Why I Disagree With RAW
So, first off lemme premise with, yes I am a currator, and no it is not because I am jealous. I have my own events that are very successful. I am an artist as well. An artist who is extremely proud of my community here in Orlando. Im also pretty protective of it. I was originally approached to host it locally but had a bad feeling about it. So did both the people I suggested to raw. Very glad I didnt put my name on this organisation, which incidentally lost their not-for-profit status.
I had to get this rant out though. It is taking advantage of the community, on a pack of lies no less. The company claims to donate back into the community, but after weeks of emailing, we never got an answer where the money goes except back to L.A. 20 or 30 artists are all expected to sell 20 tickets at ten bucks a pop each. That is a nice little chunk of change for a 6 hour event.
They cannot use the excuse that they have to pay for the venue, the venue takes care of its self. It was here before raw and will be long after as well. Artists are paying for what as already available. Sure curators take a commission, but they do not extort 200 bucks out of every artist showing.
If you do not sell your tickets, raw leaves your info on their site, to make it look like you dropped out, but they inform you that you may not show in the event.
Nowhere do they say that selling on their behalf is mandatory.
Ive done a little research, and there are quite a few horror stories out there from this group. Seems other areas are having a hard time finding out where the money goes as well.
”It would be great to know where that money goes, how much of it stays local, or goes to actually support the participating artists. I fear that these funds, raised on the backs of our local artists and their fans, goes directly to support the salaries of a bunch of folks in Los Angeles. I shot an email to founder Heidi Luerra, telling her I was asked to write about RAW for a local blog—which at the time, I was—and received no real answers to any of my questions. In fact, when I asked again, very politely, to have some sort of percentage breakdown of where the ticket sales go—how much money stays local; how much supports the local director; and what the rest goes to fund—I received a curt email back saying RAW does not disclose financial information, followed by another email asking for my “press credentials and the name of my supervisor.” Looks like I hit a nerve. People have learned (most recently from KONY 2012 and Susan B. Komen Foundation) to ask where the money goes. If an organization has a hard time telling you where, there’s probably a reason they want that hidden. RAW: Natural Born Artists is not for artists, it’s for a few folks in bigger cities making money on the backs of hundreds of artists in smaller towns participating in their showcases. It certainly is complicated. Our artists deserve more and deserve better.”
Lea Miller - Reno
Here is a rather lengthy disertation as well on behalf of an unknown artist from Cinninattii.
Okay, you’re here because you’ve already had a little doubt - trust your gut. RAW is a scam. But just in case you need more convincing, read on….but I caution you, this is a little long. But its worth the read, there are a LOT of points to be made.
FYI - my post was previously flagged and removed as “spam” however, I received a lot of feedback from people that found my post helpful. So I’m not sure why or how my opinion is constituted as spam. If whoever flagged it were to actually READ to the very end, I stated that I WELCOME any positive experiences (and hoped there were some!) to have been had on behalf of RAW. I hope for the best. But I am in my rights to share my EXPERIENCE. It’s called FREE speech.
Okay, here’s the post:
The most important thing that RAW artists does not mention on the website - well, i couldn’t find it. But if you do, kudos to you:
Is that you have to SELL $200 worth of tickets to participate in the show. PERIOD. If you don’t, you have to make up the difference. Also known as PAY to PLAY
Everyone, from DJs, designers, artists, to the MODELS that have to participate to make the designers work happen, all have to come up with $200 individually. - I could be a little off about this, but this because I am a visual artist. However, this is what I was told by a model that participated in a show.
Um, do I need to do any more convincing? Well, just in case, here’s MORE:
You’re probably thinking - hey, why are you bashing these people? They’re out to do good, they’re trying to give local artists a voice, why you gotta hate on that?
Um, because I AM a local artist. and I was a “RAW” artist. I was duped. I was naive. I wish I hadn’t been. I wish I could take it back. But I can’t. Half way through the process, I finally realized what was happening - I initially had my doubts, and I SHOULD have trusted my gut. After they initially called me and made their pitch, it sounded fishy - too good to be true. I even GOOGLED “RAW artists SCAM” after chatting with them on the phone. At that time, it was hard for me to find anything that really talked about just how much of a scam it was, and why exactly it sucked so much.
But in the end, I gave up searching for a reason to doubt them. They were “new” to the area, and I thought, why not give it a chance. And lets face it, us Cincinnati artists love a show!
But I am sharing this with you now because I LOVE my Cincinnati artists! I love how vibrant this city is with your creativity, love, and passion for art. We work hard, and love our work. And I love this community TOO MUCH to see a Pyramid Scheme like RAW take advantage of an unsuspecting, trusting person that could probably take that $200 and invest it in much needed supplies, studio rental space, classes, etc.
Still not convinced? Look at it from a different perspective:
You are a owner of a Venue, you have to pay or hire talent to entertain crowds of people in your clubs on the weekends. RAW comes up to you and says:
RAW: “hey, would you mind if we took your Friday or Saturday night spot - a night where YOU the VENUE owner usually have to PAY talent to perform, we will provide you with FREE entertainment!”
VENUE: “sounds interesting, go on”
RAW: “well, we can bring people in that will actually PAY US to put on a show for YOU, and your customers! And, you can STILL charge your cover charge! and you don’t have to give ANY of that to the performers!!”
VENUE: “you mean, we get free labor, well, they PAY US to work, and then we get even MORE MONEY from the people that come to see them, and will buy my drinks, PLUS the crowds of people that just show up to buy drinks and have no idea there is a show going on?? They think this cover is just the standard cover that goes to performers i typically have to pay for??! this sounds too good to be true!!” (keep in mind, I’m assuming they are splitting this somehow - there’s NO WAY a venue would do this for free).
RAW: “yes, and on top of that, you can still sell your liquor, run your club as usual, we just take over your entertainment for the night”
VENUE: “sign me up!”
Yea. See what I am getting at now? You are providing a service for them, actually. Think about it. Yes, you are getting “Exposure”!!! They will tout that to no extent. I’m certain of that. But they are also exploiting you, and the arts community. Not to mention, at the end of the day, they probably laugh at how much of an idiot you (and I was) for buying into the whole giving “artists a voice” thing. Exploitation trumps exposure in my book, period.
Sure they make a video, take a headshot, you get a “press kit”. But lets be honest, you probably know a photographer and a graphic designer (since you’re an artist) that could do a way better job than someone shooting in a dark club at night with horrible lighting, and a mishmashed video with horrible background noise on youtube. Are they sending out a press release to the papers? Are they putting an ad in City Beat? (No seriously are they because I don’t know and if they actually did I might hate them a little less). I would maybe understand if they actually took that money and invested it directly BACK into advertising your show, or display materials - since they REQUIRE you to hang stuff a very specific way!!! And getting ACTUAL press there to cover the event. Not their own staff - that would actually be money well spent.
In case you need more convincing…
- this is CLEARLY pay for play - they try to “sell” you on the idea that “we don’t take commissions” “we don’t charge an application fee like galleries” - um. What do you think $200 is??? They call it your “initiation” fee. After you sell that $200 you can show anywhere and not have the ticket “requirement.” I somehow feel that if I wanted to set something up in another state, and didn’t have to pay for anything, that they would mysteriously lose my number or take a lonnnngggg time to get back to me. Or say, “oh that date is booked up” (and I’m sure they give priority to people who have to pay for their spot over you, a freebie).
- NOTE THIS: Yes galleries take commissions, and yes they usually have application fees - and NO I DO NOT OWN, NOR AM I AFFILIATED with any gallery. I am simply an artist. Point blank. that aside, Galleries actually OWN or RENT the space they are showing your work in, they actually have rent to PAY, so what they make will most likely be directly invest BACK into the gallery. They actually take time to come up with a theme, promotional materials, or scout out artists of a similar caliber to you, so that your work compliments one another. They also keep your work up for MORE THAN ONE NIGHT, usually a month, if not longer! And if you don’t sell a piece, you don’t have to pay them anything! RAW gets your money from you whether you sell something or not, and in advance to boot! Galleries also (typically) hang all your work for you, and provide the materials to do so (granted they are the standard materials). At RAW you are expected to invest money in a hanging system that is largely unaffordable and nearly impossible if you want to present your work with some integrity (you can’t nail, drill or do anything to walls, so hanging a legitimately framed piece is OUT of the question! - even if you are willing to patch it back up!). You are expected to man your station, talk about your work - which I get - totally. But a gallery, even when you’re not in the room, that Gallery Sales clerk is working hard to help you out and sell a piece (granted they want their commission). But in RAW’s case, they already got their money, and they don’t get anything extra if you sell something, so what motivation do they have to help you? NONE.
- RAW also shows your work with around 15-20 other people!!! (not counting the models!) THATS INSANE! if you do the math, they’re making a ton of money off of you. I even asked them initially how many people would also be showing, and they gave me a fluff answer like “we’re still recruiting people” or “something comparable to the space,” they never gave me a number of the actual amount. But you have to give them a definite answer on the phone. And once you’ve done that, you’re committed (to an extent). It wasn’t until after I committed that I found out JUST how many people were doing it!
- The promotional materials are the SAME nationwide. Some poor INTERN designer back at headquarters is cranking out “themes” and sending them out to all the “chapters’ everywhere. That’s right. INTERN. They hire interns! who knows if they actually pay them. Just go to their career section and you will see what I’m talking about. These people save a TON on promotional expenses by only promoting on their facebook, and website. I have yet to see promotional stuff anywhere else for these shows. They say they don’t want to waste paper. They really just don’t want to waste MONEY on anyone but themselves.
- Also, these THEMES aren’t even discussed, really. I mean, on the phone with them, they seem to not care that you match the theme at all - so why have one? I would think the theme would mean the artwork would reflect it. But they really don’t care what you hang up, actually. So long as you pay them their fee.
Sure maybe you’re thinking its up to the artist to do that type of decision making, and I did. and have. BUT I’m merely concerned, because THEY aren’t concerned.
Here are some warning signs to look for when RAW - or any OTHER organization of the sort contacts you:
1. There is an upfront fee
2. They are fine “closing the sale” or “booking you” over the phone. (I thought, like a traditional situation, that I would need to put a portfolio together and go to them for a meeting, or they would come to my studio space to see the actual work and its quality, and verify that I am an actual professional - but no. they don’t actually care about ANY of that). They don’t require an in person meeting. Any legitimate place with respect for the community and what they are doing will want to meet you IN PERSON before conducting business. That’s just standard in any line of business I think. But they are fine booking a person over the phone whom they have NEVER MET. Uh, can you say HUGE. RED. EFFIN. FLAG!?
3. You get to show for an extremely limited time. And any expenses incurred are soley up to you to cover. Not to mention getting your work “show ready” (having prints made, or framing, matting, etc). They could at least supply MATTE BOARD with all the effin money they make! or LABELS!??!
4. They have a deadline date that you have to “sell by” - i.e. pay to play
5. Ask yourself: who benefits? Sure you get exposure. But what does it mean for the place hosting this thing. And why would these people just help me to give back to the artistic community?
And look, this isn’t just something that I’m concerned about for visual artists, this concerns musicians, designers, MUA’s, ALL creative types! This is a total SCAM in my eyes.
Bottom line, what are you GUARANTEED to get? And what are they guaranteed to get? Does it seem equal to you?
You get exposure. That is certain. But they are GUARANTEED to make $200 off of you, AND the other artists. And for what? You have to procure that money yourself. You also have to pay to come up with a system to show and hang your work. You have to pay to make your work show ready (i.e. framing, matting, or purchasing prints), by the end of it all, you may have invested anywhere from $3-600!!!! That’s crazy! for ONE night? Think about it.
If you’re a local artist, PLEASE do not support these people. You are dumbing down the rest of a great, artistic community and furthering their ability to take advantage of more people as you do so. I, myself, am ASHAMED to have been a part of it. Hence my anonymity.
I’m done talking about it, but if you have any thoughts, whether in support or against, I’m all ears. I would love to hear your side of the story. And if you’ve had success with RAW, hey, maybe I’m wrong. But most likely not.