in the future, we pay artists

  • Art is their job. Artists are skilled, talented, and experienced. They practice, take lessons, get degrees, and buy supplies. They invest a lot of time, energy, and money into developing their craft, just as someone goes to medical or trade school.
  • Artists need to eat and pay rent. They also need to pay for their websites, supplies, ongoing training, childcare, health insurance, taxes, classes, and application fees. While they may have other jobs, it is not fair to expect everyone to want or be able to work so many hours and still create.
  • Art is essential. We all appreciate and enjoy art. We are necessary and crucial parts of our communities and society.
  • Virtual performance is a lot! Many artists are responsible for duties they wouldn’t have to handle in person, including filming, tech, and costuming. The pandemic requires new software and equipment. Artists have transformed their homes and boosted their home WiFi. These new expectations extend far beyond those of The Before Times.
  • Payment establishes a business relationship. If the collaboration does not work out, you can end the relationship without it being personal. Without the business relationship, the artists are just doing you a favor. Contracts help.
  • Money allows them to be invested in the project and prioritize it. If they are not paid well, it is more likely they will have to put paid opportunities first. They may have to come late, skip rehearsal, drop out, or check out. Paying artists allows them to focus on their work, whether they have other paying jobs or not.
  • Artists are generally paid as independent contractors. Many artists are self-employed, making their taxes more complicated. They have to independently procure insurance, pay taxes, and continually seek gigs and jobs. They do not generally have paid time off or benefits.
  • Black people are disproportionately affected by everything about this pandemic. We watched our siblings murdered while everyone was supposed to be inside, and then switched tabs to see emails asking for free labor from organizations who claim we matter. We must get paid. We deserve to be paid, regardless of who leads the project.
  • Is this a cold reading where actors can just show up? Pay them for the time they are in reading.
  • Does the dramaturg need to read your play and prepare notes before you meet? Pay them for your meeting and additional preparation time, or factor that into the meeting rate.
  • Will the drag performer need to record and edit their piece? Increase the rate to include this work (vs. what it might be for a live show).
  • Is your collaborator expected to answer lots of emails beyond a standard bio request? Do they need to attend workshops or attend to press requests? Factor this into the contract.
  • Great! Producing involves fundraising. That’s part of the role. Make a campaign, bake cookies, ask your friends. Find some sponsors. Apply for grants.
  • You also don’t HAVE to be the (sole) producer. Can you find a larger organization to produce your piece? Can you collaborate with another group to combine resources?
  • If you’re looking for people outside of your BFFs and decide to advertise this position on forums for professional artists, either be clear that you are asking for volunteers, or pay people. Consider: Is your art so crucial and important it needs to involve unpaid labor? In a panny?
  • Downsize! Keep the team small so people are paid well.
  • Change the format. Have a reading instead of a full production. Publish your script online instead of having a reading. Produce a 10-minute excerpt instead of the whole piece.
  • Wait until you do have the money.
  • Collaborate with your friends and community of volunteers. You are no longer hiring professional artists, but having fun with your friends. That’s okay! Be upfront about it if you are posting a call.
  • Don’t do it. Take a nap. There’s a pandemic. You deserve to rest.
  • Producers seek professional actors without offering adequate compensation.
  • Producers specifically seek marginalized artists without fair pay.
  • People reach out to professional artists and ask them to do unpaid work.
  • People shame artists for asking about pay rates.
  • Marginalized people are viewed as demanding for asking for what they deserve and require.
  • Marginalized artists who cannot afford to volunteer have access to fewer opportunities.
  • The above situations happen during a pandemic. Or to Black artists during Black History Month. Or ever.
  • Be explicit that this is a volunteer opportunity and that you are asking people to donate their time and energy (and possibly money if they have to travel, get supplies, etc.).
  • Do not try to convince them of the value of this opportunity by highlighting “exposure” or forms of compensation that can’t pay a bill.
  • Do not tell a sad story about why you can’t or won’t pay people more. Scrappy, unpaid theatre does not a martyr make, no matter the justification.
  • Consider some exchange to show appreciation and/or make the experience easier, whether that’s providing dinner, paying for their transportation, or promoting their work.
  • Put the specific payment amount in the announcement! Don’t make people ask. Don’t yell at people who ask about compensation or question unfair pay.
  • Advocating for fair pay is not an attack. When we love our communities, we want everyone to be paid fairly and paid well, even if we as individuals are willing or able to work for less.
  • Hire and compensate marginalized people for their formal & informal consulting work.
  • Dissolving and redistributing resources (money or otherwise) are always options for messy white organizations, instead of hiring marginalized people to clean up your messes.
  • It is okay to pay your friends for their work.
  • Talk about money. Tell your friends what you are paid and share how much you are paying. The hush-hush attitude around pay only reinforces pay inequity and permits further worker exploitation.
  • Pay artists for residencies, fellowships, and other educational programs, especially if those artists are from marginalized groups. If artists are paid, they can better commit, contribute, and create. Otherwise, this unpaid work, done for “education” and “exposure,” can become another barrier to financial stability and general well-being.
  • Artists were paid $100 for their participation, which consisted of a 2-hour rehearsal and a 10-minute performance during a 1.5-hour event.
  • The stage manager and stage directions reader received $50 for their work during the event.
  • Lead artists received $200 for a 2-hour rehearsal and a 10-minute piece. The piece was either recorded or performed live during the one-hour event.
  • Actors were paid $150 for the 2-hour rehearsal and a 10-minute performance during the one-hour event.
  • People who participated in the video montage received $50.




I like taro bubble tea, ferns, and musical theatre. Keep up @theeclarel //

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Justin Clarel

Justin Clarel

I like taro bubble tea, ferns, and musical theatre. Keep up @theeclarel //

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