You wouldn’t ask your professional babysitter to watch your kids for free. Neither would you ask your professional landscaper to trim your hedges for free. I always wonder why some people underestimate the work of people in the professional creative industry. I have a few friends in the music production and almost of of them have these dreadful stories of being used and abused. Shoddy terms and conditions, client’s expectations of excellent delivery for measly remuneration, and blatant underappreciation for the creative process. Let’s say a band has been asked to do an an hour long live gig at this party. The band would need multiple rehearsals which can easily add up to over 12hours. (And that does not include the cost of commuting to the rehearsal location, and nourishment–they must eat, right?) Now, let’s suppose the band members have not enrolled in Obamacare–they are now running around town with no medical insurance and God help them if they have no life insurance either.

Just press the black and white keys

So, a professor once asked one of his students who was a pianist to come play for his grandbaby’s 5th birthday (the little one had taken a keen interest in piano and he hoped the presentation would inspire to up the ante on her practice). As they negotiated the price, the professor seemed exasperated that this student was not willing to lower his rates. “How could an hour possibly cost that much? Don’t you just have to press those black and white keys?” The student retorted, “If it’s just ‘the thing’ with black and white keys why don’t you go ahead and play the piano with the same harmony and synchrony as I would. Go ahead give it a try.”

I read this on Brandon Stanton’s photoblog Humans Of New York on Facebook and I thought it was just appropriate for my little rant.

“I’ve been working as an actor and I’ve been in a bit of a rut recently. We need money for rent, school, every bill under the sun. And we want to have a kid soon, so we should really be putting money away for that. We sat down over pizza recently to figure out our finances. She helped convince me that I’m not an idiot.”

“I tend to be the more practical one in the relationship. I told him: ‘This isn’t you. This is just right now.’ We’ve just got to start from the basics and figure things out. Eric needs to be acting and making films, and I’m happiest when he’s doing those things. We just need to make a few small adjustments to make the numbers work. He’s extremely talented, but he agrees to do too many things for free. Nobody would ever ask a lawyer to work for free. But actors and artists get asked all the time. And if Eric likes the person, he’ll work for 80 hours with no compensation. It’s fine to do unpaid projects because you’re passionate. But you have to feel really strongly about it. In each case, we’ve got to ask if the passion is worth more than the dollars.”

If you’re reading this and you know someone who underpays creative professionals, let them know this:  You’re not only paying for the product, you’re also paying for the creative sovereignty and the time, and energy that goes into the preparation.

You can see the rest of HONY stories here as well: