Artists toss around a lot of terms to describe work, especially on social media. While we all know what they mean in general, it may be unclear exactly what each one means in terms of the work that is done and the obligation everyone involved has to each other. Here are a just a few common work terms in the arts, and what each type entails.
Gig (May also be called a set, or if the person is a spoken word artist, a reading.)
When you hire a musician for a gig or set, a spoken word or a literary artist for a reading, this means they have agreed to share their work with your audience for pay. You pay them the agreed upon fee. If that fee is to be $0, that should be made abundantly clear from the beginning, before anyone signs up to share their work. If that fee is to be any amount of money, you owe that artist that amount upon the completion of the work they agreed to do.
The only time it is acceptable to withhold this fee is if the artist did not do the work you hired them to do, if they failed to show up, refused to perform, or arrived too drunk or high to produce their work. You still owe the artist the fee you agreed to pay them if members of your audience didn’t like the music or the poems, you don’t like the artist as a person, or you decided mid set that their art wasn’t suitable to your establishment.
An artist asking you to collaborate, often shortened to “collab” in contemporary speech, is asking you to partner with them. They do not pay you. You do not pay them. The two of you are going to work together on the project. Any money or other benefits gained will be split between you, according to whatever agreement you make before you start.
Get this agreement in writing. An actual contract or agreement signed by everyone involved is best. At the very least, work out the details via email, so that everyone has saved, printed records of what each person agreed to do.
A “pitch” is an independent artist asking you to give them work. You will most commonly hear this from writers. The person may reach out to you proposing that they write an article about a local band for your guitar magazine, or cover a music festival for your newspaper or community webpage. When someone sends you a pitch, they are asking you to hire them to complete the project they suggest, and pay them for it.
Once you agree to the person’s pitch, you are obligated to pay them for the work when they produce it according to the agreement. The article or other project is not free just because it was the artist’s idea to create it, and not yours. If you do not want to pay for whatever the artist is pitching, turn down the pitch.
Open mic or showcase
Artists participating in an open mic or showcase can be thought of as swapping their work for the guaranteed audience the venue provides. This is where the term “the wage is the stage” applies. No money or other goods change hands in most cases, but the venue owner or manager gets entertainment for their establishment, and the artist gets their work shown in front of anyone who attends the open mic or showcase event.
Although the artist is not typically asked to pay to participate in an open mic or showcase, they may be asked to pay at the door for anyone who is accompanying them but not performing, and expected to purchase food or drinks if the venue is a restaurant, cafe, or bar. Artists and their entourages need to pay and purchase without complaints or snark. Supporting the businesses that support the arts is an important way to keep the arts alive in your community.
Free content library
Video clips, articles, photos, and other pieces of work included in an online collection or library labeled “free” is just that, free. It means you may use the content on your own webpage or in your print publication without paying the artist. When using free content, remember to respect the artist’s stated rules for use, and respect their work. Using something offered to you for free is different than stealing it. Never alter the work to make it appear that you created it unless you have been given direct permission from the artist to do so.
In situations where none of these terms are being used, it is perfectly acceptable to bring them up yourself, and to ask questions until it is clear to everyone what type of work the artist or artists involved are offering. Asking “Are you asking me to collaborate with you on this article, or is this a pitch?” Or “Are you looking for strictly paying gigs, or are you open to playing at an open mic or a showcase?” is perfectly acceptable.
Direct sales has been a popular “side hustle” or “side gig” before we even began using those terms. Companies such as Avon and Tupperware have been around for as long as most of us can remember. New companies seem to join them every year. Opinions about these businesses vary as widely as the products and services offered, with some insisting they’re all one small step away from pyramid schemes, and some insisting they’re a sure path to wealth, friendship, and a life free of stress. Of course,the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Many of these direct selling companies are known for manipulation, hounding, and other shady practices. Some direct sales companies have a remarkably low tolerance for this type of behavior. Regardless of the reputation of the company, the person you see signing up to sell for them is probably your friend, coworker, relative, or loved one. Here is how to support that person….without buying everything in their catalog and signing up half your neighborhood to sell on their team.
Warn them privately if you see they have signed up with a company with a truly horrendous reputation.
Most of us know which ones these are by now. They’re the ones that charge exorbitant sign-up fees, require representatives to sell high volumes in order to earn their commission, offer subpar products for the price point, and shut people down for not selling constantly. Their representatives are encouraged to humiliate, manipulate, even bully people into signing up, hound people to buy from them, and lie about how much money they make.
But even if your friend has signed up for one of these companies, commenting and posting right on the friend’s social media pages or professional webpages, or giving them a tutorial on the brand right in front of everyone at the local hangout does nothing but embarrass your friend. Take them aside offline, or send a private message or email to share your concerns.
Avoid promoting rival products in their social media posts.
Friends and family members who are not interested in or able to purchase the product or service their loved one has signed up to sell can still help by commenting something encouraging and/or interesting about the products or company. “We used to have family picnics every year, and everyone always brought food in Tupperware,” is a helpful comment for your cousin who has started selling Tupperware, even if your kitchen cabinets couldn’t hold another storage container. Or “I can still remember a special cup or bowl from childhood that came from Tupperware.”
If they’re selling cosmetics, comment on the colors of the items, or note the kind of look you think the products they’re promoting might be good for. Don’t mention another company’s products. “That mascara looks like it’s right on trend for those false lashes looks everybody is doing,” is a helpful comment. “I only use Brand X mascara,” doesn’t do anything but advertise another company’s brand on your friend’s sales post.
Comments that make it sound like you’re helping the person out or doing them a favor by buying from them hinder, rather than help, their sales.
Those who can and want to purchase products from their direct selling friend should make their purchases as they would from any other source. Everyone who buys from anywhere “helps out” everyone who benefits from those sales. Every time you shop at Walmart or Target or your local grocery store, your dollars are part of the reason everyone from the CEO to the high school kid who gathers the shopping carts are employed. If everyone in the world decided they would no longer purchase products from any Walmart store, all of those people would be out of a job. (The benefits tilt much heavier toward those CEOs than the shopping cart attendant, and the loss is much more harmful for the lower end employee.. but that’s another issue.)
Avoid commenting on your direct sales’ representative’s posts or page with “I hope this helps you out!” or “I only bought $50 worth of stuff. I’m so sorry. I wish I could do more.” This sends the message to others who read the post that the products aren’t really worth buying and anyone who shops with the person is just doing it out of pity. This is not the impression anyone doing any type of sales work is trying to make.
Even if you did just buy from them as a favor, keep that information to yourself. Informing them, even privately, that you’ll “place one more order then you’re done,” or that you thought you’d “do this for them,” is embarrassing and discouraging.
Don’t flood or “spam” other people with the direct seller’s links or do anything else that could cause trouble in an attempt to help.
Wanting to support your friend who has just signed up for direct sales is admirable. And spreading the word for them will help. But just share their posts to your page, or let your friends and family members who might be interested in shopping with your direct selling friend know they are now a representative for the company. Filling everybody’s email inbox, messenger message inbox, or facebook wall with constant links from the direct sales company will only get everyone to ignore you.
Quietly mentioning that your friend sells for the company when the topic comes up in conversation, mentioning their sales when someone notices a perfume or household item you purchased from them, or even just announcing their new venture on your webpage or to your group of friends once or twice is much more helpful than sending all 200 of your facebook friends a link to 50 different products in their catalog every day. You don’t want people you know avoiding someone they haven’t even met yet.
Make sure you’re allowed to distribute sales materials anywhere you decide to leave a brochure or catalog for your friend. Remember, their name and contact information is on it, so it’s going to look like they put the materials out there.
Don’t take advantage of the person to get free items or services.
There are some companies whose representatives sell their products by holding sales parties. These parties are often excuses for groups of friends to get together and hang out, even if everyone knows they’re mainly there to hear a sales pitch. And while it’s fine to allow a sales party from a home goods company to provide some of the beverages and snacks for your get together, or schedule a day of beauty with the cosmetics company representative you know, make sure at least half the people you invite are genuine potential customers. Scheduling a party with a representative only to take advantage of the free services and/or samples is not “giving them practice” for future parties. It’s wasting their time, energy, and supplies.
Supporting a friend in direct sales does not require filling your home with the products they sell, turning yourself into their assistant, or signing up to work under them. It only requires a bit of thoughtfulness and respect.
Spending a relaxing hour watching YouTube videos while sipping your morning coffee was meant to generate some ideas for making money without going back to that job you had three years ago and trying to squeeze a shift in between your current full-time job, your music, and taking care of your kids. Three videos in, and you’re starting to feel like an out-of -touch loser instead. According to the perky, smiling channel hosts you’ve found this morning, all you need to do is sign up with a company that provides a needed service today, and the money will start rolling in.
Each person you see urging you to join the gig economy or start that side hustle probably is indeed making money from the work they are doing. As long as you sign up with a legitimate company and follow the rules you agree to follow when you sign your contract, you will be paid for the service you provide. But the cash does not flow as fast as many of these “How YOU can make a fortune online..” videos would have you believe. There is always something they tend to leave out.
Content creators who promote their $300/day delivery jobs are giving you their gross, not their net, income. You have to invest additional money into your car to work one of these jobs.
Driving for a rideshare company, or delivering takeout, groceries, or other online purchases to customers might be the solution for you if you need some side work you can do on your own schedule, and you do not mind turning your personal vehicle into your workplace. The work itself is time consuming, tiring, and requires you to use excellent customer service skills. You never know who you might have to deal with during the course of your day. But driving from place to place, shopping, and picking up takeout are everyday things you already do, and this type of work will leave you plenty of time and mental energy to focus on your other work.
The main drawback, and the detail that is often left out of articles, videos, and other content promoting this type of work, is that your net income is often much lower than what the company pays you. If you devote an entire day or an entire weekend to delivering or giving rides, the pay you receive from the company you work for may be several hundred dollars. It just won’t all go into your bank account or wallet.
In order to determine how much money you are actually earning from rideshare, takeout delivery, or shopping and delivery work, you will first want to determine how much money you are paying out in order to get to do the work. These expenses include increased insurance payments on your car, additional money set aside for maintenance, extra tanks of gas, and anything you use to promote your business to customers. Keep track of that amount. Add up what you spend in a month, and subtract it from the money amounts the company deposits in your account in that same time period. What you have left is your net pay, or the amount you actually made from your work.
Online tutors who tell you how much their company pays per hour are telling the truth, they’re just not mentioning that many students do not want full hour sessions.
Any legitimate online tutoring company will make it clear that you are paid for the time you spend in a paid tutoring session, and not the amount of time you spend logged into their website. People who promote doing this type of work on social media are often a bit unclear on this detail.
Imagine you have just been hired on at a website called “Tutory Tutors.” They are paying you $15 per hour. You understand that this is actually going to amount to around $12 per hour once you deduct your 20% from each paycheck for taxes, but you still think you can bring in some money. You tend bar in the evenings as your day job, and your art just doesn’t happen until the afternoon, so your mornings are open. You can work from seven a.m. until one p.m, giving you plenty of time to bring home about $360 more each week.
That is an excellent goal, and if you are in a similar situation, there is nothing wrong with striving for it. Just remember that it may not happen. You may log in to Tutory Tutors bright and early on Tuesday morning, only to be greeted with a blank screen. None of the students have arrived yet. You sit there for an hour before somebody books a session with you. It’s a college student. Your student is polite, honest, and serious about his studies and a pleasure to work with. But he only needed you to look over his paper and make some suggestions as to where he might add detail. It only took you half an hour. It is another half an hour before another student logs in. You will certainly feel like you were at work at Tutory Tutors for two whole hours, and you were. But you will only be paid for that thirty minutes you spent helping your student add detail to his paper.
Vloggers, bloggers, Tik Tok video creators, and everyone else who claims you can “just create a course, offer it online, and make up to six figures” is glossing over the amount of time and work it takes to create a course.
Creating a course is certainly making plenty of money for those who create courses as their business, or who create and market courses as a part of a wider professional focus. It is just far from the “easy, low cost side hustle that quickly turns into passive income” so many content creators present it to be.
As a steady, salaried job, I teach writing courses to adults online as a university faculty member. The courses are already written when they are assigned to us. I do not have to create the syllabus, design the assignments, write the main instructions, or set up the grading system. My job is to create lessons that teach each assignment, write supplemental teaching materials, and do the actual grading. I do about half of the work it would take to create and design a course from the ground up. And I still work on those lessons several days a week, every week, throughout the year. My current set of teaching materials took me about six months to create, and require a review every ten weeks, often a revision or even a complete overhaul.
You may still want to create a course. It would be a wonderful way to add to your career and pass your skills and knowledge on to others. But creating a course is going to take the same amount of time and energy as it takes you to make an album, create a series of paintings, write a novel, or complete your latest book of poems. It is far from something you will be able to throw together for some quick side cash.
Unlike many “make money online” pitches, signing up to offer deliveries or rides, tutoring online, and creating a course are legitimate opportunities. It is just important to gather all of the details about them before jumping in on the advice you stumbled upon online.
We would all prefer to think scammers live far away. They operate in organized rings in far off countries, and their scams are nothing personal. Numbers are stolen, copied, and spoofed at random, and the only reason the scammer is trying to trick you into giving them money is because you happened to pick up the phone or reply to the email. And in most cases, this is true. But there are dishonest people everywhere, including in our own country, state, and community.
Most of these scams are copied from the more large-scale, impersonal scams. American romance scammers are online to trick people into thinking they’re in a relationship with, engaged to, or even married to someone who either does not exist or is living a life that does not exist. Someone you encounter in a national facebook group pretending to be disabled in order to gain attention and sympathy (Munchaussen by Internet) is going to behave pretty much the same way as someone doing the same thing in a local group. The red flags are going to be the same or very similar.
Scammers who run heartstrings scams on those they either know or are willing to meet offline will also display some of the same signs of deceit, but there are some more unique red flags.
The person resists local resources that would help them solve the problem.
While there are legitimate reasons someone might not be able to easily reach out to a local agency or organization designed to meet their need, constant rejection of available resources may be a sign that the person is looking to do something other than fill a need.
The person joins a “helping hands” group and announces that they are in need of food. People respond with information designed to help the person apply for EBT, sign up for meal programs, even obtain food from the local food pantries available that day. The original poster then insists they do not have transportation or proper identification. Someone explains what they need to do to get transportation and identification. They come back insisting they also need child care. When someone explains how to solve that problem in their area, they suddenly can’t be away from the house for that length of time for some other reason. Only someone’s money or gift will save the day.
Only cash, cash gift cards, or items with a high resale value are acceptable.
Sometimes, people are happy to help others, but are not comfortable giving out cash or those gift cards that are basically cash on a card for whatever reason. They may be happy to help someone put gas in their car, but would prefer to give the person a gift card to the store where they purchase their gas than cash or a Visa gift card. Or they may be willing to bring someone else some food or a gift card to a grocery store, but not want to just hand them money for groceries.
Someone in genuine need of gas or groceries would be likely to accept the help in whatever form their new friend offered that help, as long as it met their need. If they really need food, a gift card to Hannaford or Instacart or Aldi would help. A person inventing situations that do not exist in order to get free money may refuse the direct help and insist they must be given cash or a cash card.
Before the baby formula shortage, baby formula was a common tool in this scam. The scammer would post to a group local to them and ask for formula for a hungry baby that did not exist. They would insist they could only accept cash or cans of formula. Even a gift card to the grocery store would be rejected with the excuse that the person did not have time to register it, or they couldn’t be sure there was actually money on it. Pleas would increase until someone gave the person the formula directly. The formula would then be listed for sale in another group.
The problem never gets solved, no matter how many people step in to help.
Each year around the holidays, a woman was in the habit of posting in multiple “helping hands” groups looking for help. She always said she did not have anything to make a Christmas for her kids. The town where she lived was not like Utica; people were not likely to be generous to someone else unless that person had the “right” connections, or being generous would result in publicity for the giver. But this woman found some people willing to help her. One other woman gave her an entire set of Christmas decorations. Somebody else responded that they would be happy to bring her everything she needed to make cookies with her kids as both a holiday activity and a treat. These same two people also made sure the one in need knew how to sign up for the “angel trees” sponsored by larger corporations with local branches.
But the original poster just kept rejecting everything, while posting repeatedly that she had nothing to make a Christmas for her kids. When the people who did reach out to help her finally got frustrated and asked, “What happened to all those Christmas decorations I gave you last year?” she disappeared. It had been a cash scam all along.
One need after another is posted from the same account.
First, the person needed clothes for work. Someone gave them the right clothes for their new job. The next day, they needed money for gas for their car. They were helped. Two days later, the same account posted in the same group seeking kitchen items.
This alone is not a red flag for a scam. If this is the only pattern the person is showing, they are much more likely to be someone in need who sees nowhere else to turn than a person running a resale scam. But if you see this paired with another red flag, such as the person resisting all local resources and constantly claiming one need after another, this may be a red flag.
The best defense against these types of scams is simply thinking things through before you decide to make a donation outside of your church, workplace, or other verified organization. There isn’t much that can be done if you willingly handed over materials or money, even if the person was lying to you. Should you notice a pattern of these red flags, reach out to the owner of the group.
Anyone who uses social media to promote their arts career, or do pretty much anything else, has seen articles about a practice called “quiet quitting.” Right underneath them, you may have also seen articles proclaiming “quiet quitting” to be fake. And following that, more articles declaring quiet quitting to be not only real, but so prevalent, everybody you work with is doing it.
“Quiet quitting” is indeed fake in that it is not a unique or new phenomenon. At the same time, it is real, because it is nothing more than a new term for something people have been doing for as long as workplaces have existed. As for “everybody,” that is nearly impossible to measure, but it does seem as though people are becoming more prone to the behavior the term describes.
The term “quiet quitting” is new shorthand for “getting tired of being asked to do more and more work for the same or less pay, and simply refusing to do so.” People who engage in behavior that is now called “quiet quitting” are not leaving their jobs, and they are not necessarily quiet about it. They are just doing the bare minimum amount of work that they have to do in order to keep their jobs, and nothing else.
In years past, the only acceptable attitude among American workers was a willingness to do anything and everything you could to please your supervisors and/or customers or to promote the business you worked for. If your job duties as a receptionist were to watch the front desk, answer the phone and take messages, direct visitors to the correct offices, and respond to emails sent to the general information address, you did all of those things, and you cleaned the front lobby and helped the guy in the first office with his paperwork if he needed help. You even came in early and stayed late to finish those tasks if asked.
Being late for family dinner, missing the occasional child or grandchild’s game or performance, and having little time to relax and unwind in the evening were just things you had to put up with as a worker. Work was supposed to be hard. It was not supposed to be enjoyable. Praise from your bosses, promotions, and your income were your rewards.
Those who gave into this wholeheartedly were praised for being “hard workers” and “dedicated employees.”
Then came the concept of “work-life balance,” a politically correct, corporate-speak term for not allowing your job to take over your life to the point that it becomes your whole life. Workers declared themselves to be seeking “work-life balance.” Corporations lured employees in with promises of “work-life balance.” The term even grew to a ratings category on some job websites.
But like most trendy terms, “work-life balance” began to lose its meaning. It devolved into an empty buzzword. Workers promised “work-life balance” still found themselves doing more work than they agreed to do when they took the job, with little to nothing in it for them. And despite all the stock photos of people lounging next to palm trees accompanying “work-life balance” articles, most workers were unclear as to what that actually meant for them. The point at which a job consumed too much of a person’s time, thoughts, and energy was a fuzzy dot for too many people, and one that often bounced around.
People termed “quiet quitters” are those who caught their dot, brought it into focus, and have refused to move past it. They are the ones who, when scheduled to work from nine in the morning until five in the afternoon, begin their work at nine and end it promptly at five. If their job description as a dish washer and bus person requires them to wash the dishes, clear and wipe down the tables, and roll the silverware at a restaurant, they complete those tasks. But they do not finish them as quickly as possible so they can pitch in and help the wait staff serve customers.
Whether “quiet quitting” is something advisable to do or not depends on the specific circumstances and behavior involved.
Sometimes, all that extra work you do, all that time and attention you take away from other parts of your life to devote to a job, don’t accomplish much beyond lining the CEO’s pockets. You’re doing extra work so they don’t have to take on the expense of hiring additional people to divide up the labor fairly. You are also sending the message that taking advantage of people is something the employees of your workplace will tolerate, encouraging the higher-ups to do it even more. “Quiet quitting” would be the right thing to do in these situations.
In other cases, refusing to do anything you do not absolutely have to do in order to keep your job may mean failing to help someone in genuine need. Refusing to pitch in to help a struggling coworker, brushing off another staff member’s concerns, or refusing to participate in projects that could improve working conditions for everyone because “that’s not your job” or “you spend enough time worrying about this place,” are not new trends in workplace behavior. They’re examples of not so good, old-fashioned selfishness.
Awareness months are often silly, overused, and more annoying than helpful. There is an awareness month for everything, and people often fall into the trap of displaying colored ribbons but doing little else. But if we bypass all the ribbons and the memes and the merchandise with glib sayings, awareness months can be useful for their original intention, bringing awareness to an issue that needs to be addressed throughout the year. They can also help raise funds to cope with the issue.
In October, awareness is raised for an issue that impacts the lives of many artists, depression. We all know the stereotype of an artist as someone who is constantly brooding, irritable, and prone to locking themselves away to write, paint, practice their instrument, or sculpt in isolation. In some cases, the person experiences periods of mania, in which their creativity flourishes, but they can do little else.
There is some grain of truth to this stereotype. In 2017, the journal “Perspective on Psychological Science” published a study called “Creativity and Mood Disorder: A Systemic Review and Meta-Analysis.” This study, and others, have found a strong correlation between creativity and mood disorders like major depression and bipolar disorder. But correlation does not imply causation. While mood disorders like depression appear to be more common among artists, your mood disorder did not give you your creative ability, and your creative ability did not cause your mood disorder.
Artists are more prone to depression and related disorders because working in the arts is so often low paying, competitive, and costly to maintain. You have to deal with constant criticism, steady rejection, and a never-ending search for paying work much more often than those in other fields. And that’s on top of the issues you see in the world and feel called to address in your work.
The signs and symptoms of depression are going to be everywhere this month. But there are a few things about it we may know, but tend to disregard or forget.
Telling someone to “snap out of” or “get over” depression does not have the hoped-for effect, and is more likely to worsen their outlook.
You may think you’re going to shock the person into approaching everything with a skip in their step and a smile on their face when you tell them to just get over or snap out of things. And they just might start skipping and smiling…but it will only be around you, to avoid having to listen to you make them feel worse again. Their condition will not improve.
When you tell someone to “snap out of it” or “get over it” or “just quit worrying about it,” what you’re really telling them is that whatever is going on with them makes things more difficult for you, and you don’t think you should have to deal with it. You just became one more voice telling a person who is already suffering that people do not in fact care about them.
And be honest. That is exactly what you meant. If you really thought commanding someone’s mood disorder away would fix everything, you’d be hiring yourself out as a 100% guaranteed instant cure for all mood disorders. And you’d get a lot of clients. Depression is far from enjoyable. If all you can say to a depressed person is “Just stop being so depressed,” it’s better to say nothing at all.
Your depression or related mood disorder is not a license to mistreat others
Irritability is a common symptom of depression, as is fatigue, and a loss of hope. This may be why you want to make plans with a friend, simply fail to show up, and then tell them off when they become upset with you. But a reason why you want to do something is not the same thing as a license to do it. You are just as responsible for managing your own mental health issues as you are for managing your own physical health issues.
If you’re diabetic, it’s your responsibility to read the label on the bread and make sure it has no more than three or five grams of sugar per serving, not the department manager’s responsibility to throw all the bread with six or more grams of sugar away. As someone with poor depth perception, it’s my responsibility to find transportation other than my own driving, not other drivers’ responsibility to swerve out of my way when I move into their lane because my eyes can’t follow the lines on the road. Similarly, if your depression leaves you irritable and fatigued, it is your responsibility to manage those symptoms, which may include getting professional help.
Having a mood disorder, or being treated for one, is not an excuse to avoid practicing your art.
Given the prevalence of depression and bipolar disorder among artists, and the increasing acceptance of medication to treat these disorders, there are undoubtedly a lot of artists out there with mood disorders, and many of them must be getting treated for them. If having a mood disorder in any way prevented the practice of the arts, there would be a lot less art in the world.
Just as with your other behavior, it is your responsibility to manage your symptoms and your work. If you feel like you can’t make that gig you spent months promoting because you’re feeling fatigued, it means you need to find a healthy way to manage fatigue. If you feel like ideas come to you more slowly on your new medication, find some ways to generate ideas.
Your art is not a good reason to avoid treating your depression or related disorder
In the study referenced above, the researchers’ findings were clear that art does not stem from depression or other mood disorders. An artist can certainly use their depression, bipolar disorder, or any other health issue they may grapple with, in their art. But the disorder itself is not the reason you are an artist.
Perhaps you wouldn’t have become an artist if you hadn’t had to face depression. That still doesn’t mean having depression is the source of your artistic ability. People are led to the arts during therapy for physical illnesses and injuries too, and breaking your arm or being diagnosed with cancer certainly doesn’t cause artistic ability to appear.
Anyone who notices symptoms of depression or a related mood disorder, like anxiety or bipolar disorder, in themselves is urged to reach out to a licensed professional for help. These are the people who can help you both manage the symptoms and work around any side effects that may impact your work, in and out of the arts.
It is important to take depression symptoms as seriously as you would take the symptoms of any other illness, in yourself and others
Just in case someone hasn’t come across a review of the most common symptoms of depression recently, they are: prolonged feelings of sadness, lasting two weeks or more, experiencing guilt, often out of proportion to the situation, a lack of hope, fatigue, marked increase or decrease in sleeping, similar noticeable increase or decrease in eating, body aches, irritability, difficulty concentrating, and low motivation. Movement may feel difficult, as though the person’s limbs were being weighed down. Depression may cause feelings of worthlessness and a general low opinion of oneself. These may extend to feelings that one would be better off dead, even thoughts of suicide.
Those who have bipolar disorder will experience periods of these symptoms, alternating with periods of unusually elevated mood, excessive energy, intense irritability or even anger, difficulty with impulse control, and oddly fast speech or movement. They may feel invincible, or have unusually favorable opinions of themselves.
Anyone who experiences any of these symptoms, or any other symptoms of depression or a related mood disorder is urged to reach out to a licensed mental health practitioner in their area as soon as possible. If you see these symptoms in a loved one, encourage them to get help. Seek immediate emergency care if you or someone in your life has or expresses the urge to harm themselves or anyone else.
Author’s note: This article, and all articles about mental health and mental illness on Artist Cafe Utica, are written by one of your fellow artists. I work in creative writing, content writing for artists, and adult education. Before I began this career, I was a reporter. My research comes from my years as a reporter, from research I have done for my art, or from research I do for the purpose of writing the articles you read. I am not a licensed mental health practitioner or any other type of healthcare professional, and these articles are not healthcare or professional health advice. If you have or believe you may have a health problem, including mental health, please contact a local licensed mental health counselor or speak to a doctor.
Utica resident Ray “Pinky” Velazquez knows musical talent when he hears it. Velazquez began working in music in 1972, when he started DJing for the Impanema at 240 West 52nd street in New York City. He would later become the A&R Man and disco consultant for Vanguard Records from 1979-1984. During his time with Vanguard, Velazquez grew to be an expert in mixing records and scouting talent, and has signed R&B, Rap, Rock, Alternative, and Reggae acts, even working with a Rap group, “Spectrum City,” that would later become Public Enemy.
Today, Velazquez uses what he learned during his time as a DJ, mixer, and producer to help others. He is currently in talks with local businesses and organizations, mainly Phoenix Media.
“Cassandra Harris-Lockwood and I are trying to reach out to the community, to assist, lead, and inspire the youth,” he said, referring to what he describes as a process of building and putting ideas together with the owner, founder, and CEO of Phoenix Media. “Kids are dealing with violence in school, broken households. It’s a more challenging environment for the family. We want to make it better, to give youth and their families a little bit more of what they’re looking for, a little bit of hope.”
Velazquez offered a bit of guidance for young people…or people of any age..who feel called to the music business.
Define success for yourself
As with any other career field, people may have different goals in music. Most of us, from the most dedicated professional to the most casual hobbyist, would not turn down their favorite internationally known band’s paychecks, but being an international star is not truly the goal for everyone, and Velazquez stressed that it does not have to be.
Some people may truly feel called to work for international stardom. They may have a large income as a goal in life, or wish for a glamorous lifestyle. Others may be happier using their musical skill to entertain and inspire others in their region, or their local community. Some may want to teach. Others may want to promote other artists, or write songs for others, or be a part of technical components of music production.
“You have to ask, ‘What is right for me and my life?’ he said. “It may be money. It may be fame. But it may be something else.”
Be realistic about the music industry and your goals
Whether your goal in music is to make hit records for decades, open for your favorite band, have your favorite band open for you, play a local or regional club every weekend, or teach music at the high school, Velazquez noted that it is important to be realistic about the work it takes to become skilled in music, and about the music industry and the variety of circumstances that would have to fall in line to meet the goals you’ve set.
“The music business is a very large, very scary, very competitive business for a new musician,” he noted. “You have to understand the process. It’s never easy, never pretty the way people think it is. It takes about twenty-five years to be an overnight success.”
Velazquez added that this is true no matter how talented you might be. “The more talent you’re sharing, the more challenges you’re going to have,” he said. “ Use common sense. Make sure you’re ready for whatever challenges come up. Adjust your skills and keep moving. Try to enjoy the process. There is never a guarantee of anything.”
Educate yourself about your style or styles of music
Those whose goal in the music industry is to teach music at the college or university level will probably need an academic degree. Unless you have documented extraordinary achievement in music (like a grammy or past membership in a band that changed the entire field) you are going to need at least a Master’s degree to enter academia. Formal, academic education is not needed for most other goals. But that is far from the only type of music education.
“ Become serious about your craft. Read about and research your field,” Velazquez said. “If you’re going to play Reggae, learn about Bob Marley. Learn about his struggles, find out what he did to get into the music business. You have the God-given field of the internet. Look around. Absorb information.”
Seek mentors and collaborators with goals that are compatible with yours
Because the arts is such a competitive, constantly shifting, and difficult career cluster, it can be tempting to frantically approach anyone and everyone in the arts. And while it certainly doesn’t hurt to make connections with other artists in general, or to make learning all you can about the arts, or the music industry a part of your education, Velazquez emphasized the importance of working with those whose paths you would like to follow in your own career.
“Communicate with people who have accomplished what you want to accomplish,” he said, noting that this does not mean you should spend all your time writing emails to rock stars if your goal is to achieve international fame, or that simply talking to a record producer or songwriter means you’re going to be one.
“You may not be able to talk to Elton John” he said. “But you may be able to connect with someone who worked on one of his albums, or who knows someone who works for the record label that records Elton John.”
Always remember the importance of music to the world
Despite the difficulties of the music business, Velazquez urges musicians and anyone else in the field to never give up. He encourages everyone to live life with hope, and to keep the impact their work has on the world in mind.
“Music creates an opportunity to express yourself,” he said. “It’s a connection to the universe that pulls people in like a magnet. People are alone. They’re looking deeper inside themselves to create meaning. Music does that.”
Velazquez further reminded those who are farther along in their music career to remember the importance of goals, education, mentorship, and service to others.
“If you have more experience, try to share that experience with those starting out,” he said. “Put out that hand that says, ‘I care about you. I believe in you. I’m willing to help you carve out that path. You have potential.’ Give back.”
Ray “Pinky” Velazquez is certainly giving back to the community in Utica. His insight into the impact of music on individuals and on community will be a blessing for any organization he works with, and any program he helps to develop. Be sure to keep reading Artist Cafe Utica, and The Utica Phoenix news magazine, and listening to Phoenix Radio: 95.5 FM: The Heat for current information about Velazquez’s local projects.
Photo courtesy of/property of Ray "Pinky" Velazquez
Over the past three years, more and more people have gone independent, or freelance, but many…if not most…people in the arts have worked independently for a large part of their careers. In celebration of Artist Cafe Utica’s return to freelance/independent writing services, here are a few reminders for those outside the arts, who are looking to hire an independent writer or other artist.
Provide them with enough details of the work you want them to do.
Writers need to know what type of piece you need written, when you need it, and if there is anything they should be sure to mention or avoid mentioning. If you commission a painting, the artist needs to know if subject, color, size, materials, or style matters to you. Musicians need dates, times, proper names and current locations of venues. Of course these are all common sense details. Just don’t forget to include them in your messaging to the person. You may think “everybody” knows you sold your place on A street and bought that new place on “Y” street, or that your office is decorated with paintings of upstate New York, but the person you’re talking to may not have heard.
Respond to follow-up texts, calls, and emails seeking more information graciously. The artist is not trying to bother you, they are trying to make sure they have enough information to provide you with the item or content they have agreed to create for you.
Respect terms presented on their professional website or stated when they agree to the work.
An independent artist is in business for themselves. They may be an individual, but their career is their business. Treat it as such. If you were to hire someone to do repairs on your house or car, and their webpage or their paperwork included terms of service, you would honor those or go elsewhere. If you use the services of someone who has signed up to sell Avon or Arbonne, or you ride with Uber or order your dinner from DoorDash, you abide by the terms of that service when it comes to prices, returns, coupons, and free gifts. An artist’s terms of service should be treated the same way.
Don’t just assume they’re going to work for free because they love what they do.
An artist who wants to work for you for free will let you know. They’ll offer you free work, or post it on their website or social media that they’re doing something for free. If they have a price listed, or you talk to them and agree on a price, pay that price. You wouldn’t tell an independent sales person that you won’t be paying for the products you ordered because they use them and love them too. You wouldn’t refuse to pay a math or science tutor because the person’s main job has been teaching junior high math for thirty years and they clearly love their work.
Pay for what you order
If you ordered standard work, something the artist would do in a normal course of work day or week, you only need to pay the stated or agreed upon fee for the service or item.
When the artist has to put out money they would not have otherwise spent to provide the work, you need to reimburse them for that expense, or provide a way for them to access whatever you need free of charge. If you ask them to review a film that is only available on a paid streaming service or in movie theaters, they need your login details or you need to buy them a ticket to the movie. If you ask for a review of services at a new spa in town, you and the writer need to agree to the services you want reviewed, and you have to pay for them to have those services. These are not gifts or bonuses. These are your business expenses for the project you want done.
This only applies to expenses that are absolutely necessary in order for the artist to complete your project. If you order an article about a coffeehouse for your food blog, including a review of the coffee, you would have to pay for my coffee. If you ask me to interview the owner and write about the history of the place and I just want a coffee when I get there, you do not have to pay for that.
Keep communication professional
There is no need to send a formal business letter to a musician you’ve known as a friend for years. You can probably just ask them if they can perform in normal conversations, unless they ask for written confirmation for their business records. A meeting is probably not necessary if you want a writer to produce some evergreen content for your webpage that can be described via email.
This does not mean anything goes when messaging the person’s professional page. An artist’s professional page is not the place to hit on them, send them unsolicited personal advice, or spam them with constant requests to do things that have nothing to do with their art.
This extends to in-person communication and the event or other work time as well. When an artist shows up to a venue to find the manager too drunk to communicate with them, gets verbal abuse or bullying from someone who has hired them to produce written content, or encounters some other unpleasant personal behavior, they are much less likely to work with that person again, and will probably warn others away as well. It is in your interest to treat artists with respect if you want the arts to continue to be a part of your business.
Support your favorite local artists, whether you can afford to spend money or not
Booking them for paid gigs or readings, buying their albums, books, or paintings, and supporting them via fundraising sites such as Patreon are of course appreciated by local artists. But if you would like to hire someone in the arts but you just cannot afford that right now, support them anyway.
Free activities such as sharing gig announcements, liking webpages and facebook pages and groups, and spreading the word about their work verbally are also big boosts.
Remember that the arts are essential
During the recent quarantine, those who were tempted to brush music, literature, poetry, paintings, photography, sculpting, and other art forms off as just “hobbies” or “people doing what they felt like” or “just for fun” learned how much they depend on the arts to cope with difficult situations, to celebrate happy times, and to impact social justice. Never forget that the arts are an essential part of our lives.
Author's note: Anyone who takes a copy of this article for their professional webpage has my permission to add the name of their band, studio, or their own name, and an invitation to contact them to arrange a gig or other work to the end of the article. Please feel free to add a sentence, or a paragraph or two along the lines of "Band A, a local classic rock band, is back on the road and available..." or "To gain your own skills in painting, sign up for lessons at studio B..."
As wages remain low and prices go up, many are left to depend on tipping even more than before. While tipping is always optional and up to the audience member, customer or client, here is what to reasonably expect…and what to give when you are receiving a service in the course of your work.
You and your band are being paid to perform at an event.
The standard tip is $25 to $50 per band member. This tip is typically offered by the event’s host or coordinator. If you’re playing a wedding, for example, a member of the wedding party or the wedding coordinator will be most likely to offer you a tip.
There is an open mic at a local business, and you are a performer.
Don’t count on the money from the tip jar. Unless otherwise announced, the tip jar money is for the event’s host, not the performers. Tips for people who take the stage to read their novel or poem or play or sing a song are placed in a jar, basket, or case onstage. If you play an instrument, tips are customarily tossed into your instrument’s case. If someone chooses to tip, they will probably contribute between $5 and $10. Anyone who requests a song will probably add a few more dollars.
You’re performing online. Your audience is watching you via livestream.
The standard tip for an online performance is $10 minimum from each audience member. Fans who have been following your career, audience members who request a song via the chat function, and anyone else who simply wants to offer extra support may offer $20 or more.
The event is live and offstage. You are the D.J. or music program host.
Tipping the DJ at the rate of 10-15% of the total charge for the performance is customary. The person who hired you will offer the tip. Audience members may offer anywhere from $1 to $5, but that is typically done only when someone requests a song.
You arrive early for the open mic or gig, or hang around after your performance. You are seated in the dining area and a waiter serves you food or drink.
As with any other situation in which you sit down at a restaurant staffed by waiters, tip at least 20%. If the person went out of their way to provide excellent service, quickly bringing drinks for late- arriving band members, carrying trays around your guitar case, or doing anything else extra to accommodate you, increase the tip to 25% or more.
The rehearsal or writing session has taken up more time and energy than expected and you need to order food and/or drinks. You use a delivery app like Uber Eats, GrubHub, or DoorDash.
If the driver does nothing more than show up at the door with the correct order packaged neatly, you need to add a tip of 10% to 15% to your total bill. Delivery drivers who go out of their way for you, waiting at the door until the band finishes a song, bringing extra plates and utensils so orders can be shared, or walking up an especially steep hill to get to your rehearsal space should be tipped 20%-25%.
You are unable to drive yourself to the performance or rehearsal. Nobody is available to give you a ride. You depend on Uber or Lyft to get you there.
Rideshare drivers should be able to count on a tip of 15% to 20%. This is for the average safe, clean, pleasant ride. You may want to offer a slightly higher tip to the driver who helped load your instrument or other equipment into the car.
The band is taking a break and everyone is hungry. You run out and pick up the takeout order. When you get to the counter, there is a tip jar next to the cash register or order pickup window.
In the past, tipping was not expected at self-service windows. Today, a tip of 10% of the total bill is customary. While you are picking it up yourself, the tip is for the staff who carefully prepared and packed your order.
Writing this song (or poem, or novel) has absorbed so much of your focus this afternoon, you completely forgot you were supposed to run to the store and pick up some items you forgot the last time you went grocery shopping. And you have to do it fast because you need to be at a venue to perform this evening. At the store, a floor associate goes out of their way to help you gather the items quickly, and the cashier bags everything according to the room it belongs in to save you time.
Retail employees at “big box” stores are one of the few categories of service people you should not tip. They will certainly deserve it, especially if they have gone out of their way for you. But tipping them will likely get them reprimanded, if not fired. And don’t try to sneak them some cash when the manager isn’t looking. Large corporate retail stores have cameras all over the place. If the manager doesn’t see them, somebody else on staff certainly will.
Some appearance maintenance is in order before your next performance. You head to a salon for a cut, color, professional skincare service, or manicure or pedicure.
Tip professionals who help you look your best at least 25% of the total cost of the services. As with all other tipped work, if you asked for something that was especially difficult or time consuming, tip a bit more. This applies to time spent in consultation too. If your goal was to adopt an obscure retro style, and the stylist took extra time to scroll through multiple web searches on your phone with you, or if you weren’t sure what you wanted when you walked in, and they spent time helping you make a decision, show your appreciation with a higher tip.
When you are in a position to receive a tip, of course you will respond with grace and gratitude, regardless of the amount offered. When you are in the position to offer a tip, always err on the side of generosity. You are supporting your fellow artists and community members.
by Jess Szabo'
Originally published on Artist Cafe Utica
Resolutions almost always fail. Most of them are made more to go along with tradition than to make real, necessary changes. And they are rarely backed up by plans. Instead of making resolutions, why not try setting goals for 2022? By now, most of us have heard of the SMART method for setting goals. Created by consultant George T. Doran in 1981, this goal checklist began as a way to formulate goals in a corporate environment. Today, we can use his method to set goals for our art practice, second job, side hustle, or personal interests.
Specific goals are more likely to be reached.
One of the problems with resolutions is that they are often vague. “I want to improve my finances” doesn’t really offer anything to work toward. You could be talking about a complete overhaul of your budget, getting an entirely new job, and completely changing your lifestyle and spending habits. Or you could be talking about spending five minutes looking for dropped change and plastic bottles to redeem for dimes.
“My goal is to have an extra hundred dollars after paying all the bills each month,” or “This January, my goal is to rewrite the family budget to allow us to put $200 aside for our summer vacation in July,” are specific financial goals.
Measurable goals encourage you to keep going.
One of the easiest ways to give up on a goal is to lose sight of your progress. Making sure your progress can be measured is one way to keep yourself from losing track of where you are and how much further you need to go. Some goals are measured in an obvious way. If it’s my goal to save $500 in the first six months of the year, I’m going to measure my progress by how much money I have stashed. Other goals aren’t as easy to measure. If my goal is to sing onstage again by the end of July, how do I measure my progress? Will it be measured in the number of people I sing in front of offstage? Will it be measured in the number of songs I learn and rehearse enough to be comfortable performing them onstage? Am I going to set a number of hours to practice each week?
When a goal is achievable, we are less likely to give up out of frustration.
Making our goals achievable isn’t “politically correct” these days. We’re supposed to tell ourselves and each other that we can do anything as long as we put our minds to it, adopt the right attitude, and never give up. But this simply is not true. Everyone has their strengths, weaknesses, things they’re called to do for a living, things that they can do, but will only ever be hobbies, and things they’re terrible at. This includes people you admire, people who seem like they can do “everything,” me, the person next to you, and you.
We also have to take our family, finances, professional obligations, health, and other goals into consideration when setting goals.
This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t dream, or set far reaching goals, just that they should be something we have the ability to do. Someone who has been playing guitar and singing professionally for twenty years, has been in bands, written songs, and played for live audiences could absolutely set a goal of making an album every other year. Their friend who just picked out their instrument yesterday is probably not going to be ready to be a professional musician in six weeks..
Keeping goals relevant helps us keep going by making the goal part of something already important to us.
Setting meaningless goals just because that’s what everybody else is talking about doing is a surefire way to fail completely. If the goal isn’t meaningful to us in some way, we are likely to honestly not care enough to put in the necessary work to achieve it.
Money saved toward splurging on a designer bag or coat is likely to be spent before it reaches the necessary amount if the saver does not truly enjoy wearing designer labels. Setting a goal to learn a language simply because your family insists it will help your job prospects is more likely to end in a pile of discarded books and software than language proficiency.
Time-specific goals, also called deadlines, prevent excuse making.
Vowing to learn to play the piano, make a new budget, get your house cleaned and painted, or finally get a professional wardrobe put together “someday” leaves an overly easy way out when you don’t do anything. Setting a deadline holds you accountable. If you set a goal to have the living room professionally cleaned and painted by the middle of June, you know you will feel a sense of failure if it’s August seventeenth and you’re still looking at the coffee stains on the carpet and the twenty year old paint on the walls. This wish to avoid that feeling will keep you motivated to keep saving money, clearing out clutter, getting estimates, moving furniture, or any other steps you need to take to achieve that goal.
Forget making new year’s resolutions. Have you set your 2022 goals yet?
by Jess Szabo
Originally published on Artist Cafe Utica