RMIT Gazette: Passion and money

Ben Callinan  

The RMIT Gazette is a dynamic daily newspaper produced, published and distributed around Melbourne during the Emerging Writers’ Festival. We’ll publish the Gazette’s top stories online during the festival.

Honor Eastly makes a podcast called Starving Artist; it explores how people with creative careers manage the financial side of their lives. Her show features a diverse range of guests: Wendy Syfret, the editor of i-D; Jeff Phillips, artist and illustrator; Becky Sui Zhen, a musician and digital creative director; and many others. These people have achieved success in their creative careers and have interesting things to say about their relationships with money.

Eastly sees her podcast as a way of overcoming the unhelpful idea that when pursuing a career that is supposed to be driven by passion, talking about money can be seen as “dirty, or not pure”. She is curious about how creatives navigate this art-money equation, given that money is an unavoidable part of living in our current economic system.

Starving Artist is more than tips for increasing your wage or getting the ATO off your back. Eastly thinks a conversation about money and how to do things you find meaningful is really a conversation about how to live a good life and focus on what’s important. Starving Artist’s guests reveal the various ways it is possible to approach a creative career. For some like artist and writer Sarah Firth, making money from creative work is not a priority, as she feels she would no longer have the same passion if it were her full-time job. But for others their creative work is their sole means of making money. Like Frances Cannon, who earns her income through the work she posts on Instagram.

Eastly is also concerned with what can be best described by the work of academic Miya Tokumitsu, who writes about how creative industries create a workforce that is exploitable and pliant because the people involved it in it are there because it’s their passion. This observation then opens up the conversation surrounding creative work and money to a conversation about privilege and class. Eastly believes it is important to consider and highlight who is given a voice in this conversation. Most often, these are the people with less financial resources. But there are broader structural issues at play beyond changes individuals can make themselves.

Starving Artist is about starting a conversation about the troubling structural forces at work in the creative industries. It promotes a normative lense through which the industry can be examined and structural concerns can begin to be discussed. It opens up a conversation around how the industry functions when it is made up of people who are there because they are passionate about their work, and can better function if it were more accessible to less privileged artists. It poses important questions around how creatives can balance sustainable careers with happy lives and the broader forces that can make this happen.

Read more from the RMIT Gazette here.