If artists want to sell a product they produced or charge for their performances, they have every right to do so. It is their product after all. However, sales and profit are not the primary purpose of art.
Art at its core is about creation. If you need a payment to create, then maybe you’re in it for the wrong reasons.
Some argue that artists should be willing to create or work for free to gain exposure. While that’s a fair argument, and certainly applicable for artists who are trying to strike it big with the public, it might be even fairer to say that artists should create regardless of pay or exposure.
Multiple musicians have released albums without charging the public, including Radiohead with “In Rainbows” and Gorillaz with “The Fall.” Peter Docter, director of both “Monsters, Inc.” and “Up” said in an interview with The Greater Good that he creates primarily because he enjoys the process of creating. In the same article, James Strum, creator of graphic novel “The Golem’s Mighty Swing,” said he would create art no matter what. Although both these individuals do, obviously, get paid for their work, profit isn’t what primarily motivates them. Therefore, it isn’t unreasonable to say they would create whether or not they were paid.
Many times, the argument will be made that art cannot be free to the public because it prevents the artists from creating more art. For example, a painter must sell their paintings in order to buy paint. But that argument is ill-founded. While selling art is one way an artist can buy supplies, it not the only way. If artists abide by the work-to-live model, and not the live-to-work lifestyle, they can arguably buy what they need to create. Maybe they wait tables during the night and paint during the day. It doesn’t make their creations any less valuable.
Saying that artists cannot or should not perform or create for free contributes to the idea that you have to be a professional to be an artist. But just like everyday individuals play sports, they sing, paint and create art. Maybe the single mother who paints in her garage or the young man who sings in your choir doesn’t fit your initial schema for artists, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t. They contribute to the world of art because they love expressing themselves in that medium.
You own the rights to your artwork and your talents, so charge for them if you want. But if no one pays you for your work, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t create.