Dear SA music festival*, this is why I can’t work for tickets*
7 Months ago I did something that a lot of people told me was stupid: I left my job (for various reasons) to pursue running gevaaalik.com full time. Most people told me it was an idiotic move because my son was born just a few month prior. Regardless, I have made a small income from gevaaalik.com on the side, so I was adamant that if I do it “full time”, I could also earn a kinda-full time salary to support myself and my family.
As luck would have it, it’s now 7 months later and I had to take a job to support my family, because even though I have an audience that brands (and music festivals) want access to, nobody seems to think that running and creating for gevaaalik.com, is a real job and as such never have a budget to pay to access my audience. And before you, FUCKING say it: free product or tickets to your festival is not payment.
Why can you make money, but us “influencers” can’t?
I don’t like the word “influencer” because I’m not trying to influence anyone. I’m simply sharing my creations with my audience and they tend to have the same interests as me. As such my audience puts their money where my mouth (or content) is, by buying tickets to your festival, or by using your service, or by buying your product.
“We don’t currently have a marketing budget.”
“Budget is limited, but we can give you tickets for yourself and a giveaway on your site.”
“We can’t pay you, but we will happily share your content on our social media pages to increase your exposure.”
If you’ve built an audience (seemingly of any size because they almost anyone with an Instagram account qualifies as an influencer these days) online you will have seen these kinds of responses yourself. But as much as free tickets save me a couple of $$$, it still costs me money to go to your festival because I have to get there somehow. I have to eat when I’m there, I usually buy myself some drinks for the festivities and all of that comes out of my own pocket. So even though I can get cool Instagram shots at your festival, even though I can write some great content for my blog audience to read, even though I can vlog the whole festival on my YouTube channel, even though I can do a podcast with a musician playing your festival, it’s still going to cost me money while it costs you NOTHING.
I do suppose we can keep hammering on the fact that your festival tickets have a monetary value, but so does my time and my content. While you have been offering to save me a few bucks by giving me tickets to your festival, I’ve had to do other freelance work to pay my bills. Luckily I’m a Digital Marketer by trade, I did build an audience for myself with my skills, after all. But when I do freelance work as a Digital Marketer I get paid either by the hour or when I do the freelance writing I charge per word. My hourly rate is $20 per hour, and for writing, I charge $0.25 per word.
Let’s do the math
A weekend music festival is two days or 48 hours. Usually, I do at least one piece of writing for any music festival that I attend, normally in the region of 1000 words. The last two times I went to Oppikoppi I did a piece of writing for each of the three days I was there, totaling over 3000 words.
Let’s say you have to pay my hourly rate for attending the festival, that would add up to $960 for the weekend. Luckily I don’t charge extra because I have to work over a weekend. Let’s say you just pay me for the piece I write about my weekend at your festival, a 1000 word piece comes in at $250.
I know what you are thinking: Fuck, that’s expensive!
And you are right, that is why I charge a fraction of that, and you get way more than just having me there, or me just writing a piece about your festival. In fact, if you give me the tickets to attend your festival then you only pay $135 to have me there for the whole festival and one 1000 word piece about your festival, at no extra cost. On top of that, I’ll share my piece of writing about your festival with my audience on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram at no extra charge.
If you want me to do a couple of social media posts while I’m at the festival (Tweets and Instagram posts) then we can negotiate a price based on how many you want me to do during the course of the weekend. But let’s just say that even if you want 5 tweets and 5 Instagram posts throughout the weekend, it won’t cost you even close to what I get paid by the hour as a Digital Marketer.
Financially you have screwed me and other bloggers
When a journalist gets sent to cover a music festival, he gets the ticket and he gets paid a salary by his publication at the end of the month. That justifies his time at the festival, the notes he takes, the photos he takes. That is a luxury that I don’t have. If you don’t pay me, I don’t get paid, THE END.
Currently, I’m in debt, (I know right, who isn’t) way more debt than I was 7 months ago. I ran out of coffee on Saturday and even though I consider it to be fuel, it’s actually a luxury I now can’t afford. The light bulbs in my kitchen and in my living-room lights have both blown, but I’ve decided to buy food for my kid rather than replace these. I tried replacing the light bulb with a free festival ticket, and that created light until I had to put out the fire. Let’s not even start talking about making car payments or rent, because I’m not making either of those this month.
Get a real job, you digital-hippy
Like I mentioned before I actually have a skill that people pay for. The same skill I used to build gevaaalik.com’s audience and the same skill I use to create things for gevaaalik.com. Unfortunately, I’m exhausted, mentally and physically. See, I’ve been working two jobs for over 6 years now. My office job to earn a salary, and creating and building gevaaalik.com when I get home after work. I wonder how many jobs you have Mr. Festival promoter/organizer, or how many jobs you have that you don’t get paid for?
But that is now coming to an end.
I’m done. I can’t take it anymore. I don’t want to work 40 hours a week to provide for my family, and then work another 40 hours for my audience, free tickets, free shit products and useless exposure, all to the determent of my personal and family life. I’m sick of going to bed at 01:00 am only to get up at 05:00 am again. I’m overworked, overstressed and sleep deprived, and granted the sleep deprivation is mostly because I’m lying awake at night wondering how I’m going to be able to keep my house at the end of the month when I can’t pay the bills.
Just like you Mr. Festival promoter/organizer, I’m now only going to be doing one job, the job that pays the bills. It sucks because it does make it feel like I’ve wasted over 6 years of my life creating things that people love (did I mention my website gets about 30 000 visitors a month), things that my audience have come to expect from gevaaalik.com, that they will no longer be getting. Yes, gevaaalik.com will still be here, just not as my audience has come to know and love the site.
And please, feel free to go with the guys that are willing to do it for free tickets and no payment and then see how far that get’s you. From now on the only job, I will be doing that I’m not getting paid for, is being a better dad to my son, by spending time with him instead of spending time behind my computer doing work for free tickets.
The *music festival can be replaced with the name of any South African music festival. Oppikoppi, Mieliepop, Park Acoustics, Up The Creek, Rocking the Daisies, or any of the others. I’m not pinning this on anyone, in particular, I’m pinning this on the South African industry as a whole, who seemingly thinks it’s ok to let people work for no payment as long as they get a free ticket/product/exposure. Oh, and the same goes when you replace “music festival” and “tickets” with “brand” and “products”.