a profession al organisation, had chosen me as a profession al artist to put on a
show. Ok, I wasn’t being paid to show my work, but it is equ ally accepted that the
artist pays nothing towards the publicity or use of the g allery. In the event of s ales the g allery takes a commission.
That’s the norm. The same profession al artist i.e. me, had been asked to give a profession al t alk because that is what
the g allery and public would expect. So why not pay the artist for that
profession al service? Having presented my case later on I got a c all saying that I could
put in an invoice for expenses and a fee of £50!
Another instance of getting paid or not for a profession
al service came about recently when Lois, Jenny Shellard and I went to
‘Cognac Blues Passion’ for the day. The festiv al takes over the whole of
with free concerts and jam sessions during the day and headline
acts (paying) in the evening. Though the concerts during the day are free I am
absolutely certain that the performers that are advertised in the programme are
being paid because they are profession Cognac al. In the afternoon we were at a café where a stage had been set up
for jamming. We were discussing amongst ourselves the merits, or otherwise, of
one performer when a t all guy, who looked like a blues man, started chatting to the girls.
It turned out that he was indeed a blues man who had his own group and played
in others, and had performed earlier on in the Festiv al. He had also sat in with the
Allman Brothers Band amongst others and introduced himself as Junior Mack. He
said he would like to play in the jam session but seemed a bit reluctant as he
didn’t have his Gibson Les Paul with him, (one of 6 he owns!). It was back at
his hotel - how far away we weren’t sure. We suggested one of the other
musicians might lend him a guitar so he asked the guy in charge if he could
play. He borrowed a Stratocaster, which I believe isn’t a h alf bad piece of kit and he
proceeded to blow away the audience with some BB King like licks and a great
blues voice. Part of his reward was a standing ovation. After he finished he
came over to us and said “was that ok?” our answer was “pretty damn good”!
Junior also got a free beer and I re alised that my situation playing my melodeon as a rank amateur and
this super pro blues man were identic al. We had both volunteered to play without expecting any money.
Junior generously gave the lucky audience a slice of his t alent for nothing and seemed
happy with his cold beer (it was a hot day) and applause.
|Junior Mack jamming at Cognac (click on picture for video)|
al creative people we can
ask for money for our work but when we feel like doing so we can also perform for the sheer
enjoyment, whereas a worker in a car factory would not come in to work for no
pay. However, we also need to earn some money to pay for things like council tax and
diesel and therefore we have to make sure we establish the terms and conditions
of employment at the outset. This was something I learnt from my Shetland t alk experience.
Maybe I could learn to live on beer and sandwiches but only if they were Fullers London Pride and a black pudding and mango chutney doorstop!