Is it fair to ask people to work for free? 

Convener(s):    Kelly Lovelady 

Participants:      Rebecca Manson Jones, Conor Short. Tom Mansfield, Sarah Corbett, Emma Adams, Gabrielle Beasley, Louie Whitemore, Alex Brown, Deborah Paige, Jennifer Tan, Antonio Ferrara


Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:

  • Unpaid work implicitly relative to career stage and nature of ensemble
  • Not so much a decision as a realism and an urgent practicality
  • Semantic problem exists in defining amateurs and professionals, neither finances nor quality are necessarily the differentiating factor

Industry Standards

  • How must the style of direction / leadership / company structure adapt?
    • Increased sharing of trust and confidence may require more directorial compromise in collaborations
    • New model of intellectual property comes into play in devising and directing
    • Us-and-them mentality between performers and directors requires new consideration
    • Work without pay needs to be universal throughout the organizational structure
  • How do we retain the same work ethos and level of commitment, can we secure contractual agreements?
    • Clarify why the project’s important regardless of money
    • Insist that no compromise will be made on quality
    • Refer to Equity Fringe Agreement and/or various Volunteer Agreements 
  • The Fringe model is broken and needs restructuring
    • Small companies are not trying to emulate the West End
    • Fringe theatre succeeds according to different criteria
    • Organizations which began as and continue to subscribe to the spirit of student collectives can behave professionally; applying organizational structure, mission statement, and equity code and expectations within an autonomous financial setting
  • Can the performing arts be considered according to the practice and principles of volunteering? Is performance a service?

Work for free, but not for nothing

  • Most artists have made a life choice and are not motivated by money so elimination of this factor doesn’t have to be automatically negative 
  • Exchange incentives might include
    • Exposure to media and audience
    • Company affiliation
    • Job title or specialized role
    • Ethical internships
    • Corporate or further training
    • Shareholder infrastructure
    • Access to career moves
    • Interim work and artistic engagement
    • Training in professional etiquette
    • Peer mentorship
    • Pooling of resources
    • Long-term company development
    • Beer and friendship
  • Companies must offer complete transparency through open access to all financial data 
  • Artists might be potentially reluctant to commit to unpaid work based on past experiences
    • Underling treatment
    • Attraction of insecure people
    • Exploitation by the pilot
    • Inter|viewing needs to be a decision-making process on equal footing