How to Think About ‘Exposure Bucks,’ Unpaid Labor, and Freebies

How to Think About ‘Exposure Bucks,’ Unpaid Labor, and Freebies cover

Have you ever been asked to “work for exposure?” We’re betting the answer is a resounding (and irritated) “yes!”

If this sounds like you, we’ve got a real treat on deck today. NOT REAL ART founder and publisher Scott “Sourdough” Power hosts this timely podcast episode on “exposure bucks,” or unpaid creative labor, as it’s known to everyone who’s dipped their toes in the freebies pool. Many creatives are regularly asked to work for experience, exposure, or prestige, a practice that’s become endemic in today’s art market, adding to a culture of exploitation. Today, we take a look at an age-old dilemma for artists: is it ever worthwhile to create free work in exchange for “exposure”? When should you work for free? How should artists think about exchanging freebies?

This week’s episode is part of a new “audiotorial” series that furthers NOT REAL ART’s mission to celebrate, elevate, and empower artists by addressing contemporary art-world issues affecting today’s creative market. Today’s episode dives into the ups and downs of unpaid labor in the contemporary art market.

Ultimately, Scott argues freebies have a place—but they have to be on the artists’ terms. “Artists have to advocate for themselves,” he says. “It [requires] us to stand up for ourselves, say no, and realize that when we say ‘yes’ to free work, we devalue art and the role of artists in the world.” Tune in today for a fresh perspective on exposure bucks, free labor, and freebies.


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