It is ok to pay for something, and it is ok to charge for something. But if we give away something in a good faith that the universe will return the favor some day, we are instantly told that we devalue something. Since when was it not ok to help your neighbor anymore? Since when was it not ok to bring joy into the world of a complete stranger?
I understand the value of professional help when we are having tough times. But we are actually paying people to listen. We are paying by the hour to someone listen and ask us how it makes us feel. I for one always try to listen to my friends, and I am not going to be charging them. Maybe my advice is not academically sound, but it’s free and I am not expecting anything in favor.
If I ask a photographer to collaborate with me on my album cover, the assumption that I am trying to exploit another artist gets thrown around straight away. A friend of mine asked a while back on his Facebook page someone to help him set up a basic website for his band. The advice and help poured in fast, but sooner or later someone pointed out how the web designer should get paid the same as the artist. My friend and a fellow artists reply sums it up all “I’m just asking for help. That’s what friends do, they help each other.”
As an artist I have inbuilt need to work. I will work even if no one is going to pay me. I am going to write songs and record them at home, as that is who I am. I will go out and play shows even if I don’t get paid, as that’s what I do. And that is how I will build my following. If you think I should never work for free, I welcome you to follow your own advice and sit home waiting someone to call you and offer the fee you are expecting, the fee you think defines your music. I’ll let you sit and wait for that phone call while I go out to play and engage with my audience.
Do artist stop painting because no one is buying their paintings? Do photographer stop taking photos because no one is not paying them to take photos? How do you become better at something, if you don’t practice it all the time? Your value is not what you think it is. It is what people are willing to pay for your work.
And I am not saying this to devalue art or music. I am not saying you should not get paid for your work. When the money comes, take it. But the money should not define what you do as an artist.
The author J.P. Kallio is a singer songwriter
To get EIGHT of his songs for free go HERE