Money Matters

Where's that pot of gold?

This is the time of year when we think about money. This year we're thinking about it more than most, with our energy bills about to rise, the prices in the shops already going up, and our annual paperwork revealing just how little we have earned, yet again, for large amounts of work. The accountant and I have just had our annual 'this time next year we'll be millionaires' conversation and even he has noticed that it's all wearing a bit thin.

We're told that Arts and Culture contribute £8.5 billion to the UK economy. So how come all the writers and artists I know, and we're talking full time or almost full time, long term professionals here, not hobbyists, make so very little cash? Every year in every way, we seem to do more work for less money. 

Where is it all going? 

And what, if anything, can we do about it? 

I don't have any easy answers to these questions, by the way. I'm just throwing them out there as points for discussion, because until we debate this, things can only get worse. 

Is it because people believe that anyone can put words on a screen or on a piece of paper? Maybe they're right. Maybe there is so much free stuff out there that people don't see why they should have to pay for it. Do artists have the same problem? Probably. 

I'm always a bit phased by writers who boycott Amazon, but are OK with people buying a single second hand copy of a book and then passing it around several friends. Do people ever stop to think about where the money to pay the writer -  or, indeed, the publisher - comes from in that situation?

I dimly remember a time when I made a decent living out of my writing. My husband was working as a woodcarver and I was writing mostly radio drama, with a little bit of television and theatre. TV was the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow but I never did enough of it to get rich. But radio paid reasonably well, and with one or two good drama commissions each year, as well as a bit of tutoring here and there, the odd story or feature article, a review or two for a newspaper, we were OK. 

Remember reviews? Newspapers with decent circulations used to pay professionals for reviews and freelance articles. Alan, meanwhile, was making new hand carved rocking horses  and restoring old ones. as well as working on some spectacular outdoor carvings. Again, we made no fortunes, but we could pay our bills and have the occasional treat. We made a living.

Now, many of the 'extras' that used to provide a decent portfolio of work have evaporated. Instead 'creatives' need to spend more and more time and money on promotion, time that we used to spend on the actual creative work. 

Once again, this is not so much a complaint as something that should be up for discussion. There are no easy answers. But I know very few full time creative people who make anything like a living from their work. People often come late to a creative career when they have a reasonable pension from a completely different job. They don't have to make money. The rest of us muddle along as best we can. Not very well at all. 




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