Saturday, February 25, 2012

Labor Pains

Last Friday night, SFL, my daughter's band opened for a well known band in Portland. It was a last minute gig. I'm not sure what happened to the scheduled opening band, but SFL was asked to play the show very last minute, the day before.

I heard from her after they had played their set. It was a great turnout, the sound system was good, she met the other band members. I knew that at this particular show you had to buy tickets, not just pay a cover charge, so I asked her if her band got paid. She told me, no, not this gig, being last minute, things had already been prearranged but they were still happy to play the show.

Nobody seems to realize how much work goes into playing a show, from the years of studying, writing, recording, practicing, packing up gear, setting up, tearing down, giving hours of your time, energy and talent to each performance. It boils down to people taking advantage of artists, students, college graduates or almost anyone that wants to work in a profession that they more than likely are passionate about. Notice I used the word "work". People assume that if someone is playing music, writing, or anything somewhat artistic, that it is more of a hobby, not to be taken seriously, not worthy of financial compensation. I have watched my daughter work at her craft for the past 8 years. She works at it. Yes, she is passionate about what she does, she practices, she writes, she has taken vocal lessons, she has spent plenty of money buying equipment, putting in hours and hours of rehearsal time, traveling to shows, recording and putting out CD's, always networking. Just because a person is doing something he loves he should not be deprived some type of monetary pay. He or she is still providing you an invaluable service. In this case they are playing music, providing entertainment in your establishment, which brings in more customers, which brings you more money, yes, I know you know how it works. And I just don't think it is fair or morally right. We seem to be taught from an early age that "work" goes hand in hand with something less than desirable. If you are lucky enough to work in a field that you enjoy, instead of being paid you need to pay your dues, for a long long time.

The use of Interns is a legitimate (if not shifty) way of companies getting free labor. When I worked at an art gallery they would hire interns. It looks good on a resume. But not so on your bank statement. The Intern would do the hardest and most tedious jobs, lifting, packing, wrapping, shipping, website update, newsletters, and put in a good 8 hour day as well. I don't quite understand what jobs are deserving of "on the job training" and how others feel entitled to offer unpaid internships. Unpaid internships not only exploit but they exclude as well. It is not a reality for the majority of people, young or old, to work for nothing. This means that internships worth getting are only open to those with a large savings account, bank loan or those who can depend on someone else for their financial support.

The fundamental idea behind an internship is that it is a learning experience, that it will help get one's foot in the door to a profession or company in which they seek employment. While they make it appear that this is a benefit for the student/musician/job seeker, it really is much more of a benefit to the employer. They benefit greatly from someones "free" hard work.

I have this situation in my own life. The newspaper will publish my articles in their Sunday edition, but of course, they don't have it in their budget to pay me. Again, they think the exposure is reward enough. I write about a subject that I was schooled in, paid money to learn, have worked in for the past 11 years. It takes hours to write, re-write and edit these articles. But the exposure should be compensation enough, right? I was looking in the jobs section of Craigslist the other day and came upon some disgruntled job seekers response to a job offer. I thought it was classic and though his words are not mine, my sentiment exactly.

Writer for E-Zine for free? (The asshole two spots below me)
Date: 2012-02-24, 12:53PM PST
Reply to: see below [Errors when replying to ads?
Why the &*/@ do all you people with your 'groundbreaking' e-zines offer "Jobs" with NO COMPENSATION? Do you think that writing is easy? If its such a widely available skill that you don't even pay for it, than why don't YOU write for your OWN unsuccessful e-zine. Stop preying on wide-eyed college students looking for a resume builder! Either pay us for our service we are providing for you, or go walk slowly and steadily onto a busy freeway.
Location: The asshole two spots below me
Compensation: YES PLEASE
Principals only. Recruiters, please don't contact this job poster.
Please, no phone calls about this job!
Please do not contact job poster about other services, products or commercial interests.

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