Dan Boud and Elmo Keep weighed in on this over the weekend, arguing, essentially, that they agree the system is properly broken, and the best way for artists to sustainably work in music media is to fund themselves elsewhere - i.e. through corporate assignments. They both point out, correctly, that there are worthwhile and less tangible benefits to be found in low-paid editorial. In Dan’s words:
‘The longer i work in this field i feel that editorial is akin to personal work - or should be. It’s where you learn, flex your creativity, test ideas and gather an audience. It won’t make you a living but it will lead you into the arms of people and their organisations that become fans and want to pay you fairly to do what you do.’
While this is true (and reflects my own experience and business model exactly), I find it a bit defeatist to voice. While it’s a solution, it’s not the ideal one, and I find it perpetuates the dangerous idea that it's impossible for artists (unlike, say, athletes) to both operate in that wonderful, explorative mode that they love and that Dan writes about and be paid for it.
This solution puts the onus wholly on us to make working in this field financially bearable. I’m arguing that this system is improvable - even if just in terms of the balance of respect - and that the focus should be on using the means we have (all of these brains, and smart, kind editors at the helms of giant companies) to make things better for editorial contributors.
Lastly, that previous post has been read a few thousand times now, which is pretty surprising. Thanks for all the incredibly supportive emails and messages, and thanks very much to Dan and Elmo for extending the discussion. Starting one was the point of writing this thing. (As for the attacks - you've upheld your reputation, Internet.)