Regardless of the many hats worn as a content creator, my stance has always been the same in regard to audio drama and other expressions of the writing, visual, and performing arts: Art has value.
And I don’t just mean the intrinsic kind.
Good art is worth compensating. Noteworthy productions rely on the work of talented artists at all levels, from writers and performers to designers, editors, and everyone in between. Great productions are driven by the creative input of dedicated talent. If you value your productions, paying your talent should be your number one agenda.
Pay Yourself. Last.
Pay yourself. Absolutely, pay yourself for what you do. But only after you’ve paid everyone else. Remember that it is your pet project, not theirs. Show them that their art has value and compensate folks for helping you see your dream come to life.
If you are a producer and looking at everything you can do for free on the backs of others, you are already approaching art as if your vision has more value than their labor. A good producer starts a project with the intent of paying the people who will work to bring it to life.
If you cannot pay them now and are trying to pay in “exposure” or “residuals” on a show you haven’t even got a budget for, you are starting off on the wrong foot. There has never been a landlord, grocery store, or utility company that will accept an artist’s exposure as legal tender.
Creative works are a job, like any other. They require time, effort, and often skillsets that you do not possess. Paying folks not only reminds them of the value of their talent. It also secures a future for them to continue creating great works.
Treat Your Talent Like Their Art Has Value
Stop trying to do everything yourself. This is an extension of number one. If you’re doing your job correctly, you only have time to do one or two things in the course of a production. Let the professionals handle the rest.
It takes a huge investment in time, energy, and yes money to hone a professional skill. People who have put in years of passion, training, and practice to develop their craft are the ones who will take your project to the next level. I have had the pleasure of working with some top audio drama producers.
It’s a rare privilege that has afforded me the insight that if you want excellent results (and for the sake of your well-crafted writing and excellent ideas, I should hope you would want excellent results), it’s worth paying the best people you can afford to pay.
If You Can’t Pay Them. Don’t Make it. Yet.
Hell. Let it simmer. Let it stew. Good work improves with age. Give it a year, then edit it into something that is worthy of paying to make. Work with a few other people to raise money to make your own show.
But as long as you devalue art and the artists who make it that can’t be a thing. Nobody wants to pay for talent, so nobody wants to pay you, so nobody ever gets paid. Suddenly you’ve ouroboros-ed yourself into your very own starving artist hegemony.
The members of your cast aren’t the only talents in your corner. There are writers who can write it better. Directors who can direct it better. Designers who can design it better. A mixer that can open up your sound.
Whatever your weakness is (which should be whatever your specialty isn’t), there’s someone out there that deserves to get paid, if only a little, to do it better than you can do it yourself. Your work depends on it. Your success as a storyteller depends on it. The only thing not paying and not looking for the right crew does is hurt you in your own pursuits.
1) You’re concentrating on so many things you aren’t able to improve your chosen craft.
2) You’re telling everyone your work isn’t worth paying for since you weren’t willing to pay your talent and crew.
3) You are telling yourself that your art has no value because you’re not willing to pay someone to do what you cannot do to make it right.
A lot of times even paying an artist is meeting them halfway. A music composer I’ve worked with, Amy Bormet, provides me way more for my money than I know she is worth. But we like working together. And we compromise on the price. And when I do get the production with the bigger budget and the more pay, Amy gets that, too.
Why is art so valuable?
When you start paying for something, it has more value to you, as a producer. You start realizing that “good enough” isn’t a thing. That everything you do is an investment in something good, something awesome, something bigger than yourself. And you find the work that you love and value so much has more value because of the talent that left their marks upon it.
When you invest in others to help you create your art -those insane geniuses who lend you their craft for a pittance – you are telling yourself that your art has value and is worth asking others to pay for the result.