I’ve done a fair amount of work that I haven’t been paid for. Some of this was work for friends that gave me great experience and that I’m grateful to have been a part of. Some, looking back, was blatantly exploitative and it’s obvious now that those I was working for (not with) didn’t value my time or expertise. Now that I’ve got two degrees and a few years of paid experience under my belt, as a general rule, I’m not going to be doing free work anymore.
I spent almost seven years studying music full-time (and all the work and loans that go along with that). I’ve spent Carl Sagan-knows-how-much-money on computers, audio interfaces, keyboards, books, software, and thousands of hours of time learning to use all of that. At this point, I have enough projects and ideas and things I could be doing to move my career where I want it to be to fill my plate for the next year at least. The little free time I do have I’d rather be spending either relaxing with friends and loved ones or working on my own terms on whatever harebrained idea I come up with and call “music.”
This isn’t to say that if someone comes along with an awesome-looking game with no up-front budget that I’ll tell them to screw themselves. I’ve had conversations recently about collaborations with friends that don’t involve money at all. And I’m stoked about those, because they’re with friends that I like spending time with in the first place. But my days of applying for rando online ads for unpaid work are done for me. That doesn’t mean you won’t get something out of them, but unless the stars align just right, I probably won’t.
Music and sound are my area of expertise. I know more about them than the average person. It may be a crowded field where free labor is easy to find, but in this weird capitalist world, even The Sacred Invisible Hand of The Market has given me the stamp of approval of monetary value. My knowledge, skills, and experience are ~worth money~. So pay me for my work, please, and do the same for others.