An Open Letter to the PSO

The Perth Symphony Orchestra, a relatively new arts organization, recently put a notice on their facebook page (which they have since deleted) asking  for local composers to submit music for one of their up-and-coming chamber music concerts. They stated that no money was available to pay the successful applicant – but that they were willing to showcase local works.

My response, which I had posted in the comments section of the original post, is as follows:

Dear PSO:

While I appreciate it being very difficult to set up a new orchestra with funding etc, as a composer myself I believe it is not fair, nor professional, to ask for free music. Are you asking the musicians to perform for free? If not, why is it that you think you should exempt composers from being financially compensated in the same way?
Unless a composer has their work performed by the Berlin Philharmonic at the Super Bowl, ‘exposure’ or ‘showcase’ is not an adequate form of payment. Musicians in general are tired of hearing this argument. Composers and arrangers should be paid fairly, just like anyone else. If you pay the players – then you should pay the writers too.
I have written music for free on occasion, for local theatre companies – but in these instances, EVERYONE was working for free. The actors, director, stage crew etc were all  providing their talent and skill voluntarily. Under these circumstances, I’m happy to provide music for free.
While a university composition student might be happy to hear their work performed by a student orchestra, I believe that a professional organization such as the PSO should treat composers and arrangers professionally also.
I completely understand that setting up any new arts organization is not easy, particularly when it comes to funding. I commend the PSO for all the great work they have done thus far, in providing some unique concert experiences and engaging with the community. That’s terrific, and Perth needs more of this.
But if PSO is ‘not in a position to offer a commission’ – then I personally believe it’s better not to ask for free music in the first place.

Thank you,

Myles Wright

This sort of thing happens far too often. Large parts of society seem to think it is ok to ask artists to work for free. Another example from the UK:

Now, comparing the PSO to Sainsburys  might not seem legitimate, as they are two very different companies – but the principle is the same. If you don’t have the money for it – then don’t ask for it.

And finally, this fellow from Canada came up with the perfect response for a similiar situation:

Lets try to bring about some positive change – if you’re an artist reading this and any person or company asks for your work for free – politely tell them that you wouldn’t expect a plumber or electrician to work for free, and that artWORK is work.