Illustration by Jada Webb | Staff Illustrator

For struggling artists trying to find success in their area of passion, a big break can be valuable in making their dream more sustainable. The right concert or art show can catapult an artist out of the relegation of a hobby and into the realm of a career. However, after all the time and energy put into honing a craft, one of the most annoying and disheartening things an artist can hear is, “We can pay you in exposure.”

“Exposure” is a favorite buzzword of bar owners, event promoters and other would-be patrons who incorrectly believe their gracious allowance of opportunity for artists is sufficient payment for services rendered. The assumption comes from a place where, in the nondescript future, the band or artist makes it big through some other means, due in no small part to the exposure given by the facilitator.

The intention behind these kinds of offers is not inherently malicious but is certainly ignorant. For many artists, while the dream of someday receiving widespread acclaim is a favorable endgame, there are other reasons for creating and performing which cannot be satisfied by exposure.

Artists, like most people, need a place to live, food to eat and transportation to make it through the week. Despite promoters raving about the exposure, it will not help pay rent or fill up the gas tank. If artists do not have a revenue stream to pay for their necessities, the promise of stardom is simply not possible.

Other expenses artists need payment for are the tools and means in which they can make their art. Paint and musical instruments do not grow on trees or randomly appear out of thin air. Supplies cost money, regardless of the amount of exposure an artist gets.

The obvious alternative is to pay artists instead of relying on exposure. If a band is hired or an individual to commission a painting, the patron should pay the artist adequately for the service. The neat thing about monetary payment is it allows artists to continue living and following their aspirations, in addition to receiving the exact same exposure as if they were not paid.

Artists are commonly assumed to be the exception to the rule of paying people for working. There is not a single architect, journalist, doctor, teacher or any other profession imaginable who would ever be expected to perform a professional service for free for the sake of getting their name out there. Art can and should be fun for the creator but in the end, it is still the fruits of one’s labor and should be compensated as such.

Everyone enjoys and consumes art in some form. If this was not the case, business owners and patrons would not think to hire live musicians or requests murals. But their support of this work has to be reflected in how the artist is treated. Without artists, there would be no art and without that, a society is devoid of anything worthy of maintaining. To foster this important component of our world, patrons must pay artists in more than just the vague promise of exposure. Hardworking artists put incredible effort into making this world vibrant and beautiful.

– Zach Ienatsch is a journalism senior

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