Pro vs Hobbyist: Aerial Smackdown, Part 2

Posted by: on June 3, 2015

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Not sure what this is about? Click here to read Part 1! 

Unions, Guilds, and Industry Standards

Do you believe people should be paid fairly for work? Do you regularly champion raising the minimum wage? What about when it comes to artistic work? (did you catch a little voice in your head saying, “but that’s not really work”? See “The American Attitude Towards the Arts” section in the next post).

Circus professionals are engaged in a constant battle to educate up-and-coming artists, clients, producers, etc about appropriate working conditions, safety standards, fair wages, and the general realities of what we do (as well as trying to convince people that it is, in fact, work). We do not currently have a union, though we seem to be headed in that direction. Consequently, it’s up to us to police our own community before a) some insane regulatory body does it for us (read: everyone’s performing in helmets) or b) the bottom falls out of the industry, and no one makes a living. Some will call it “shaming” – OK. I call it educating – protecting my industry – and I encourage every professional who cares about what they do to speak out whenever you see everything that you’ve worked for being thoughtlessly undermined.

When non-professionals accept work at a professional level, and do so without pay, they reinforce the idea that art/entertainment is not “real” work, or at least not valuable work. A) I assure you, it is real work (I do more pencil pushing than I had ever dreamed possible) and B) there’s a reason people who do choose to work free or cheap don’t do so for long: events and shows are really, really involved. It’s not usually a matter of just popping into a venue, quick rig, quick show, take it down, post to Insta-gram. For a better idea of why we charge real money for real work, CLICK HERE.

Performers Only Want to Make Money

Yes – we DO want to make money. Just like you do when you go to your job. We would very much like to be fairly and adequately compensated for our work. Because when the glamour and glitter wears off (and it does – surprisingly quickly), it IS work. Work. Not play, work.

Professionals Should Just Be Better – Up Your Game!

I will only accept this argument from card-carrying free market capitalists (that’s probably not you).

For the rest of you, once upon a time, this was how the industry worked. You started your training young, apprenticed through your middle years, put in your time, and maybe – just maybe – made a career out of it. You had to know somebody who would vouch for you to move up in the ranks. What’s changed? The inter-webs. The internet has leveled (some would say destroyed) the playing field, since anyone can hang out their shingle and call themselves whatever they want. But where does that leave the consumer?

… Bewildered. Let’s be very clear: the consumer is not informed. They have very little basis for comparison, and have no idea what questions to ask, what to look for, how to tell a good aerialist from a green aerialist. When the consumer has no idea what “good” really looks like, and is unaware of meaningful standards, how can they possibly make an informed decision? They can’t.

Take a poorly informed consumer who is TOTALLY WOWED by an inversion mid-air, and combine it with !!!FREE!!!, and you can see why this is such a losing battle. Professionals can be as great as they want to be, but it’s hard to compete with free or dirt cheap when the consumer doesn’t understand what they are (or should be) paying for. It’s why Walmart still exists.

Stay tuned for Part 3 of this marathon post! Whew! Dare to imagine, Laura

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