Thursday, January 22, 2009

WANTED: An Artist with Talent-- Keeping Hope Alive When You Lose Your Full-Time Job

You are a singer with the occasional gig who works full-time during the day as a teacher.

You are a painter who waits tables to make ends meet.

You are a writer who supplements your income by a day job as an executive.

Then you get the pink slip. Your artist gig is now your main gig. What do you do?

According to the US Department of Labor, payroll employment fell by 524,000 over the month and by 1.9 million over the last 4 months of 2008. In December 2008, job losses were large and widespread across most major industry sectors. In December, the number of unemployed persons increased by 632,000 to 11.1 million and the unemployment rate rose to 7.2 percent. Since the start of the recession in December 2007, the number of unemployed persons has grown by 3.6 million, and the unemployment rate has risen by 2.3 percentage points. Black people are more likely to be unemployed with 11.9% listed as unemployed.

Times are tough. And, with previously strong industries as retail laying off employees, a plan of action is called for stay afloat. As an artist with a talent that extends outside of traditional industry, you may have a benefit over the rest of the flock, however. While it can be assumed that you will probably be less likely to find an abundance of regular gig opportunities, you can definitely put your artistic skills to work if you think outside of the box. On the blog Painter's Keys, I found this wonderful quote by artist Robert Genn: "Recessions are blessings. Historically, recessions and depressions have been times when 'important' work gets made."

Here is a list of some suggestions from Liberated Muse that some of our members report are working for them to stay creating while paying the bills:

-Offer discounted lessons in your craft to youth and adults. You sing professionally? Consider giving private vocal lessons. A painter? Consider starting a small class at your local library or individual lessons. You can advertise for free on sites such as Craig's List or the CityPaper in your area. You can also post flyers in grocery stores and on college campuses. Also spread the word among your friends and family to pass the word.

-Collaborate with other artists and put on a show. The poet .jade foster who hails from the DC area is part of a wonderful movement where local spoken word artists and musicians have a floating show where they charge a small entrance fee for patrons to enjoy entertainment, food and fellowship in a pretense-free environment. This idea is not new but as of late has not been the norm for most acts who search for gigs within already established venues and events. During this time, step out on a limb and invest in yourself and your talent while there is no middle-man to take their part.

-Get Out in the Street. Ok, it is cold outside, but you can take this bit of advice literally and not so literally. While street performers are more likely found in NYC or near the closest Metro (if you're in DC), the average performer tends to look down on the hard-working street performer as either a derelict or someone with nothing to lose (including ego). Well, change your thinking. Some very talented and established indie artists grew their audience with street performing. Acoustic soul artist Kuku grew his audience years back when he and his friends pitched up shop outside of a U Street club in DC and began impromptu jam sessions. Though Kuku was already an open mic favorite throughout the area, he was not shy in breaking out into song on the street to the joy of his fans. Aside from the potential coins and dollars that will most likely be thrown your way, you may also catch the eye or ear of someone who is planning their next big event and have you in mind as the featured act.

These are but a few suggestions. Got more? Share...

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