Why work for free, or the truth behind Twisted Sister
There’s that quick one liner floating around – writers work too.
Meaning, producing your product equals payment.
Which is fine to think, but it doesn’t really work that way. New writers, new fiction writers and poets especially, have a hard time getting paying gigs. Why?
Honestly, you’re at the beginning stages of your career, so you might have a hard time actually GIVING your work away, never mind selling it, and you have a lot to learn, both about writing and the business itself. Think about an app developer who makes up some fancy new thing and has nobody to sell it to, because it doesn’t meet anyone’s needs and the developer didn’t do any market research.
You want to earn cash – check out some freelance gigs on Upwork and you’ll soon figure out how hard it is to chase a buck. The market is glutted, and as they say, you can’t sell snow to an Eskimo (meaning, you can’t sell somebody something they have no need for, want, of course, is another story). In a time of dollars and cents frugality, not many folks are going to pay for your short fiction pieces (as they appear here).
Musicians might find themselves playing a three hour gig for a couple free beers or just a chance to play and a good night out; all while shouldering the costs of rehearsal spaces, equipment, and transportation (talk to me when you’ve hauled an amplifier over streetcar tracks).
So why bother at all?
Good question. I ask myself that too, given the costs of running this thing.
It’s for exposure, practice, and to develop some skills. Think of it as unpaid publishing credits, which is better than no publishing credits. In the world of SEO and agent querying you want to have your name and your work in as many places as possible, all pointing back to yourself of course (which is why we always link to writer’s websites and ask for bios – you’re giving a piece of yourself away, and should get full credit for it.)
We’re trying to help you along the way, trust us.
Think of it as free advertising.
Which leads me back to the name, Twisted Sister lit mag. For those that don’t know, Twisted Sister (the band) started in the 1972 as a hard rock band going around the New York clubs in full makeup (Glam rock was in back then, so yes, they were very tall men dressed in drag playing loud rock – it truly was a sight to behold). They packed the clubs, but couldn’t get a recording contract to save the life of them. Night after night of playing to packed clubs, and they couldn’t get a big studio to take a chance on them – for ten years.
They’d earn enough money to make ends meet, but most of it went back into the band and keeping a roof over their heads. (You artists and musicians out there know exactly what I’m talking about.)
Even after the band started their own t-shirt company and recording label, they still couldn’t get a contract or radio airplay. So they bought radio airtime in the form of commercials – 30 second slots, during which they’d play a song, and then at the end, in a radio announcer voice say the band name. Twisted Sister.
People just thought they were listening to the radio. It was a way to get popularity with the masses, because although Twisted Sister were big in the New York clubs, nobody else knew who they were.
And when they finally first landed that big recording contract – well, I’m sure you’ve heard of “I Wanna Rock” and “We’re Not Gonna Take It” (both 1984), songs and videos that took the newly growing MTV audiences by storm. The singles went Gold in the US, and Platinum in Canada (three and five times Platinum, respectively).
Let that sink in.
For ten years nobody wanted to touch them (in terms of big labels), and then they blew everything out of the water. What did they do when they were rejected?
They just kept playing, made some changes, and developed their chops, just like you should be doing. They got out there and took whatever gigs they could, looking to pay the bills and gain exposure.
But, you know, they kept doing it for love; they loved what they did (maybe not all of the time), but they stuck with it enough to see it through.
Twisted Sister has an amazing documentary out on Netflix (or just Google We are Twisted F*cking Sister). You’ll see the folks who helped them along the way, including Lemmy walking Twisted Sister out on stage or joining them as a buffer to the very aggressive UK crowds. (And if you don’t know who Lemmy is, my heart goes out to you, but Google the band Motorhead and turn up your volume. Loud.)
If you’re still wondering why you’re working for free, you can think of it as paying your dues, and building exposure; but I’m doing it for love.
Which leads me to why run a lit mag that’s costing me time and money to hold together? For love, part of it, but because nobody paid Lemmy to walk those boys out on stage. He just believed in them, and wanted to let them shine.
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If you came here because of our Back to School, Rock n’ Roll issue we gotta lot of fun in store for you. Hit me fast, hit me hard, hit me write where it hurts (pun intended). Check out more on the craft of writing back here. And don’t forget our New Releases and Greatest Hits – crank ‘em up and let ‘em roll.