RAW End Of The Deal
I clearly remember the day back in 2013 when I received my first email from RAW Australia. It was a dreary day, I was getting over a head cold and I was passively flicking through my browser tabs. A new message shows up in my inbox from RAW Brisbane asking if I wanted to showcase with them. I was over the moon I was so humbled and excited that they wanted me to work with them. Honestly, I was ecstatic- until I found out it was basically a thinly veiled scam parading as an opportunity. Once all the excitement had died down I realised that there was huge costs involved; physically and financially.
For those who are unaware of RAW- they spruik that they're a supportive platform for artists, helping elevate the community by doing monthly showcases in many cities nationally to promote local talent in the form of a night market. Which sounds amazing right? Because we need more of that. However, at the end of the day it's a business and they don't earn their wage in altruism. When you become a "Raw Artist" you have a set of tickets to sell. Sounds easy, 20 tickets for $20 each. You'd know 20 people who'd come and support you right? Even if that is the case, the clincher is if you don't sell those tickets you have to pay that back in full. That's not exactly super transparent at the time, it's shoved in between all that shiny "exposure" BS. You're a Raw Artist now, baby, it's fine, this is the beginning- you're going to have so many opportunities because of us you won't have time to blink.
Only you won't. In my case, I was a hairdresser, which meant I was backstage the entire time. Talking and networking? Didn't get a chance to. You work in teams and what happens if your team doesn't share the same vision? And then what happens when another team loses one of their working parts- you become their ring in. This happened to me, I spent all afternoon and most of my night working on my team only to then be transfused into another team. The head of that team didn't even thank me. A total 5 hours non stop, unpaid work and I didn't even get a 'hey thanks for helping me out'. I used all my own products, pins, equipment and had to spend even more money (on top of paying back my unsold tickets) on props and accessories to create the look our team was aspiring to. Working for ten hours straight meant no breaks and because there's no food in the venue I ended up with a migraine. My night concluded with me unceremoniously throwing up in my front garden bed and passing out for two whole days.
Did I get any referrals for new clients? No. Did anyone contact me to enlist my services to do their hair based on the work I did at RAW? No. Did anything, remotely positive come from this experience? Sort of- I now get to tell my story to other creatives and warn them to not fucking participate.
If RAW was a quarterly situation that was well curated and transparent with their makers and artists, perhaps it might work as one of the many problems is the sliding scale of quality- you could be rising in your chosen practice but be placed directly next to someone of a totally different aesthetic, quality and price point. If RAW spent more time actually supporting creatives than churning and burning maybe this platform would have legs. One of the hardest things you can come across as a creative (especially in your formative years) is finding your level in the environment. If you're just starting out, you're probably not going to apply to a well curated market to sit next to established, working artists/makers/designers. You might be young and/or an emerging creative and defining your value is very difficult, but your work still is valuable, you deserve respect for your work and you deserve to be paid. Paying to be part of something like Raw is ridiculous. It's not anything close to an "opportunity". I have not heard one positive word from anyone who has participated in all the years it's been around.
Recently I got tagged in an Instagram story by RAW Australia saying that I was one of their artists and that I supported creatives. Damn right I do and I don't hold them to shitty agreements that put them in a bind. You're probably thinking, dude, it's just a gram story. But it's so much more than that. How dare a company whose values don't align with mine feel the entitlement to tell others that I belong to them - as if they had anything to do with my come up. How dare they make posts that I'm owned in part by them because I did one showcase back in 2013 (ironically called ELEVATION) in a completely different category. How dare they as a company think that they can keep fucking over people saying they're strengthening the community when really all they're doing is making it harder to get a foothold, exploiting young creatives and making bank at the expense of others.
To top off the list of annoying disadvantages to this scheme, I get fortnightly emails from various RAWs asking me to help them out ("you don't have to sell tickets to this one though!") asking me to be in their next show and promote their showcases to my network. It doesn't matter how many times I've replied requesting that they please leave me alone, they keep showing up in my inbox. It's been five fucking years. Get the hint.
I called them out saying that I'm not one of their artists, please do not tag me as such and that I don't support their platform. After making this visible via my IG story I received so many DM's from people who had unfortunately been exploited by RAW personally or onlookers curiously asking why I think they're detrimental to our community.
If you're thinking of doing a RAW Showcase- I would strongly recommend you do not waste your precious time. If for some bizarre you're still on the fence, you need to think damn hard about what you're going to get out of it because I can pretty much guarantee it will be sweet FA. You do not need them, they're the ones who need you and the more people they suck in the longer they keep getting away with this absolute rubbish. Stand up to them and call them out. There are plenty of other, more worthwhile opportunities for you to get your work out there that don't involve compromising yourself and your work.