In addition to small businesses and service outlets, coronavirus hit one group the most - artists. Music, photography, film, text and handicraft creators. How do freelance professionals deal with economic disaster?
The short answer to the above question could be: they can't do it. Or: they are doing great - depending on who to ask.
If I took the bubble in which I closed myself for granted, I could write here that everything is all right and the artists are doing great. I mainly watch the independent scene, or those traditional artists who perfectly navigate the meanders of modernity.
When I look around this bubble, I see many positives. My favorite musicians on YouTube are doubling their efforts to release as much music online as the coronavirus has canceled their concert tours.
Foreign freelance writers, in the face of paralysis of traditional distribution methods, are switching to direct sales using their websites. Polish creators, in the face of the inability to organize meetings with authors, are starting to run meetings on Facebook and Instagram.
In fact, even traditional cultural institutions do quite well in places. The Berlin Philharmonic provides recordings for free for 30 days, and some Polish theaters will show online performances in the form of paid access.
There are artists who are doing great and by selecting only a few individual cases I could sketch a sketch in which artists thrive in times of plague.
On a macro scale, however, things do not look so rosy. Artists are hardly affected by the crisis.
There is a lot of talk about how small commercial premises, gastronomy, hotels will fall, and thousands of people associated with them will lose their jobs.
There is relatively little talk about the fact that this earthquake may not survive culture.
Let's start with the musicians. There are those who are doing great by building proper online presence. Most of them, however, are not so "modern", and their revenues in the vast majority depend not even on the sale of records, but on concerts.
And the concerts were canceled.
And remember that we are talking here mainly about popular musicians. What about classical musicians? Virtuosos of instruments playing on a daily basis in concert halls or theaters, employed on the basis of junk contracts? With choristers and choristers?
Writers are in a similar difficult situation, although here it is difficult for me to strive for forgiveness. For clarity - I sympathize with every Polish writer in the current situation. When most of the revenue comes not from the sale of books, but from meetings with authors, after the outbreak of the epidemic will certainly become fragile.
Like foreign writers, many native writers try their hand at online meetings. And I'm sorry but laughter overwhelms me when I see some of these attempts. Or rather - laughter through tears.
Some Polish writers (including quite well-known Polish writers) behave as if today they discovered the existence of Facebook and the possibility of conducting live broadcasts. Regular connection with readers, which is used by many widely read writers (which largely contributes to their readership).
You can see who has slept through the last decade, and who has kept up with the changing market and has been on a wave of change.
In this respect, Polish writers are not much different from Polish teachers who only after the outbreak of a pandemic discover many tools commonly known and used by those who do not consider the Internet and social media to be the evil of this world. Unfortunately, the situation is such that many creators of the written word, like many teachers, behave as if they have spent the last two decades under the stone and only now come to light.
To save those who are in the most difficult situation, the Union of Literary Union hastily set up a fundraising fund for writers and writers to help 44 people in need. It is a beautiful gesture, but in the face of the magnitude of this catastrophe it is still not enough and many writers, when all this is over, will probably have to look for another occupation.
Photographers are also in a deplorable situation. I know what a first-hand photographer's husband knows how powerful a coronavirus turned out to be. Especially now, before Easter, which for many family photographers it is the harvest season, i.e. mini-occasional sessions.
Event and wedding photographers also have a huge problem, as they have lost all orders for the coming months, because none of the events or weddings will simply take place. The same applies to sports photographers, who were suddenly taken from sports for photography. Marcin Watemborski collected many such stories in one place . Although there are positive cases, most are worried about what will happen tomorrow.
Examples could be multiplied and multiplied.
The linguists' environment, very close to me, is in a state of total paralysis. At the moment, no one needs the services of translators, whether sworn, literary or simultaneous.
Actors and actresses, especially theater ones, were left without any involvement overnight.
Paralysis even affected creators working on advertising, because although companies continue to advertise, they do not spend as much money as usual, withdrawing budgets and directing funds to other, more pressing areas of activity.
At the end of this sad chain are employees of all sorts of cultural institutions, libraries, dance schools and art galleries. Unless they are state institutions, the sources of revenues of such institutions for the coming months simply evaporated. There are no visitors, no revenues.
Canceled series, suspended film productions, postponed cultural events, canceled trade fairs ... artists will not have a light life in the coming months. When all this is over, it may turn out that the world will deprive creative people and their works, because forced by the economic situation they will have to abandon their current career path to ensure livelihood for themselves and their families. Considering how emotionally sensitive we are talking about, I am also very seriously concerned about the mental health of many of them.
And why am I writing about it at all? Because voices are already appearing that those performing "useless professions" - read: artistic professions - should now sew masks or stop whining because they chose a socially useless role.
I read such comments and grab my head.
The world needs artists like never before.
Think for a moment what you have been doing for the last week while sitting at home. Parents will probably say that children, and I don't know life, because I don't have children, but apart from the shouting kids - what was the time spent without work or after work at #HomeOffice ?
I bet he was largely watching the series. On reading books. On listening to music. Playing computer games. On watching YouTube.
In other words: the time passed by consuming the work of artists.
We don't think about it every day. A new series is appearing on Netfliks, and we kindly check whether we like it or not. And if we're in a good mood, we'll give him a chance.
In the meantime, let's do a small thought experiment and analyze how many artists from how many fields had to work on such a series. No matter what. Even one to whom you then give one star on Filmweb. Ready?
The obvious come first to mind. Actors, screenwriter, maybe a showrunner.
Let's move on. Someone wrote this series and it is not always one screenwriter. Usually in the case of series they are teams of writers. A group of people who shape the plot, dialogues are responsible for the plot.
Someone starred in this series. We always think only about actors, but let's think how many supporting artists do you need for an actor to play a given scene? How many makeup artists, how many stylists, how many costume makers? Behind each scene where representatives of both sexes can sigh to Henry Cavill, there is a staff of people preparing him for this stage. Not to mention the so-called "Set builders", or people who design and create the scenery, which is an art in itself.
Someone made this series. We usually think of a director who conducted the work of cinematographers, but he is only the captain of the ship. It has dozens of artists from other fields: from operators, through special effects specialists (they are also artists!), To colorists, editors and visual artists.
Someone later voiced the series. Here, we usually think about the composer, but he is the captain of the ship again. Musicians who record the score flow with it. Producers who later polish the soundtrack and shape it.
I also don't know how many readers are aware of the fact that every sound we hear in a series or film is added to the post production. Each crunch of stones under the feet of the main character. Every gust of wind. Every sound of a car passing by. The slam of the lockable fridge.
Each of these sounds had to be designed by someone, often recorded in the place where the film was shot, and then used in post production.
How many of those people we usually don't think about have just faced a professional disaster?
Is it really possible to write with a clear conscience that they are not a first-class competition, and then as if nothing would go to watch the series?
What can we do to help artists in difficult times?
In order not to end this column with an apocalyptic note, let's think about what we can do to help artists survive a pandemic.
First of all: do not stop consuming their work. Let's buy books, buy games, listen to as much music as possible in streaming (and better yet - buy whole albums, if possible, directly from the performers), watch TV series and pay for subscription to VOD services.
Many artists, especially musicians, open their accounts on Patronite or Patreon - there you can support them directly. In this way I pay several favorite creators, transferring them an amount equal to one Starbucks coffee per month. I do not feel this amount, and when there are a thousand such people, the creator can breathe easily, because his fans will provide him with existence.
If you go to the theater or philharmonic every day - look for concerts and performances online. Pay for the ticket, just like you would when going to a real building, sitting in a real audience.
If you have arranged a session with the photographer, do not cancel it, and postpone it. Do not break the already signed contracts for the implementation of the order, if you can only postpone them in time.
The Ministry of Culture has just announced that it will allocate PLN 20 million to the support of artists under two assistance programs - one in progress, the other after the pandemic. However, if it is the same "help" as the government's help to entrepreneurs , then everything remains in the hands of the recipients. If the consumers of culture do not keep the creators of culture in these difficult times, nobody will.
It is not easy for anyone.
As Przemek rightly wrote, a crisis is coming that many of us have never seen before . We will all feel its effects and, without a doubt, the demand for many services and goods will fall.
However, let's do a little overvaluation of priorities based on what the current pandemic teaches us . What can we live without and what makes it easier for us to survive?
I can speak only for myself, but without a trace of effort I can imagine living in a world where suddenly there were no weekly fashion trends, junk gadgets or influencers from the broadly understood lifestyle.
However, I can't imagine a world where there would be no music, books, paintings, games, movies or any other form of artistic expression, thanks to which after reading a bundle of tragic news I am able to smile and even feel completely normal, as if outside the window at all there was no epidemic.
In the world of small gastronomy, the # holdings once action is popular, promoting take-out orders to keep food outlets on the surface.
I have not seen a similar initiative among Polish artists, so it remains only to write here - let's stick together. Let us support creators whom we value, whose hard work and talent we use now, dying of boredom (or stress) during forced isolation.
Pandemics decimate artists. Meanwhile, the world needs them more than usual