Was This a RAW Deal?

2:41:00 PM

My business and my blog has been associated with RAW Artists for about a year now. Last September I participated in my first RAW show. The director at the time was really enthusiastic and dedicated to what she did and it reflected in the show. As I am seeing in my current research, she kind of went above and beyond her call of duty for RAW. My experience was very positive and it was what kept me coming back and going to events.

These events are typically pay to play. Something that really never bothered me. As a crafter or artisan, I generally pay a fee to do most events I take part in. They can run anywhere from $15 to $400 depending on the length of time it runs and how established it is. And there is never a guarantee that your particular medium or set up will draw a crowd or make you any money.

So when RAW initially told me it would cost $200 for the event, I didn't think much of it, except can I come up with that. When I was informed that I could reduce my cost by selling tickets at $10 each and that money would directly reflect in my fee cost, I thought, ok. Not too bad. I have never done an event that says we'll help you bring the cost down. I will be completely upfront here, I don't make a lot of money. I live paycheck to paycheck and am very much so a "starving artist" by choice. So the less I have to put in, the better. The previous director even went as far as to give me an extention to pay off my fee when I couldn't come up with it all in time. Something that is apparently not so typical from what I have been reading from other artist experiences in and out of Connecticut.

However, things have changed since that show and my RAWard nomination. The previous director resigned. A new one stepped in and the look and feel of the Connecticut shows changed to reflect this new presence. Something I felt was a positive change. Other changes taking place I had mixed emotions about. The $200 fee went up to a $300 fee. Tickets were now $15 or $20 at the door. A big difference to someone like me! I struggled with $200, $300 was a little scary. I still committed to the show based on my previous track record with them. This time around I spared no expense promoting. I made fliers, I posted Facebook ads, paid for a 30 second video advertisement and fellow tweeters to tweet the event as well! I bought supplies, I designed, I hired a make up artist, I booked 5 models. I wrote 2 different press releases - one already sent out to some of my local contacts and a few national ones that were niche for me such as Cancer Today. In June I started making a plan to make this event the centerpiece of my Fall line of Halloween themed pieces and costume accessories. My runway was going to be Halloweeny epic! I did a photo shoot in July to help me promote all of this. I was putting out a lot of dollars and time, but it was a labor of love and I wanted people to walk away saying WOW what a show!

To my surprise, I suddenly receive an email from the regional director of RAW. In a nutshell it says that the current director has made the decision to leave RAW CT. That the organization was shutting down RAW CT until further notice. That IF they start up again it will be in January or February.  My response... what the fuck?

Like I am sure many artists did, I had a billion questions. Mainly why does one person leaving mean the shut down for the rest of the year. Frankly speaking, I work two day jobs. One as an internet sales consultant for 2 car dealerships. I have worked for them for 3 years. The second as an assistant, press contact and Etsy shop manager for a small mobile start up business. And rule one for most business, the show must go on! I have seen people quit on the spot, I have seen managers leave in the middle of a busy day for personal emergencies. These things happen. But you don't just say oh, too bad. We better close for 3 months. You take the next person in line and say ok, this is now your job until we find a suitable replacement and you KEEP GOING. I started to see some of the reactions of other artists and people affiliated with RAW. I saw postings and personal messages like the venue has pulled out of the shows as well and RAW may not come back to Connecticut at all, I started wondering what was up.

While RAW Artists is a national organization and not an LLC, it should have the same need for sustainability and ethics as any other business. Someone in the chain of command is clearly making a profit. Your reputation is a key part of those profits. I think to just up and say no we can't do this is a complete cop out. And BAD BUSINESS. I noticed today when I went to reference some of the posts about this in the RAW Connecticut Facebook group that anything telling more then it should or close to a negative response had been removed.

New Haven has a very active art community and scene. People talk. Word on the street is that a lot of New Haven feels like RAW is nothing more then a creative Ponzi Scheme. I have been receiving private messages all day from fellow artisans saying they felt something was horribly wrong, or participated in a show and felt ripped off or exploited.

So I asked the great and powerful Google what it knew. It told me RAW Artists lost it's not for profit status last year. Not that they decided to start taking a profit of it's own accord, but that it's not for profit title was revoked.This was emailed to me a s a new direction. Leaves me wonder which is spin and which is what really happened. I was eager to be a part of this group that was by artists for artists. They touted that yeah, you spend this money, but we are giving back to the artists. And I did receive a very nice press kit and photos. I did make great connections. Well now it's just nothing more then a pay to play for a 4 hour event. This was something I believed in. Maybe I am being a Negative Nancy or a complainer. but I am mad. I can't recoup what I already put in. The remedy after I sent this complaint to the Regional Director was that they would give me an out of state show to compensate... but I'd still need to pay.  SO, I can pay out the same amount to have a harder time selling tickets, spend even MORE money for new fliers, press releases and add in travel for myself and 6 - 8 other people and just take the loss> NO THANKS.

So, at this point, I am removing myself from RAW. It makes the most sense for me and my business. While I know this post may ruffle some feathers, I am sticking to my guns. No one is offering me any money back. Or even any apologies at this matter. If they had maintained the non-profit thing, I probably would just suck it up for a good cause. But that is not the case. I still maintain that I met amazing people and had an initally positive experience, but this really fucked me and I didn't even get dinner first. My voice is my own and I have to do what's best for my own business, image and sustainability. This treatment after being so devoted is kind of... bullshit.

from LA Weekly - Controversial Promoters RAW Put Bands in Front of Audience - For a FEE
Why I Disagree With RAW
Connecticut RAW Artist Retaliates

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  1. That sounds like a "Raw" deal!

    hehehe sorry....i couldn't help myself...

  2. Woah woah woah - so did you ever get your money back for the tickets you sold? Did anyone who bought tickets get money back or did they pocket all that money?

  3. The people who purchased tickets were refunded, but only after I sent an email to the regional director asking her to and kind of flipping out about the whole thing.


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