Who Pays Artists? (And Who Doesn’t)

June 3, 2014 | Marina Galperina

“Making a living as an artist can be hard,” says WhoPaysArtists.com in the greatest understatement you’ll read today. Inspired by Who Pays Writers?, Kyle McDonald (People Staring At ComputersConversnitch) and contributors have just launched a site welcoming users to anonymously share their experience being paid something (or nothing) by someone somewhere for working a certain number of hours, weeks or months on a a commission, exhibition, performance or residency, etc.

You never know how much to ask for. Discussions about money are taboo because we pretend that passion and creativity alone should pay the bills. Some of the best events have “no budget”, and sometimes only the worst events can make a career as an artist look painfully sustainable.

The project aims to develop an ongoing dialogue. Submissions are already rolling in. Here’s a few:

I was paid $3000 by Rhizome for a commission in New York.
It took 9 months of work.
I am a woman, and have been doing this for 5 years.
Also: this was one of several grants that helped fund this project

I was paid £150 by Vice for a performance in london.
It took 1 hour of work, and I had a unusually bad experience.
I have been doing experimental music 5 years.

I was paid $7500 by (an industry group) for a talk/lecture in Arizona.
It took 1 day of work, and I had a unusually good experience.
I have been doing this for 12 years.
Also: This was an anomaly – Usual speaker fees are an order of magnitude lower. Priced this much since they asked if I had a speakers agent

I was paid $30000 by State of Utah for a commission in Utah.
It took 2 months of work, and I had a unusually good experience.
I am a man, and have been doing visual art 16 years.
Also: This was a ‘call for artist’ that I applied for and won.
Submitted in early June 2014

I was paid nothing for a performance in Moscow.
It took 20 days of work, and I had a bad experience.
I am a woman, and have been doing performance art 15 years.
Also: The gallery was welcoming, but no press but hostile misogynist male presence.

I was paid $9 by TaskRabbit for a performance in New York.
It took 1 day of work.
I am a woman.
Also: I received a $5 tip!

It’s tough out there, but sometimes it isn’t so tough. See more and share your experience at WhoPaysArtists.com, access all of the data in a single JSON or CSV file, or contribute to the project on GitHub. Also useful: @WhoPaysInterns.