Following recent government proposals to change junior doctors’ salaries in the UK, the issue of musicians’ pay and livelihood sprung to mind. It’s no secret that after years of vigorous, dedicated and professional training, more than half of professional musicians are paid no more than £30,000 per year (with a large proportion of those having worked for free at several points). True, there are the few that make it to the big league, but what about the rest?
Government funding for music has already been reduced by over £20 million in the past 4 years, and several councils have already implemented restructures and redundancies. Despite the best intentions of the government in 2011 to launch The National Plan for Music (resulting from the 2011 Henley Review) as a way of enabling every child to be able to learn an instrument, there is currently less money than ever to go around. With house prices rising and the high cost of living in London, can musicians without job security, pension, sick pay or benefits lead a good quality of life (let alone obtain a mortgage)? Difficult? No doubt. Possible? Absolutely.
As with any industry, the music industry is ever-changing. And in order to stay successful and progress, the ability to adapt to those changes is essential. Mind-set alone obviously cannot change certain circumstances beyond one’s control, however, there are various things musicians can do, today, to make sure that when circumstances change, they at the front of the queue and ready to pounce on that golden opportunity:
1. It's a Circus out There! – the need to embrace juggling various income streams is essential. As the nature of the music industry does not lean towards a full time 9 – 5 job with a neat package of benefits, musicians need to rely on multiple sources of income. This involves careful organisation, budgeting, familiarity with tax, and also authoritative negotiation (where appropriate) in order to get the recompense you deserve for any job.
2. Back To The Future - classical music is a traditional, established genre of music. However, the mind-set of a classical musician must shift into more modern times. The importance of the internet and social media should not be overlooked, and the ability to raise income from streaming and selling online is essential. Musicians should be savvy on understanding their legal rights and in doing so, will avoid selling themselves short and can instead maximise on opportunities.
3. I'm a Musician, Get Me Out of Here! - the commercialization of air travel has made the majority of industries international. Countries in Asia greatly value a British educated musician for nurturing its own national talent, whilst orchestras in the USA are known for recompensing its orchestras significantly more than their British counterparts (at an average of £86,000 in the US versus £37,000 in the UK). This is by large due to US orchestras being funded almost completely by private money, however is also illustrative of its loyal and gutsy unions which protect musicians’ working hours and pay like a Rottweiler does it owner. In short, the ability to work abroad, for however long, is within reach, and should not be ruled out during a musician’s career. So, from the moment a musician graduates, sniffing for opportunities abroad should gradually become second nature.
4. Yes, Yes, Yes! - the past 5 years has seen increasingly popular fields such as video game audio, music therapy (see 'What's the Deal with Music Therapy?' article), session work and private function gigs gaining prominence within the music industry. These provide considerably higher pay than more traditional gigs, and should one of these land on a musicians’ doorstep, the overwhelming advice is to say YES.
Whilst the classical music industry does not make you think ‘cha-ching’, the 21st Century has also brought with it so many opportunities. If it’s possible for someone to start a business in their cupboard and grow it into a multi-national success, so too is it possible to face the music (no pun intended) and use the resources available to ensure that after years of professional training, musicians take control of their careers and get the recompense they deserve.
For further information and helpful links:
Musicians Union: http://www.musiciansunion.org.uk
Music Mark: http://www.musicmark.org.uk
Performing Rights Society: http://www.prsformusic.com
The arts and culture industry contributes around £6 billion of GVA to the UK economy. We’ve already seen days of strikes at the National Gallery in London, there are anticipated cuts as part of the government’s plan to reduce deficit, and artists’ fluctuating financial security not only stems from a traditionally unstable salary but from the lack of pensions and benefits. Short of doing a Nicholas Cage move in Face/Off and becoming David Cameron, is there anything artists themselves can do to improve their financial prospects? Always.
Most important is perhaps an artist’s ability to manage having various streams of income. Rarely will an artist nowadays purely spend his/her time doing one thing. Of course, when you become Damien Hirst, do this to your heart’s content. But for the average artist, a 9 – 5 job is common, and for others, using a combination of web sales, commission projects, grants, teaching positions and gallery showings is the norm.
So, what sources of income are out there?
1. Commission Me, Baby! – many artists prefer commission work over all else, and it’s understandable to see why. To be able to create a bespoke piece for a private client, at a price which the artist has negotiated, is a creative's dream. Meantime, for public commissions, although artists will only get a commission of the total cost of a project (e.g. 15% of a new building project), such work is nonetheless bespoke, and that in itself enables an artist to do what they love the most - create.
2. I Want That Space! – non-profit galleries tend to show work that is quirkier, more cutting edge and fresh. They won’t represent an artist or require contracts to be drawn, and their commission on any sale of a piece tends to remain under the 30% mark. Alternatively, exhibiting at a commercial gallery is often the champagne popping moment, although it does come at a price. Commission is set at a higher rate of up to 50%, and artists should always read the small print in gallery contracts – if the gallery is representing the artist, the agreement may also require that commission on any out of gallery sales (e.g. online sales) be paid. It goes without saying that this should be avoided at all costs!
3. Come Into My World! – if you have a light, airy and spacious studio, bringing buyers to your world (either through private appointments or through open studio events) should always be on your annual agenda. Nothing beats the allure of a piece than seeing it in its natural environment (your studio) alongside a private tour by its creator (you), so get those festive periods blocked out in your diary and start planning for in-studio exhibitions.
5. Gransterize Yourself! – finally and although competitive to obtain, grants are available for artists and vary in amount and source. Whilst grants in the UK are being reduced in line with the government’s cuts to arts funding, countries in the European Union and Scandinavia have been on a grant roll for years. For those with an opportunity to work or live in such countries: in France, artists can claim up to £6,000 purely to equip their studios, whilst in Denmark, selected artists are granted annual stipends of up to £17,000 for the rest of their lives. Rest. Of. Their. Lives. Yes, you read correctly.
So – whilst the image of ‘the struggling artist’ still resonates within the industry, artists who can play the industry at its own game and get savvy about business and commerce can end up juggling a variety of fruitful income streams whilst still doing exactly what they love. Create art.
For further information and helpful links:
Arts Council England: http://artscouncil.org.uk/
Artists Network: http://www.artistsnetwork.com/
Arts Hub: http://www.artshub.co.uk
It’s still October, temperatures are still (increasingly) freezing, and it is still a Frieze Frenzy out there. Frieze London and Frieze Masters have taken over the art world over the course of a week long art fair displaying works by contemporary and living artists. Frieze is but a slice of the overall art fair phenomenon which has flooded the art industry over the past 2 decades, ever since the Gramercy Park Hotel in New York City held its first art fair in 1994. Currently, there are now so many art fairs that even critics and journalists struggle to keep count.
Our last article focused on how artists can get in on the art fair action. Yes, buyers, it’s now your turn. Now we move the spotlight to how buyers can take advantage of the art fair phenomenon and saddle up before you’re left like the last kid to be picked in PE class team dibs.
Whether you’re a collector or investor, the key to starting your own art collection is research. Research and networking. The price of art has risen more than 1000% over the last 4 decades, and with so many different types of art to specialise in (drawings, paintings, photography, mixed media, sculpture, digital, prints and even video), how on earth do you begin? Add to that the huge disparity of prices ranging from reproductions (copies without a limited run of printing) on the budget end, slowly increasing at giclées (often classified as ‘museum quality’ due to their superior print), further increasing at prints (a copy although often in limited print and good for investors with limited funds to begin their collections), and ending at the high end with originals (one of a kind rarities with heavy price tags). An added difficulty (which luckily doesn’t apply at Frieze) is confirming authenticity if an artist is deceased. Have you obtained a thorough appraisal of the piece and received a certificate of authenticity from an expert?
Art fairs remain one of the best places for novices to develop an eye for art, ask questions, research and mingle with the art industry. Unlike auction houses, where marketing hypes, buyer’s premium (around 10% – 20% added to your final bid), cowboy dealers and the pressurised environment all add to an almost war-like experience, art fairs provide a more relaxed environment for evaluating and learning. And, as most private investors commonly start out as private collectors, the art fair is the perfect place to peruse. For most investors, apart from the obvious point of art being of enjoyment value, art is also a physical asset (controlled by you), appreciates over time (unlike e.g. stocks) and rarely encounters market fluctuations (unlike financial markets which are a volatile rollercoaster in comparison).
Conversely, getting to the stage of being able to see you art appreciate over time takes a. very. long. time. And research. Whereas investment in the stock market would be a straightforward matter of researching the relevant company, reviewing their earnings report and doing your due diligence on the fundamentals, comparative information for art does not come in a similar clean, straight forward package, and often requires much research and familiarization with the industry as a whole. Additionally, art is not a liquid asset, and whereas selling other investment vehicles are as simple as picking up the phone or clicking on your computer, selling your art will take time, planning and effort, including knowing the right dealers and galleries, as some may facilitate a direct sale. During the time you have your art, you will also need to factor in expenditure for displaying, storing and caring for your art. Damaged art will lose value, so you will need to have it insured. Finally, what if you do all of the above but your art doesn’t appreciate over time? The art world has often been labelled fickle, and this is true. You have to be willing to take a certain amount of risk that an established artist may be toast of the town one day, but fall out of favour just as quickly.
So, take a deep breath, get your notepad ready, put your curiousity cap on, switch on your networking brain, and get out there!
October in London is the month of (increasingly) freezing temperatures and of what we like to call the Frieze Frenzy. Frieze London and Frieze Masters represent the largest art fair featuring contemporary and living artists in London, attracting collectors, curators and dealers across the globe. Over the course of the week long fair, numerous deals are brokered, artists attract followers for their work, and several rise to become ‘star du jour’ in what is an internationally recognised and sought after event in the art world.
So – how can artists and buyers take advantage of the art fair phenomenon and jump on the fair train before it leaves?
If you’re lucky enough nab a spot as an artist at either Frieze London or Frieze Masters, you’re one third of the way there. With so many art fairs out there, it’s crucial that you pick the right fairs to exhibit at – shabby, unreputable art fairs can drag down your brand and following.
With art fairs such as Frieze displaying a multitude of good pieces, never forget to stand out, which may be difficult if you’ve been designated the dark space behind the broom cupboard. Always negotiate for prime positioning, with clear sight lines, good natural lighting, and plenty of space around your piece(s).
Getting ‘the nod’ to exhibit at a coveted fair, for many artists, is ‘the moment’. But before you start spending your hard earned moolah on celebratory Veuve Clicquot, remember that the cost of displaying at an art fair can be substantial, and if badly planned, could result in you returning to your studio post-event feeling like the token person on a night out that couldn’t handle their alcohol. Hungover, hungry, tired, broke, sad. In essence, an utterly, truly, broken man. Make sure you consider the time, costs and manpower of managing booth setup, daily tear downs and restocks in all weather conditions. Subject to the size of your pieces, would renting an RV (which can double up as transport and accommodation) be cheaper than hiring a truck or trailer? Or will you require professional shipping if you are based overseas? Always remember that there is life after the fair, and if you need to continue producing art during the fair, can you afford to return to your studio post-event and replenish inventory then?
What began as an ‘alternative’ art fair, Frieze has now become very mainstream and has revolutionarised the art industry. As Frieze moves forward, we wonder whether it will start including more international artists, to ensure that there is no repetition and to enable artists from India and Asia to also obtain some exposure? Will you be Friezing this year?