Artists, musical or otherwise, are often told they have a gift, a calling, a muse. Sometimes that sentiment is followed up with a “do you think you could play a free show? It’ll be great exposure” or “can you design a poster for me? I can’t pay you but I just love your work.” It can be easy to want to be “the good guy” and help a friend out, but artists of the world, if your skill is clearly so valuable to others, don’t you think you should get something out of it other than “exposure”?
It can be difficult for artists to put a price tag on something that they feel comes naturally or is just plain fun. They can feel like since they love doing their art so much, that asking to be paid for it isn’t fair or right. That’s one of the first hurdles to get past when one wants to start exploiting their art, or when they start to reach a larger audience.
One thing that artists can feel and express is that they’re just happy for the exposure, and to an extent, doing jobs or giving music away can help you reach the right audience. People that are very into the artistic side of music creation can feel this way, but there has to be a balance with the love to create and the need to be compensated for your skillset and time. Remember: when you play a show or sell a track, you’re not just being paid for your current time and effort; you’re being paid for all of the time and effort you have put into honing your skillset.
An hour-long gig at a venue isn’t just paying you for your time that night. They’re also paying you for the hours you spent at music lessons to master your instrument, the cost of your instrument itself, practice time, and the time you spent practicing for this show.
A single that you sell isn’t just that track, it’s the computer you recorded, mixed and mastered it on, it’s the time you spent learning your DAW, it’s the hours you spent tweaking settings on a synth or nudging your notes up and down a few cents in Melodyne to make a polished sounding record. It’s your nights of staying up until 3 a.m. getting that perfect vocal take.
Taking a confident stance on your work having value on social media can go a long way too. Try not to degrade or tear down your work to make yourself seem humble or unassuming. You work hard for your art, and artists will always be their own worst critics, but presenting your work in a favorable light to others is important. If you post a link to a video with the introduction of “hey guys, check out my new track, it’s not the best, but I hope you like it” doesn’t really make others want to look at it. You don’t have to oversell or be arrogant, but you shouldn’t degrade your product right off the bat. You wouldn’t buy a TV if the first thing the salesman said to you was “there’s this TV right here, it’s not the best but I hope you like it,” would you?
Your time and particular skill set have inherent value, and you have to feel that for your works. Even if your endgame isn’t to be rich or famous, having the mindset of “What I do has value. My time is valuable. My art is valuable.” is one of the first steps you have to take to ensure that you won’t be taken advantage of. If you value your work, or even just pretend to, it will be easier for other people to see that value.