Three Stages of an Artist’s Career
1) You make No Money.
You keep the credit, but no one gets paid.
2) You make Other People Money
You don’t keep the credit, other people get paid.
3) You Make Money.
You keep the credit, AND you get paid.
With the death of the Label Deal, step 2 has become more obvious. The dream I struggle with is “Patronage,” where I write something so cool that some guy comes up afterwards and offers me a full salary to keep creating. That feels like “making money” so most artists keep thinking that way. Haydn was the live-in composer for a family for like 40 years. It sounds glamorous… but it was really more like being a staff composer for Disney. You wrote what they told you to write, when they told you to write it, and they paid you what they wanted, and owned all the work.
It was really you making them money, but it felt like you making money.
Now the curtain has been pulled back.
I’m honored that two whole people have asked me for career advice this week, but I’m really only at step #: Make Other People Money. When people ask me to join their project, my goal is to help them make bank on the project. I’m not that old. If I can help them “print money” on their project, They’ll :1) move up a tax bracket or two 2) get invited to A List events and projects and 3) Owe me a favor, thus increasing the number of A List/Team creatives I know personally by 100%.
This isn’t to say I’m not compensated for my contributions, I just want to make sure that they make more on me than they pay me.
So, if people aren’t opening their sentences with “How much would it cost for you…” when they pitch you projects, you aren’t at #3 yet. How can you provide them value that they can capitalize on?
(it’s fine to serve as an apprentice to an established pro. Are you costing them time and resources, or are you enabling them to bring more work into their shop? Don’t get snotty. If they pay you $10/hr, are you doing work at a level that lets them bill the client at $20? $40? $100? Or do they have to go in behind you and do it again? )