Just the other week I blogged about someone who contacted a writer suggesting she work for free. I noted how common this is. Many often meet these proclamations with disbelief. Fortunately, I stumbled across a news item that illustrates my claims.
The ad provoked outrage with posters taking to social media. Artist Conor Collins stated the supermarket should deduct funds from its CEOs so “‘starving artist’ wouldn’t have to be a thing.” People asked if they could claim a free food shop, and often referenced the company’s multi-billion turnover, lambasting them with the facts of less than 10k yearly salaries for artists.
The supermarket apologised and declared the advert as an ‘error of judgement’, but I see it reports they describe it as having occurred following a discussion considering ways to improve the canteen and ‘offer an opportunity to the local community’. Being asked to work for free is an ‘opportunity’ writers and artists are sick of. Yet despite the backlash, I’ve seen some posters stating they saw nothing wrong with this.
In plain English, it is the equivalent of someone saying toil in our office doing the filing for a month without pay and we’ll say thanks, pat you on the back, and send you out into the world with that on your resume. That may sound a reasonable deal if you’re a school leaver, if there’s a chance of a good reference, maybe even a job at the end of those four weeks.
The catch comes when they can get another school leaver in for the following month and the one after that, and perpetually have their filing done for free.
The catch comes when no one cares what you have on your resume and even views the free work as meaningless — after all, if you were any good, someone would have been willing to pay you, wouldn’t they?
The catch comes when you’re no longer eighteen, but ten years have passed, or twenty, and companies are still offering you the same ‘opportunities’ for exposure rather than pay.
This is feeding into all creative areas. Artists, writers, musicians, photographers… Wait, photographers? Yes. It’s an endless list. Watch those news items where the newscasters ask members of the public to send in photographs? Those photos are worth money! A friend of mine is a professional photographer, has worked for local newspapers for years. The highest paid photo earned £200, but that is far from the norm, and the chances are that amount would not be offered now because the paper could put out a call for anyone who had taken a photo on their phone to send it in for free. This friend has had work and payment for remaining employment halved, and most times no longer gets expenses. By the time the cheque has cashed, it hardly covers the cost of petrol to go out and take the shot. All the viewers sending in free photos to newspapers and news channels are making photographers unemployed.
Somehow, it’s become the ‘norm’ to ask for something for nothing. The creative arts are suddenly unimportant, regarded as ‘play’, not proper work, despite many in these enterprises working longer hours than the average office-worker for far less pay. Paintings, books, photos, music… these things are deemed as for leisure and in some bizarre twist have become meaningless. My solution to that is we’ll take them away. Imagine the world without these things. Imagine *gasp* no TV, because someone has to ‘write’ the story. Someone has to design the sets. Someone has to paint the backdrop.
If you’re not part of the solution, you are part of the problem. If you think it’s okay to ask anyone to work for free, you are the problem.
Sainsbury’s have had many slogans, one being ‘Live Well For Less’. I guess that’s a typo, and they really meant ‘Live On Less’. In 2005, apparently its slogan was ‘Making Life Taste Better’. Sorry, Sainsbury’s. You’ve left an appalling taste.