Growing up in the 60s and 70s it was a treat after school to stop by the corner shop and buy a penny’s worth of sweets. Lemon bonbons were my favourite. They were scooped out of the huge jar and carefully weighed out, measured to the value of a penny and then placed in a paper bag.
Fast forward around 40 years. I’m a big fan of the US TV series Parks and Recreation, a wonderfully observed, funny, warm character comedy which centres around the employees of the parks and recreation department in the fictional town of Pawnee, Indiana. Season 2, currently on BBC 4, featured an episode in which office staff were invited to produce a design for a mural contest. Declaring he has no interest or talent in art, the seemingly shallow character called Tom decides to cheat and approaches a professional designer to do the work for him. Believing art to be simply another commodity, he requests “20 dollars worth of art”. I laughed out loud at this. (The irony is that he later falls in love with the abstract work produced, forming a deep emotional connection with his piece of art).
It got me thinking about how we measure the creative process in monetary terms. How do we /can we value art? And our time as creative producers? I wonder how many artists have had clients asking how much art they can get for £10? £100? £1000? Interestingly, commission guidelines for composers are often based on cost per minute of music, and writers can be paid per word for articles and features.
My e-books are priced between £1.95 – £3.98. Many e-books cost just 99p. They could have taken 6 months or several years of work to produce. What else can you get for £1.95? Not even a cappuccino. Is my latest book worth less than that?
Pricing and charging is a tricky arena. Especially since creatives often do a lot of work gratis (and are often expected to do stuff for free). I’ve done plenty for free – sometimes willingly and happily if I know that funding was a problem, other times not so much. What is my time worth? If no-one pays me is my time worthless? Would you ever assume that a plumber or mechanic or solicitor will work for free?
The arts make money. A recent report in the Guardian highlighted the fact that, “Analysis by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) shows that the arts budget accounts for less than 0.1% of public spending, yet it makes up 0.4% of the nation’s GDP.
The report is published amid fears that the arts will take another big hit when George Osborne announces his spending review in June.” (Click link below to read the article).
We are all consumers. But, as a creative, how do you value your time? And that of other creative producers?