The Quest For Paid Work: (Making a) Living On The Edge – Andrea Goetzke

Andrea Goetzke and myself are both participating in the Innovative Media and Music Heritage Impacting Vocational Education project, to which she has brought a wealth of experience. In this video and “interview” Andrea gets down to the nitty gritty of making a living in the “creative industries” through explaining her own experiences and strategies.

Andrea is part of a for-profit company in Berlin called newthinking which works in the field of digital culture and society, doing web development and organising events like the big social media conference re:publica amongst other things. She now works part time for newthinking so that she can do other things as well – she is on the board of an association called all2gethernow, an event series for new strategies in the music business and music culture which aims to put the idea of music as culture back into the discourse. all2gethernow operates sometimes on a paid basis when there are projects such as one in association with the city of Berlin in September as part of Berlin Music Week, which will be a day of workshops for musicians. She also does things without any renumeration like her monthly radio show, organising a music festival which pays for itself but not for staff, as well as organising occasional concerts which pay something but don’t financially compensate for the time invested.

Andrea is trying to find a balance between doing things she finds interesting and making money. She says that it’s not an easy balance, but she feels lucky as she has had the opportunity to make money with her previous job, and she still has some money left which enables her to subsidise the activities that she’s interested in. She has done this on purpose by working longer on the recent job to buy time later to do things and be a bit more experimental, which is something she thinks is common amongst people who want to make things happen – “the idea of making money in one field to spend in another is one way to do it, because if you try to make money with everything you do, you are very dependent.” If you want to be free in what you do, you have to make the money elsewhere, she adds. She tries never to sell herself for something she finds completely useless, but has taken on less interesting projects as they have allowed her to do something else.

She is also a co-owner of newthinking and the company takes a similar approach too. In the past they have taken on things which were no so profitable but had a high content value, but it’s only possible if other projects bring the cash in, so staff and everything can be paid for. Her lifestyle is based on low expense which means this strategy can work, but Andrea is aware that this is possible because she doesn’t have a family.

“Making enough time”

Sometimes it is better to invest a little in a project yourself than to look for funding, she says, as often more time is spent trying to fundraise than on the project itself. From the experience of all2gethernow she has seen that it is very difficult to build something from a cultural, political interest and make it financially sustainable. Consequently it is very ad-hoc, bringing people in to work on projects once they have been approved financially, because they have not been able to sustain a permanent structure. They would have to start a service, like consulting, to be able to do so.

Andrea reiterates that she is not interested in making lots of money, that she wants to “make enough time” to do the things she’s interested in, and create a sustainable life. She considers herself to be in a privileged position as she can think about and do things she cares about and knows there are many people who don’t know how to do it, or can’t do it because they have a lot of children and despite working hard, still don’t earn enough money to make ends meet. Her way of living is more important to her than having a lot of money or the amount of goods she can buy.

Many needs and desires have been created artificially in society, she feels, meaning that people think they need to have a car, lots of electronic equipment, have expensive holidays – but they are things which can be solved in a way which involves far less money, people could live with less money if things were better organised. 

Andrea sees that there is a lot of money in certain areas and much less in others and, thinking of the processes of gentrification and city development, creatives and people who do things are being used and are necessary for others to make lots of money. There is a question of whether money is really being distributed fairly and how can the system be structured so there is a much more equal distribution. Concepts like a basic income or regulation of the amount a company or person can accumulate need investigating, and although this is theoretically done through the tax system we probably need more systemic changes, she concludes.

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