Several weeks before this writing, guitar master Bern Nix passed away. He was an elder master with astonishing musical abilities, and an impressive resume behind him. Yet he was in poverty, living in dire straits for years. His is an old story that seems to keep repeating itself.
This myth of the inevitability of the “starving artist” is self perpetuating. It seems that people on all sides of the equation have it so ingrained into their subconscious that it’s almost expected that musicians be impoverished, ignored, and mistreated.
An Editorial and Commentary on Musical Professionalism By Dawoud Kringle
Look, I get it, OK? This is a hard life we chose. We are trying to cultivate our skills and build a career and a reputation for ourselves. And somehow, through it all, we have to pay the bills, keep a roof over our heads, and put food on the table.
As we all know, there is some sort of mythological historical model that musicians must pay their dues. And despite the vague details surrounding this idea, there is certainly some truth to it. A musician must prove him or herself, must cultivate his or her skills, and build one’s business from the foundation up.
One would think that freelance work is lucrative. On paper, in theory, this is true. The reality, however, is very different. The sad fact is that 1.3 million freelancers in New York city lost an average of $6,000 a year to nonpayment. The reason for this is simple. There is no legal protection for freelancers. If a freelance worker is hired for a job, often he / she is not paid. They may be underpaid, paid late, or never paid at all. If they sue the company, there is no legal framework clearly defining freelancers’ rights in the way a regular W2 employee’s rights are protected. Even if they do win the case, freelancers have no way to actually collect what they’re owed. To add insult to injury, freelancers who dare to challenge having their rightfully earned wages stolen are often blacklisted. The situation is, quite simply, intolerable.
Crunch Time! April is often a super busy month for many musicians with lots of challenges time-wise. Therefore, I offer the following updated version of a time management article I published in the NACWPI Journal several years ago (citation below).