This is all to do with making a living doing something of creative value.

“I have hit a wall. So many people complimenting my work and the causes I am involved in yet I feel I am getting nowhere! Don’t get me wrong, I love what I am doing and appreciate beyond words the support I have received but if my work is really that amazing why can’t I get paid work or financial backing? Where am I going wrong??? I don’t want what I do to become about the money but sometimes it has to be. If only I could pay for everything with hugs and paint. I’d be pretty bloody wealthy then! I’m sure this rut will pass.”
– a good friend.

An interesting modern day solution to this conundrum was recently introduced with a new buzz word – slashies. “Two jobs are better than one” is the catch cry for a growing band of professionals looking for both career advancement and personal satisfaction. It sure does sound like a well balanced productive approach to work.

I’m fascinated by how this question relates to the 1000’s of musicians and artists I’ve connected with around the world. How do they get paid? How do they make a living?

Just to back up on this issue – there are a huge number of well known market forces that are creating an unfortunate dynamic for artists and creators around the world at the moment, especially in the field of creative labour costs and copyright. There is also an unending debate around ‘how many gigs should I do for free?’ and ‘how to build a brand from nothing?’. Reading The Lean Startup may be of some help.

To accept things as they are for just one minute – I currently see two real life living functional approaches that seem to work for me and my friends.

1. Slash Artists
Many artists have a day job. They are violinists / software developers or photographers / financial analysts. They collaborate with orchestras and galleries during the evening and they have a professional standard ‘sell out’ job during the day. I see this has a major distinction between an ‘informal’ career and a ‘formal’ economy as discussed in detail in Jaron Laniers recent book Who Owns The Future. Do you have two jobs? Do you have more than two jobs?

2. Exclusive Artists
This is a rare group of people who have found a way to capture and create a product that others can not. It’s a strange (non artistic) way of thinking. ‘Exclusive’ artists are people who are able to do something that others are simply not will to do themselves. Whether it be by taking a photo whilst sky diving, or constructing a 10mtr high metal sculpture, some artists have realised that – if something can only be accessed by a limited group behind closed doors then they can start sell tickets. Selling tickets, or selling creations is the ultimate dream. For some reason people jump through hoops to pay for something that don’t need that has an ‘exclusive’ sticker on the top.

For example; if quality live music is performed on a street corner people will walk past and simply not pay. Why bother right? If on the other hand this very same musician plays the same music in a closed room surrounded by a team of publicists and hype then they may be able to charge a fortune. I know, it’s a kind of obvious but it actually blows my mind. I find it interesting that this value conversion to cash is not based on quality but instead on exclusivity. It’s a game.

Working on Musomap has been a massive learning curve for me. I work on Musomap and World Musician Day because it is fun and because I think it is important. Currently it is not a viable concept economically and so I share many of the frustrations I have with my friends. Eventually I believe I will find a way to make Musomap and World Musician Day an economically viable project. In order to do this I’ve been given the opportunity to speak with a number of powerful arts industry CEOs and Directors in Australia and I’ve found something in all of them. They are people who understand economics and exclusivity above anything else. To be honest, it freaks me out, isn’t the music industry supposed to be their to help musicians fulfill their creative dreams?

It’s actually quite heart breaking to realise that the joy I get our of building Musomap is in itself the payment. Each line of code I write is actually fun – and it is this ‘fun’ that is the reward. Similarly, quite often the payment my artist friends receive for performing in a concert is only the applause. They simply don’t get paid , and to some extent that may be OK.

Australian land owners know this all too well. For musicians, artists, candle stick makers, photographers and bakers, I’ve found that a synthetic ‘wall of exclusivity’ is required to convert a passion into a viable economic proposition.

One of Australia’s most prominent music industry facilitators once said to me:

“Music and genre are not concepts created by musicians, or even the audience, instead they are market driven forces that publishes have created in order to build barriers and fences within which people can be grouped together in order to make them feel exclusive and valued. No educated free thinking musician would want to pigeon hole themselves into any given genre.”

Giving an art form away freely does seem like a good idea but if it leaves you without any reward is it worth it? How do we artists remain free and open in our work without becoming sociopathic economists?

By day I’m a software developer in a formal sell out economy in corporate Sydney. By night I am a violinist in an informal authentic economy performing with a number of orchestras in Sydney. Everything else I do fits in between. Perhaps that is as good as it gets.