Among phrases I avoid because they are so overused as to be the special preserve of dickweeds, mainly, is ‘Check your privilege.’ But I felt like it earlier, when I spotted yet another idiot trying to assert that people who do anything artistic or creative are somehow ‘less authentic’, have less ‘passion’ and produce inferior work if they are getting paid for it. (And it wasn’t the fucking Huffpo this time, either).
This isn’t, particularly, a rant about whether or not anyone should compromise on the type of work they want to produce in order to be more commercially appealing: that’s a whole other set of issues to get annoyed about. Fundamentally, that one’s up to the artist in question and no one should be blamed for choosing either of the two paths on offer should the choice be open to them.
It’s a privileged mindset to insist that art should be undertaken for no financial reward, because you can only really consider money unimportant if you have enough to get by on, or have mostly had enough to get by on. Like the girl in Common People, if you are temporarily living a low-income life but know that one phone call to your family will bail you out, you’re not really a ‘starving artist.’
It’s usually the people who are not, themselves, starving – or even struggling to pay next month’s rent – who make such a noise about the validity of creative work produced by the poor, or the untrained (or even the incompetent). It was generally the ex-public-school music journalists, up to about 20 years ago, who sneered the most at ‘art school’ musicians – never mind the fact that art college was often the best escape route available to the bright kids from the poorest backgrounds.
The people who can afford to take up photography, writing, music, sculpture, or any kind of performance art as a little hobby for which they seek no reward certainly have every right to do this. It’s not particularly unethical of them to do their thing for friends – or charitable causes – without pay, if that’s what they want to do. What *is* unethical, thoughtless and tiresome, is to peddle the line that everyone else should do the same; should give up their time and effort for the benefit of those they don’t know – or those who are, themselves, making a little money out of the end result.
The people who think they are actually entitled to something ‘genuine’, which they wouldn’t get if they paid the artist or creator for the performance/piece of work are even more tiresome. For a long list of wankers who consider themselves ‘cheeky’, edgy, charming or deserving in other ways and therefore creative people should just give them what they want and stop complaining, check out Stop Working For Free.