Letters of Mass Construction

I Work For Free…..Sometimes

The new school year has kicked into high gear and I am loving my new job as a media arts/creative writing teacher. It has however left me extremely busy and tired. I am getting behind on my editing, writing, reading, talking to friends, knowing what the hell is going on in the world. So basically, I am behind on everything.

I guess sometime in this last week Amanda Palmer pissed off a bunch of people again. She has mad skills in the piss off department. I am so a part of her tribe. If I haven’t pissed off someone during the week (by someone I mean another teacher) than I am not doing my job. It seems Amanda asked for professional-ish musicians to come and play on her current tour. They were to be paid in hugs and beer. This apparently annoyed people and the outcry to not work for free has rung out in the night.

From what I can tell one of the driving forces behind the outcry was that she raised a million bucks on her Kickstarter and therefore should have the money to pay musicians. Most of the people who were really pissed didn’t even bother to see how much of the Kickstarter money was actually staying in her pocket. It became very black and white. She should pay and anyone who volunteers to work for free was doing a giant disservice to all musicians.

Here’s the thing though. I work for free all the time. I work well past my contract hours. I spend thousands of my own dollars on my classroom. I sometimes write for people’s website. I have given away both of my first two novels on Amazon. I have recently been asked to review some books for a few publishers. I have edited friends novels. These are all choices I make and it is no one’s business to tell me otherwise. It’s ridiculous to think that everyone should see the world the way you do. If I could play an instrument I would totally volunteer to play in Amanda’s show. That would be my choice.

This doesn’t mean I expect everything to be free. I charge for my books. I have been paid to work for websites (sometimes that pay is bartered for services in return). At school I take on the extra duty of being the teacher in charge. A duty I said I wouldn’t do this year if they didn’t pay me more. For reasons beyond my comprehension they thought I was worth it and doubled my stipend (pissed me off because I was not prepared for them to call my bluff).

In my school district we pay a lot of money to a technology specialist. I am always pissing teachers off when I won’t help them with their tech issues because this is an area I won’t work for free. Again my choice and the rule isn’t hard and fast. If you are a friend of mine than I will help you because I help my friends (plus, I don’t have many teacher friends so it doesn’t suck a lot of time away).

Ultimately, I do understand why musicians would never work for free. I respect their decision and would never tell them they are wrong. In the end the road goes both ways though. They can’t tell other people what they expect them to do. My friend Zoë, who is one of the most talented musicians who has ever walked the face of the earth, came out in support of Amanda. This alone was enough for me to realize not everyone is going to agree on this subject. The truth is we all make the choices which work for us. This means sometimes I work for free. It also means that sometimes I work for hugs and chocolate. Nobody’s choice but my own.

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