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Why Is Everyone a Freelancer and Broke?


As we enter the frenzy of the holiday season, I was reminded over the last several weeks about just how hard the life of an artist can be. And I don't even want to say "artist" here, because, really, what I mean is freelancer. A freelancer is basically someone who gets by job-to-job, and it's increasingly becoming the way of the world. To quote Godspeed You! Black Emperor in their recent controversial Polaris post: "much respect to the freelancers especially, because freelancing is a hard f--king gig, and almost all of us are freelancers now, right?"

I was reminded about just how broke the bands we all love are when recently I suggested to a band I know and love that we meet at a certain gig for beers. Their response was a sullen "sorry can't afford the tickets, so broke right now." And every time I talk to artists, journalists, bloggers, agents, small distros, the same chorus of "no money, gonna need to get a real job soon" comes up.


Perhaps this is nothing new. But I think there's a newness to the way the internet relies on freelancers to create content. I'm not even talking about the much-blogged about free content that Huffington Post or other intern-using sites exploit. I'm talking about paid work, paid reviews, paid shows, paid paid paid...but still broke broke broke.

Recently a journalist colleague threw in the towel. No more, he said, it's time to get real work. He simply could not live on the meagre dollars he was getting for reviewing and interviewing artists. Even though his work brought many artists under a spotlight, and even though apparently thousands of people read his articles, and some of those people bought music because of those articles, it still wasn't enough to pay Mr. Journalist a decent salary or per-review rate.

So what to do? It is the age-old question, the question of starving artists spun anew in the form of bloggers and agents trying to stay afloat. Most journalists have also published a book or two; buy it, if you like that journalist's work online. That's a start, though I agree it doesn't address the issue head-on. Understand that all the articles and posts you read and retweet are written by people, and the writing takes time and hard work. Find a way to thank the people behind the curtain of the internet, because believe me they're all about the get jobs.