The Devaluation of the Artist

I read something a few weeks back that stuck with me and I saved this quote. I’ve been reading from friends about how artists and musicians are undervalued, and how they get indignant and angry when someone offers them a rate that seems to be completely ignorant of what it takes to produce a piece of work, or how much time, training and talent go into producing work of a certain quality. And I just keep thinking about this (replace “actor” with creative profession of your choice):

“It’s a raw deal, in other words, this life of an early career actor. And it will continue being so for the foreseeable future because—and this should read familiar to any writers out there—the supply of actors so overwhelms the demand for them that the dollar value of their labor has been depressed to, essentially, zero.”

It’s not that I think that people are ignorant. It’s that the laws of supply and demand are completely out of whack for your profession. If I need a boat to take me across the harbor, and there are 400 captains with boats who need the fare, I have my pick of ferries.

When I was running iHero, we were always on the lookout for great up-and-coming artists who were willing to work for what we could afford. And because that rate is flexible based on a number of factors (not currently engaged + needs money now + liked what we were doing), we were always able to find one.

Once upon a time we hired Mahmud Asrar (Supergirl, Wolverine and the X-Men)  for a cover and some interior spots for a rate that would be unthinkable to him now. And he’s one of the lucky ones. He “made it.” That doesn’t happen to everyone. And even when it does, and the artist does make it out of the trenches and into the big leagues, you’re still talking about a profession that leaves you living paycheck to paycheck, usually without health insurance. That’s a very scary life to live. But every year we hear about some veteran artist in the comic industry who is in failing health and their friends go around with their hats in their hand to pay for some treatment or surgery. And every year I think, did we learn nothing from the tragedy that was John  Buscema?

So what’s my point? Not sure I had one. Perhaps only that if you decide to be a sailor, you should consider the size of the waves in proportion to the size of your boat, and think very hard about how far you want to get from shore. And if you do decide to take your ship onto open seas, then I leave you a quote by the great comedian Steve Martin who said, “Be so good they can’t ignore you.”


Leave a Reply