The awkward question of money... | Robin Ince on asking to be paid for what he does

The awkward question of money...

Robin Ince on asking to be paid for what he does

Once Oliver Stone created Gordon Gekko and had him declare 'Greed is good', the audience took a look at themselves in the Odeon toilet mirror and said, Now I realise that my money lust is wrong. Oliver, you have made me a better human. I will aim for comfort, but no longer covet luxury and holiday houses made of mink and tusk.' And the disparity between rich and poor shrivelled and the theme tune to Different Strokes played throughout the land.

Well, it didn't quite turn out that way. There never seems to have been a time where to place a price on everything was considered more right and proper. If you're not looking to fuck over someone in a deal, you must be asleep on your watch or some half-witted throwback, the end of your family line.

Sadly, I am not made of stern enough stuff to crush. I am a namby pamster who is a little embarrassed about money. I'd rather not bring it up. If someone asks me how much I will cost for something, I wince. 'How much have you got… you know… what sort of budget… for someone who does something like I do… I don't want to be greedy… I mean, I'd rather not lose money doing the event…'

IDIOT

The arts is filled with such fools.

There is an embarrassment in bringing up cash, the fact we are allowed to create at all without being imprisoned or tortured should be our reward.

Many will have found themselves at events where everyone working in the room is being paid for their time and expertise, apart from the artist. They are being paid by those generous enough to look at them and enjoy them and have moments of their lives made happier by them.

While others work and sweat and become oily or tired, the artist is just scattering their mind about. The arts are a vocation and you must consider yourself lucky to have been born or shaped into a position where you can daub, scribble or spout.

Other professions suffer this too. Look at the lucky nurses who have chosen to care, not like the poor hedge fund managers who suffer such agonising indigestion from long fizzy lunches that they must be paid top dollar, these lucky things are born to wipe and help and save, they deserve less than the lunched.

Though I know quite a few comedians who find payment a troubling, but necessary, matter, the entertainments industry (the industry? that professional dicking about should have usurped smelting plants and coal mining to have become an industry) is often less coy.

A very funny and award winning young comedian told me how an agent had once told him that his act was not 'financially viable.' A friend of mine went to visit a prospective agent, when asked what sort of career he'd like, he said he quite liked the sort I had. The agent spluttered as if in a Punch cartoon. My career, though it has brought me truly fulfilling moments and a chance to work with my heroes and create some ridiculous and pointless events that have, at the very least, delighted me, is not a proper career. I am neither fabulously wealthy nor famous. He later went on to show off that, when doing a deal that involved one of his clients, he had screwed me out of money repeatedly.

We are in the age of the content provider. Your canvases are not art, they are wall covers. Your songs are silence concealers. Your jokes are emptiness mufflers.

I am fortunate to have a comfortable life working on projects I enjoy. I am still learning and hope to maintain that until a few seconds after my heart gives out. I still grit my teeth and clench my fists when I turn down silly money to do things I know I shouldn't. I was recently offered a corporate for some stockbrokers. The money would have covered the cost of the corner of artspace which I share with some illustrators and where I keep my messy desks for two years. I am fortunate to be in a position where I can do this, though each time I do that, I see my future self shoeless, hungry and alone.

I still find it hard to put a worth on what I do. I am happy to tell people: 'This is the most I have got paid for doing this sort of thing, and this is the least' and then hoping they will be fair. I am sure some may gleefully underpay, but I can always say no.

Josie Long and I have decided to start podcasting again. This is why I was pondering money. Until quite recently, we didn't like the idea of charging for such things, but we have come to the conclusion that, hopefully, enough people have enjoyed what we do, and will, that we can ask for some money from those that can afford it, to spend our time and use our creativity to make something that is good, or at least good for those that like this sort of thing. I am hoping we are not too conceited to imagine this. Are we worth any of the spare cash that may be spent on craft beers, pub gigs, apps or pinball machines?

We will find out.

Are we grotesque now?

Will we find out that our lives and minds are worth nothing?

Could we ever be financially viable?

Let's find out.

If you would like to support our new endeavour, you can donate as little as you wish, but if your hedge fund is heaving, why not use us as a tax write off?

Pledge here if you can. We want to make something good.

• This article first appeared on Robin Ince's blog, and is reproduced with permission. If not payment....

Published: 30 Sep 2015

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