SCAM ALERT: The Pay to Play Epidemic / by Missy Douglas

El Greco,  Christ Driving the Money Changers from the Temple , 1568

El Greco, Christ Driving the Money Changers from the Temple, 1568

Imagine you are a plumber. A potential client calls you asking you to install a new bathroom. You spend time listening to what they want. You spend time putting in a bid which is tailor-made in terms of cost, quality and aesthetic. It's a good, attractive proposal. Yet in order to even be considered for the work, you have to pay the client a hefty fee to submit the bid. You duly do so in the knowledge that you need the work in order to pay your bills. It's a gamble but, on balance, you think it's worth a punt. You wait. You hear nothing from the client. No feedback, no fee return, no compensation for the hours of work you've already completed in research, proposal writing and planning. If you are lucky, you get a two line stock rejection email which, rubbing salt into the wound, 'offers you the opportunity of applying next time round to support our work and community'. Sound fair? OF COURSE NOT. You'd say, 'Fuck it, who the hell do these people think they are?!'.

Well my friends, welcome to the art world. Every month professional artists hemorrhage money on entry fees to shows, exhibitions and funding opportunities (oh, the irony!) - fees which total a huge % of our income. We take financial risks for the 'privilege' of showing. This 'Pay to Play' business model is unethical and morally bankrupt, actively exploiting the artist's desperation for paid work and exposure, and erecting an impossible barrier to entry for those with income that is already way below the poverty line. Organizations: don't whine that arts funding is so low that you have to do it. BULLSHIT. Most of you are private enterprises that are engaged in this practice. By doing this, you are actively destroying the bricks that hold your house together. So artists, RISE UP. DEMAND SOMETHING FOR YOUR MONEY. VALUE YOUR SKILLS. HAVE SELF RESPECT. And if all else fails, become a plumber.