from alex desebrock

whatdoestheworld_August 27, 2013_SA_1_lowres copy 2Alex Desebrock is an independent artist based in Melbourne. And lead artist at Maybe (  ) Together.
This was originally published on her blog.  

Bryony Kimmings did this in the uk.
So I’m doing it here.
It’s probably a bit boring if you’re looking for something poetic.
This is a very nuts and bolts, clear and cut explanation of money.

I’ve had a month of many presenters asking for quotes, of some presenters being amazing and saying “yes”, trusting our budgets & others asking for reduced (up to half) budgets because of emails like this:

“I am hoping as we would feature your performance as a key event in our free outdoor program and over 4 weekends of the Festival, you will benefit from the exposure and status of inclusion in the Festival; and that you can see the benefit of discounting your rates.”
(and then they offered 50% of our fee)

This is about a work that has been around for 2 years and been presented at White Night, Sydney Festival, Harvest Festival, City of Melbourne, Glow Festival, Cube Wodonga and more.

– Presenters & Council workers forgetting independent artists aren’t paid a wage.
– Lack of conversation/transparency about how presenters spend their budget
– Lack of standard fees within the industry and artists working for reduced fees or free.
– my own weakness in not knowing where to draw “the line” – ultimately preventing a presentation of work.

I’ll show you mine:
Maybe (  ) Together has 4 big gigs over the next six months (Arts Centre, Perth Festival, Come Out & Sydney Festival).
I will earn $10,080 in artist and shared producer fees over this six months.
I will earn $4,400 in royalties.
Both these amounts go into Maybe (  ) Together and I plan to pay myself a wage of $20,000 per year in 2015. ($18,000 in 2014, $15,000 in 2013).

The $4,400 has been flagged to be put into a new work that hasn’t received funding we’d hoped to happen.

Our performer day rates have been $200/day for the last two years.
I am trying to up this to $250.
We charge $300 per workshop.
This doesn’t include super or workers cover, which we now budget for every performance we do.

Our development of work rates are $1000/wk.
As are our admin/producer fees.
I have a producer! She isn’t paid enough either, she gets between $500 & $1500/gig.
However, these two roles are never paid sufficiently.
But I do charge royalties. This isn’t ticket royalties, but an added percentage of overall fee for a work:
5-10% for me as an artist (or other artists I’ve collaborated with)
5-10% for Maybe (  ) Together to cover studio rent, paper, pens, coffees/beers/lunch for artists when they donate time, rehearsal fees for new performers, when we blow a budget  & to re-invest in new work.

So, you might be wondering – if you’re only getting $10,000 then you must have budgeted for only 10 weeks work. So that is how much work you’ll be doing.


Here are some things that I won’t get paid for that will take up the majority of the other 16 weeks:
– 2 week development of new work, unpaid (i’m ok with this, this is my choice)
– 1 week of admin for new work – scheduling, contracts, liaising, budgets, meetings, sourcing of items, emails! etc.
– Between 4 to 10 funding applications. Ranging from 1 day to 3 days each (thankfully our support material is in good shape)
– filling out tech spec & marketing spec sheets for presenters that save them time, even though I have them all ready to go in my own format.
– Media calls/interviews for all works.
– reading and (usually) editing contracts from presenters.
– tweeting, facebook & website updating
– quotes. The amount of back and forth with quotes with some presenters! One asked us for six, and it was down to the last 24hrs before the program went to print that they confirmed us (!)
– recruiting new artists.
– advocacy for the sector (like this post, meetings, emails, advice to other artists etc).
– meeting funders/presenters
– riding/travelling to funders/presenters offices
– Seeing other work. Reading about work. Thinking. Reflecting.
– 2 week break over christmas (if I can…!)

I worked for City of Melbourne at ArtPlay.
During my 3 years there my salary went from $40,000/yr to $65,000/yr.
I also got professional development, flights interstate to see things, time in lieu, and a bucket load of free tickets to shows (this doesn’t happen much when you’re an independent). I pay for all of this out of my own wage or royalties.

I wanted to be an artist. And I can scrape by. But this is because of a few reasons.
Namely, i live in an 8 person share house and pay $400/month.
I have parents that I know will help me out if things got dire.
I also have a bit of a nest egg that I can eat into to help with cash flow.
I ride my bike a lot.
I op shop.
I eat out cheaply.
I like hanging out at home.

But I don’t want to live like this for ever.
And I don’t want all independent artists to live like this forever.
Or for it to get worse.

Let’s share. Let’s talk about this.
Lets find a way, a standard, an understanding within the industry.


Ps four months later…
I decided that one way for me to cope, is to take some time off!
A friend of mine who’s a lawyer was job-crushing about my ability to take a month off while I’m in Europe. Which lead me to the thought..well actually I’m earning so little, I could actually take longer off if I went WWOOFING. So that’s what I’m going to do.
A wee break to stop, pause, gather and perserve.
I’ll let you know whether this was a good idea or not!


So I felt strongly about this enough to create this website.
And I’ve learnt much. And had some excellent conversations.
And I feel like it is possible to earn a crust from being an independent artist/company/collective.
But it’s hard. And there are still things to fix and improve.
Which is why I’ve persevered in collating this website.

I hope it’s useful.
I hope you add to the conversation.
I hope we learn more.


4 thoughts on “from alex desebrock

  1. Totally agree with your comments Alex. I think artists have to stick with to their guns – as much as possible – with the fees they feel are reasonable. It’s upper management in both government and not-for-profits who need to realise that artists – and the work they produce – need to be paid as well as other professionals.


  2. Hi Alex, This is a great project and a wonderful way to make the realities of independent artists’ financial lives more transparent. I have been teaching for 2-3 years, earning about $62,000 a year. This year I have stopped to write, to act, to tutor kids 1-1, and to start working towards a career that I want to have. I’m still beginning, still working out how I can possibly make money in this career that has no clear path. Thank you for encouraging people to speak out about how they make it work; it makes me see that it is difficult, but possible. xx


    1. Hey Sam,
      Exciting step! And scary too. I think I’ve found that too reading others’ responses. It is possible, its just hard. And I think some of this has allowed some changes in expectations. Tutoring will certainly help 🙂
      Another thing to check out is Neis and ArtStart…if you haven’t come across those as yet… xx

      Liked by 1 person

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