St. John’s Artists Revolt After a Raw
Last week, The Racket covered a story about an upcoming show by RAW: natural born artists at Club One and the controversy surrounding “pay to play”. Local musician Evelyn Jess was concerned that RAW was going to profit off artists who were trying to make a name for themselves. Two days after our article was posted, the RAW showcase at Club One was cancelled “due to extenuating circumstances”.
The Racket reached out to RAW’s Canadian Director of Events, Michelle Bylow about what extenuating circumstances lead to the showcase’s cancellation. In a prepared statement received via email, Bylow laid the blame squarely on Club One, citing “poor communication”. She said, “RAW:ST. John’s required answers to several key questions in order for us to plan and stage the Showcase. What we required and was not sent to us in a timely manner.”
According to Bylow, this miscommunication lead the artists who were supposed to take part, souring on the event leading to “negative press”. “[This] resulted in artists who had committed to the Showcase the inability to sell tickets and other artists on the cusp of signing on to opt-out.”
Bylow then said, “It was apparent that we were interloping on a very close-knit artistic community. We were hoping to be another platform to allow emerging artists in the St. John’s Art’s Community the same opportunity we have provided thousands of artists worldwide for close to a decade. Rather than upsetting the local balance we wanted to see ourselves as working with local artists and providing another avenue for local artists to be seen and also benefit from all of RAW:Artists offerings.”
Meanwhile local artist Eliza King has formed a revolt against RAW and organized her own showcase entitled REVOLT: Artists Against The Exploitation of Artists. The event will take place at Club One on November 29 at the same time and venue as the cancelled RAW show.
King was initially set to be a part of RAW’s event. “I'm an unknown artist, so I found it very difficult to sell 20 tickets at $20 each,” she said. “So I would have ended up paying in hundreds of dollars just to be in the show. I knew I would likely have to back out, and upon discussing with a couple other artists involved, realized they felt the same.”
After seeing Jess’ post about RAW and learning that Club One can be free to rent after a certain amount of bar sales, King felt it was unfair that RAW was “basically charging everyone $400 to be in the show”. Since RAW wasn’t doing advertising or providing equipment for the event, King began to wonder why the artists needed RAW in the first place.
“I decided that I would reach out to other artists and see if they'd be interested in doing our own show, without RAW,” said King. Many of the artists she reached out to had also backed out of the RAW showcase, and with that, Revolt was born. “I began recruiting people to be in Revolt and then we got the news that RAW cancelled, I called Club One and told them I wanted the booking they had. Same time, date, and place. That way, everyone who was excited and prepared for RAW, still had a show!”
King said that she is continuing to organize Revolt but so far she has recruited more than twenty-five artists, performers, and vendors including Evelyn Jess and the Hot Mess, and Saucy Pots Pottery as well as several artists who were supposed to take part in the RAW showcase. Other artists, who King described as “bigger” or “companies who could easily sell the 20 tickets or pay in the $400” decided to pursue other options.
Instead of a pay to play event, the artists associated with Revolt will be splitting the $1,000 rental cost of Club One which will work out to be less than $40 and could be less as more people join. If Club One reaches its $5,000 bar sales quota, they will waive the rental fee and the artists will get their money back.
Tickets for Revolt cost $5 in advance and $7 at the door. Club One will also provide a poutine booth and there will be several donation and tip boxes throughout the event space. All profits will be split between the artists involved, and King said she does not want to profit more than anyone else does. “I pay in like everyone else. I'm just the one that brought everyone together,” she said.
As for those artists initially associated with RAW who did not want to participate in Revolt, King said she wishes them the best and says the door is always open to collaborating. She is hoping to organize a second event in the New Year and entertaining the possibility of adding food vendors in order to showcase local chefs and bakers.
“I love Newfoundland and its people. There are so many talented individuals packed into such a small place, I want to [highlight] that. I want us to show off!” said King. “We don't need big mainland companies like RAW exploiting our artists. We don't need big expensive producers taking a cut of our profits. We need an event that's truly just about promoting and showcasing us. We need a Revolt.”
If you are interested in taking part in Revolt, contact Eliza King at firstname.lastname@example.org