Thanks to Guy Laflamme and the Ottawa 2017 team for sending these answers on Saturday. I proposed to wait until after the weekend to post them, to give their answers better air time, and they agreed. These are their answers, unedited. I have a few notes below, but I’ll have more thoughts in a later blog post.
OTTAWA 2017 Q&A
Can you define professional vs. amateur artist?
This will be defined on a case by case basis. Generally speaking, an amateur is a person who engages in an activity for pleasure rather than a financial benefit, whereas a professional is someone who earns a living (part-time or full-time) as a performer. School bands, guest speakers from community associations, spokesperson from humanitarian or environmental organizations are examples of unpaid performances.
What’s your compensation structure (money to time/gig would be best here)?
Artistic fees will be negotiated on an individual basis with each artist.
How many paid vs. unpaid acts are you planning for? (Meaning professional vs amateur, as per your own guidelines.)
This will be based on the number and types of applications we receive. We would like to showcase a balanced mix of professional performances and amateur performances, which include community groups and sport and educational groups.
How many spots are there for Ottawa artists?
Inspiration Village will run from May 20 to September 4, 2017 (110 days), 7 days per week, from noon to 8 pm. There will be between 4 and 8 programming slots available each day.
If only one day is for Ottawa artists, where will the other performers come from? Are they compensated for travel or anything else (my blog has national reach)?
Local performances are not limited to one day per week, but we wanted to ensure we would have a minimum of one day per week for local performances. Inspiration Village will enable both local artists and artists from coast to coast to coast to showcase their talent, skills or passions. We offer the venue and the technical support for free to all performers.
Inspiration Village is meant to showcase and celebrate Canadian provinces and territories, many who will be programming their very own container all summer long as well as provide talent for our stage. We are also working in collaboration with national and local organizations and institutions that will provide talent at Inspiration Village to promote their own programs, festivals and events.
From an earlier message, I’d asked these questions:
Yes, we will have quite a number of paid artist. Yes artists will be able to sell their material and we will have ways to pre-promote the line-up. Bleachers are being installed in front of the stage + standing space as well. We will be dedicating at least one day per week for local talent.
And I have to ask – are the shipping containers air conditioned? That’s been bugging me… 😉
No, the containers are not equipped with air conditioning except for two units used as office space. All units have proper ventilation systems and are fully opened on one side with windows on the other.
Thanks for the answers!
I’m not posting the early e-mails I received because it’s clear I hit a nerve, and people aren’t at their best when they’re feeling under attack. I’m just marking this here to reiterate that Ottawa 2017 has been willing to talk since the first blog post. Also, the air conditioning thing just really did bug me, that’s all! It’s good for performers to know, though. Not everyone can handle the hot, muggy days this city has to offer (should summer ever show up this year).
WHAT DO THESE ANSWERS MEAN?
First off, and always, I’m glad we received an answer. This discussion is important.
Here are my initial thoughts:
Blanket statements like “we’ve always planned to have paid artists” are hard to unpack. Big acts can’t be free, so it’s easy to say “we planned on paying artists, of course!” when, in truth, only the major acts will get compensated. I think that, despite what their earlier plans might have been, they’re changing their compensation structure in light of the community’s reaction (well done, community!)
After all, not every artist charges thousands of dollars for one hour of performance. No more than every hairstylist charges the same fee, or every carpenter… Experience and demand impact our pricing structure, too. But rarely is “free” the correct pricing structure. And we deal more in experience than tactile takeaways, since the performance is our product.
Not every artist has swag to sell, because making good swag costs extra $$. And more people want free performance instead of paid ones. Even in expensive, headlining, month-long performance spaces in the nation’s capital, it seems.
My biggest takeaway from these answers is that they’re mostly “non-answers,” meaning not very specific. It leads me to believe they will make it up as they go, trying to adapt to an unforeseen reaction. Their budget is spent on selfie signs and shipping containers, and they need to figure out how to compensate a community they hoped would perform for free.
AND THIS IS NOT A BAD THING! I believe that they’ll try to do the right thing, or at least aim to pass that fine line of “not enough” to enter “good enough” territory. Saving face is important, after all. Performers who choose to apply will have to negotiate fair compensation. And that means fair for both the artist and the client. Kind of like a bidding process for construction work. If we undersell ourselves, we undersell our entire community.
Should you apply, be fair to them, to yourself, and to your community. Our actions are not made on an empty lake, and they do ripple and jostle everyone’s canoe (Canadian metaphor, anyone?). Ottawa 2017 may try to do their best to curate the show and compensate the artists, but only time will tell how much they’ll put effort into something they more than likely hadn’t planned on doing.
Ottawa, I still love you (even if that love may not be currently reciprocated). I believe in your ability to do what’s right. To treat us fairly.
Don’t fail us.
And, remember: we’ll be watching.