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An open letter to Oprah, whose ‘The Life You Want’ tour asked me to work for free
On: November 13, 2014   |   By: revolvahoopdance@gmail.com   |   Under: commentary, oprah, Performance   |   Comments: 383 Comments
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To achieve the life you want, avoid situations that devalue your worth. Like when Oprah’s “The Life You Want” tour, with its tickets priced up to $999, asks you to perform for free.

Dear Oprah:

No effing way. I could not believe it when a producer from Harpo Studios got in touch last week, asking if I could perform at your “The Life You WantSan Jose tour stop.  I mean, OPRAH WINFREY! I’ve always wanted to hear, “Welcome Revollllllvaaaaa,” as I cartwheeled onstage, to tell you my life story—the profundity of all my lingering student loan debt causing you to weep and then declare to America that I am your new BFF. (Sorry, Gayle!)

And the title of your tour: The life you want? Um, hello! As a performerwriter and activist, I’ve spent 12 years taking a million chances, attempting to live in alignment with my spirit, rather than our toxic culture. I’ve spoken up as a survivor. I’m the female comedy act in a space helmet. You want me in your lineup, right? Your producer was totally calling to add me to  your list of “trailblazers,” including Deepak Chopra and Elizabeth Gilbert, right?!?

Ah, but Oprah, you are a wise woman. I should have known that, in the phone call with your producer, there was a deep spiritual lesson in store for me. Here is our paraphrased conversation:

Producer: “Your stuff sounds great. Are you interested?”

Me: “Hell yes! Oprah! Oprah!”

Producer: “Okay, so just to be clear, you’d be on a stage outside the event. And, you know, just to be clear, Oprah will not be on that stage. Oh, and just to be clear, this gig isn’t paid.”

*     *     *     *

Dude. Okay. I have to admit that I was initially heartbroken that my name would not be bellowed with 800 extra vowel sounds. Fortunately, my heartbreak was soon short-circuited by the stroke I had when I realized your tour, with its tickets starting at $99 (for the homeless), middling out at $599 (for fast food employees) and rocketing to $999 (For 90s rappers)—featuring trailblazers who never have to dig through every compartment in their car for enough change to cross the Bay Bridge—would be ringing up local performers asking them to do their job for no pay.

The following image summarizes the situation:


In one day, your arena tour (capacity around 18,000, each ticket $99 to $999) is raking in more money than most people will make in a year. In ten years. In their entire lives. And yet, your side stage, featuring local acts, is paying in that old tap-dancing, phantom promise of “exposure.” As I was choking on my own tongue (stroke!), your producer also mentioned there was the added bonus of a ticket to the event. Unfortunately, her call coming just four days before your San Jose stop, I didn’t have the whole weekend free. I also texted my landlord, and it turns out he does not accept rent payment in Oprah Winfrey tickets. Gah!

Since you are the most beloved person in America, I might be the first performer whose chakras twisted out of alignment when your blockbuster tour about living “the life you want” asked me to work for free. Your producer, assessing my hesitation, further explained that, “People started calling US, asking to perform, so we thought we’d add a stage for local acts.”

I punched myself in the arm. Stupid, stupid! Why was I always asking the Forbes top 400 richest people in America if I could work for free? (Geeze, Revolva, stop being such an eager beaver! You have bills, girl!) And then, I remembered—I didn’t contact you. I don’t have your digits, Oprah. Last time I checked, even if it was to round out volunteers, your tour was contacting artists.

*     *     *     *

To be fair, working in exchange for cultural capital isn’t exactly a new concept.

There’s a time-honored precedent for the idea that artists can be paid in a resumé line. Lena Dunham, of Girls fame, and Amanda Palmer, of omg-she’s-so-badass fame, recently launched contests for opening acts. Unpaid acts. In an era where “the 99 percent vs. the 1 percent” is top of mind, the Internet didn’t respond kindly to Lena or Amanda’s request for free labor. I suspect it’s because there is simply no reason why well-off people, on extremely lucrative tours need free acts.

To that end, Oprah, my call with your producer resulted in me saying I didn’t feel great about making a two-hour round trip commute, paying for gas and parking, and taking hours out of my day to do a free act, when the event is charging up to $999 per ticket. Could she see if there was some kind of budget so my outgoing costs wouldn’t result in me losing money to perform?

Here, I would like to make a note. Your producer emailed back and said the tour could offer me a travel stipend. That was something. To be clear, it was something that most professional entertainers would charge to perform at a five-year-old’s birthday party.  If any less beloved billionaire—Mark Zuckerberg or the Koch brothers—had asked Bay Area residents to work a $99 to $999-ticket event for free or (when pressed) for a small stipend, the response would be:

lily rhoads occupy sf cc by

Maybe ask artists to work for free in a city without the Ellis Act? I’m just sayin.’

My question is: Should ANY event charging that much for tickets offer people the “opportunity” to donate free skills?

*     *     *     *

Criticizing the Oprah Winfrey tour is scary, Oprah Winfrey! I can already see the impending comments about how artists should be grateful to appear at your event (which, by the way, is certainly paying the going rate to the lighting people, the sound people, the caterers, the janitors, the people who erected the outdoor side stage, basically everyone except the local artists appearing on said stage). Folks reading this might not understand how much rehearsal time, equipment fees, booking time, advertising costs, etc. go into being an entertainer. The pay for a gig is payment for ALL those back end work hours. Here’s a breakdown.

Also, it’s pay toward a world that supports art. If we’d prefer to benefit from the work of all artists—not just those who are independently wealthy (“Let’s experience art created only by Kim Kardashian!”), then the rates for someone’s blood, sweat and tears have to be fair. Events that are netting a metric butt-ton of money are just being unethical to offer artists nothing—or free tickets—or a child’s birthday party rates. And if that’s what’s happening, maybe someone should speak up and say, “Is this tour about how to achieve to your ‘ideal life’ REALLY going to rattle its tin cup and ask local artists for a free act?”

*     *     *     *

Back to that spiritual lesson you had in store for me, Oprah. Maybe it’s because my car broke down, and I’m struggling. Maybe it’s because I’ve been doing this for 12 years, and after all the requests for free or discount work, the one by a billionaire’s tour was the straw that broke my back. But I thought it through, and achieving “the life you want” is not always easy.  The risks we have to take, to transform this culture into something more nurturing, involve looking at the way things are and saying, “Hey, wait. That’s not cool!”

Even if we have to say that to Oprah Winfrey.

As a totally meta experience, your tour taught me that achieving the “life you want” might even involve holding the Life You Want Tour to its own mantra. So I asked if y’all could come up with a fair wage. Asking that question caused your producer, who had previously been excited about my “Single Ladies” hula hoop act, to go silent for 24 hours and then reply that she’d filled the stage (presumably with free acts), and she would contact me in the future at an event “with a larger budget.”

oprah tour email higher budget

I love your work, Oprah. I think you would’ve loved mine, too.

But, in the spirit of your own event: The life I WANT does not involve mega tours netting unfathomable amounts of real, tangible money, while local artists are coached to accept all or most of their payment in the least stable form of currency: exposure. If the “trailblazing” I do today is being an upstream voice, then I’ll at least make a bold statement about the life I DO want:

I want a life in which people are not asked to work for free—by people who can totally afford to pay.

Tweet: I want a life in which people are not asked to work for free—by people who can totally afford to pay. http://ctt.ec/C904G+

If you didn’t realize your tour, with its wealthy speakers and its $99 to $999 tickets, was asking for a free service from local acts, is there something you can you do to make it right? On behalf of the artists of the world, that’s a question I’ll leave you with, Oprah. I’d like to believe that, as compassionate and generous as you appear to be, as a self-made woman who has been here, the life YOU want involves people being able to pay their rent.

I still hope to one day rock a stage with you. I’ll just have to keep my cartwheel fantasy fresh for a tour that fully enfolds local artists under its own title.



* * * *

Like Revolva’s work? Are you actually the Koch Brothers, Mark Zuckerberg or Oprah? Feel free to leave a tip! It’s a greatly appreciated way to balance out how hard it can be to take a chance to put your art into the world. Thank you!

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Header image: The Garner Circle PR LLC, licensed under Creative Commons 2.0 Generic.

New Worth image: Lwp Kommunikáció (Oprah), Maximum Mitch (Deepak), Erik Charlton (Elizabeth), Taymar LaRue (Revolva), licensed under Creative Commons 2.0 Generic

Occupy SF: Lily Rhoads, licensed under Creative Commons 2.0 Generic

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383 Comments to “An open letter to Oprah, whose ‘The Life You Want’ tour asked me to work for free”
  • Gypsy
    November 17, 2014 - Reply

    So well written and so spot on, Kari, and I agree with you 100%. I hope you cross-posted this to Oprah’s Facebook page, sent it to her agent, etc.

    • Starving Artist
      November 17, 2014 - Reply


      • Deryl Gallant
        November 19, 2014 - Reply

        there’s nothing i can say that hasn’t been already said in the comments… so I’ll stick to saying well done for writing this. It’s important.

    • Gail
      November 19, 2014 - Reply

      I am not an artist I am just an old lady who reads this and once more see’s someone of wealth gaining even more money by charging a ridicules amount of money for tickets to her show. just the same as aging rock stars do. I am guessing if Opreah r ever sees this she will deny any knowledge of this and also any knowledge of ticket costs

    • Richard Marcus
      November 20, 2014 - Reply

      As a professional writer and member of the WGA (which won’t let its members work for free) I applaud your oh, so tactful and human response to a situation that has plagued artists of all types for…Well, probably since there were producers who thought they could get us to perform or create for free. (That means – since forever). Have to say that my friend the great comic Bobby Slayton put it best when he said “My agent said I should do the gig for free because it would be great exposure. If I’m not mistaken you can die from exposure.” I might add that Bobby insisted I be paid for every joke I wrote for him. The dirty little secret all artists know is that we want to create and perform. It’s our lifeblood and there is a part of us that WOULD for it for free simply because it’s never a job – Or it’s MORE than a job. We exist because we create. The evil thing is that the producers and promoters know it. They know how to appeal to our “weakness” . Yes, it’s in quotes because it’s not real weakness, its more like love. But they know that if we are among the many (most?) artists who struggle we need the outlets. We need to be seen or heard or read. So they know they can make money off of people filled with love, creativity and frustration. Nice bunch. Oh, and don’t kid yourself; Oprah almost surely knows. She goes over every detail of all her enterprises. I wonder if she’ll respond to what you have wrought? Maybe she’ll fly you into her next show, get you on stage and apologize and then say “Hey, why not do a little number for us?” And you’ll say “Sure. Where’s the check?” Yeah. Right.

    • marketjazz
      November 21, 2014 - Reply

      Dear Revolva, nice, very nice as you are!
      What’s wrong to make a killer YOUR personal promo
      on her platform which was [or still IS?] available for free?
      Isn’t about YOUR PROMO only?
      Yet you seem to be ignoring this great chance to
      expose your talent to an incredibly wide audience…
      Isn’t a pity after all?

      Also, you are leaving your cents on the table with
      your YT videos. Why not monetize every moment
      of online presence, too?


      • Val Neighbors
        November 21, 2014 - Reply

        Agree totally!

      • Wendy
        November 23, 2014 - Reply

        People die of exposure. Great letter Revolva.

        • Cassie
          December 13, 2014 - Reply

          As a fellow artist, exposure doesn’t put food on the table, keep the lights on, or the water running.

          Yes thats a lot of people that “might” book you if they like you, if they remember your name, if they have a need for your talents. OR you could use that night for an actual paying gig that MAKES MONEY.

      • Thaily
        December 13, 2014 - Reply

        If you work for exposure, aka for free, that is the exposure you will get. That you work for free. Hey if Oprah didn’t pay for her time, why should I?! I don’t have nearly as much money as Oprah!

      • Andy
        December 15, 2014 - Reply

        Working for exposure is great if you’re asked to perform for a charity event where you can get your name out and any money raised is going to some great cause you agree with. But she is totally right that if an event is charging so much for entry and is guaranteed to be making huge profits, its insulting and unethical to ask artists to perform for free as if you are doing them a favor.

      • eva
        January 5, 2015 - Reply

        Yes! And go the event with that free ticket. There was a lot to learn about planning a business. Or sell the ticket.

      • dylan
        January 6, 2015 - Reply

        wow, you don’t get it.

        first, if you read the essay, you’ll know that she would’ve been performing on an outdoor stage, not the main stage. who knows where exactly this stage would be, when her performance would happen, how long it would last, what the foot traffic would be, if she’d be allowed to hand out promo materials, etc… so yeah, she may have gotten some eyeballs but who knows if it would’ve amounted to anything. and i get that being an artist is about taking chances. well, she’s obviously took hundreds of chances throughout her career and, as she said, she wasn’t going to perform for exposure for one of the wealthiest human beings in history.

        secondly, she’s not really “leaving cents on the table.” there are ads that run against her YouTube videos; if she set up her account the right way, she gets a cut of that, albeit probably a very small cut. and it’s not like she’s giving away her entire act online… she’s giving away a tease so that people PAY to see her if she’s in their town. watching a tiny video doesn’t replace the actual experience.

        Finally, the stellar essay she wrote will get her many gigs and way more press and attention than she would’ve gotten had she agreed to perform for free for Oprah. Proof? I (and likely thousands of others) had no idea who Revolva was before today. And she did it all without selling out.

      • lucy furr
        September 3, 2015 - Reply

        Artist need to eat pay bills buy stuff too exposure don’t pay the piper or the mortgage

      • mzmcgee23
        January 14, 2016 - Reply

        marketjazz maybe you missed the entire letter? I’m a freelance artist. I pay other freelance artists or I don’t expect them to work. Art is work. No other profession (other than volunteer) thinks exposure helps at all. Yeah relova seems nice, but not stupid. Bravo for the letter Relova. That would be a hard gig to turn down. Thank you for helping our profession be a profession.

      • Amy Argyle
        February 7, 2016 - Reply

        What??? Are you serious?? I don’t even know how to respond to your ignorant comment!
        NO one should work for free unless it’s to volunteer for a charity event or something of that nature.
        This event with it’s insane ticket prices with millionaire speakers couldn’t afford to pay people to perform???!! That is absurd and insulting. Who cares about exposure if you cannot afford the gas to get there or food to eat. Artists should not be asked to work for free, ESPECIALLY , for an event like this that brought in millions of dollars.

      • Jsets
        February 7, 2016 - Reply

        Marketjazz… do YOU work for free? I don’t and won’t. And neither should Revolva.

    • Budding Producer
      December 14, 2014 - Reply

      Firstly and foremostly, I agree that you and other local artists should have been offered money to perform for Oprah’s show. Performing for free for something that big is pretty unfair, but…

      The idea that “Exposure is a myth” isn’t true in all parts of the art community. Performance art? That’s quite possibly true, I wouldn’t know (DISCLAIMER: I don’t work in performance art). It’s quite possibly true for visual art or journalism or music, I don’t work in any of these areas. I make short films. I know a bit about that.

      My company is literally two people, I self fund a good portion (read two thirds) of every film I make with money from part time jobs. There is simply not much money there…and d’ya know what?

      I don’t pay my crew. They do it for the exposure, the experience and the opportunity to create something they love*. I did (and continue to do) the exact same thing, because I learn from it, I become a better filmmaker and yes, I get paid gigs from it.

      I wish I could pay my crew, but the way I see it? I’m doing what I do now so in the future I can afford to pay for people’s time and effort without sacrificing having enough money to make an incredible film.

      • Rowan Badger
        December 29, 2014 - Reply

        There is a profound difference between “Let us all throw in our blood, sweat, and tears to make a great thing, and even if it barely pays for itself we will love it because we worked together on it,” and “Hey, I’m worth millions of dollars, and I’d like to be worth even more millions of dollars, so I’m doing this thing. I’m gonna let you put effort into being part of it, and it’s gonna make a stupid amount of money, and…I’m not giving you any.”

        Imagine for a moment that you were still making those same movies, with those same people, but your net worth was $300 million dollars, and the movies were making huge profits. Would you pay your crew then, or would you still tell them, “No, you should love your job enough to do it for free”?

        People say “you should love your job enough you’d do it for free,” and a lot of people (especially creative people) DO. But just because they would doesn’t mean they should be expected to.

      • KarenT
        December 31, 2014 - Reply

        Right. Got it. But Oprah is not in the “just starting out” category. She insulted all artists everywhere for devaluing their art.

      • Philip James
        January 3, 2015 - Reply

        How do you think your situation is anything but light years from this one? If you were a BILLIONAIRE (“B” as in Boy, that takes some guts) offering the people around you to do their parts in your creation for free, you’d be a real douche-bag.

      • Ian loren
        January 4, 2015 - Reply

        ThAts a nice theory,but you can do exposure in so many other ways and just because you might have a huge platform doesn’t mean it’ll lead to anything(American idol,runners up and some winners)stand up for your talent cause what we do is a learned skill and if you can’t pay your actors or your crew then don’t even attempt this cause In my humble opinion that’s disrespectful and this endevor serves only you and that’s not fair

      • Bill H
        July 28, 2015 - Reply

        If you want to use “sweat equity” to fund your films and build / find an audience, and your crew is fine with it, then I salute your drive and determination. BUT, at some point, money must change hands. Revolva is right – it is totally bogus of a gozillionaire to expect people to work for free.

      • lucy furr
        September 3, 2015 - Reply

        do you work for free? because after a few YEARS you will want to get paid too! especially if the gig is as big as this one! Everyone else is getting PAID! I don’t mind helping out a friend on their first film (or even their forth) but when a production can pay they SHOULD. A girl has got to eat even if she is an artist

    • Ebony
      January 3, 2015 - Reply

      You roll. And roll. I loved reading this.. It made my irony glad explode. If everyone is ‘working’ for charity, then you’re all on a level playing field. If only ‘some’ of the people are expected to work for nothing while others reap the big bucks, what value do the organisers really put on them?
      It’s about respecting people. It’s about all of us getting the dignity for the life we want, not just Oprah (OMG Oprah!) getting the life she wants. My gut feel is that Oprah has no knowledge of this. It would be sensible PR for her to sack these minions and hire respectable people who will treat all those requested to appear with respect and pay them for their work. PS, enjoy the $20, I don’t know if it’s Australian money or not. I think it got translated along the way. Totes sorry if a dingo ends up in your paypal account by mistake. Those dogs are worth a fortune!

    • Kaschell
      January 26, 2015 - Reply

      As a makeup artist, I’ve had my fair share of running into this exposure crap tactic. It’s 2015 isn’t it time to end this age old abusive practice and DO something about it? I’m so glad I found this article because there are so many MUAs who devalue themselves by accepting the crap thrown at them. They need this example so that they might have the courage to say no when some evil producer wants them to work their 2 min YouTube video for free.

      The best place to start is circulating articles like this. To have the conversation within our community and the rest of the world until this practice is nolonger an issue. Thank you for having the courage to say no. And for having the courage to speak up!

  • Sarah Jordan
    November 17, 2014 - Reply

    Wow, I am so proud of you for writing this. I don’t know you personally, but I know the same struggle. Thank you for helping to legitimize this profession. When hoop dancers stop working for free, people will have no choice but to pay us what we are worth. We need a union! Anyway, thank you for being so brave. <3

    • Doug Martin
      December 30, 2014 - Reply

      Sarah you have one, the American Guild of Variety Artists, join it, as should Revolva. Then call your union too boycott Oprah, get the support of other unions, do informational pickets, get Oprah to commit to every gig being a union gig.

  • Kat McNamara
    November 17, 2014 - Reply

    You have said it all and said it very very well. You should not be a “dancing bear” in the New Age Romon Forum. I want to be part of society that pays people for their labour.

  • Neysis
    November 17, 2014 - Reply

    Good for you for standing up for yourself! And thank you for speaking up against injustice in the entertainment biz. People’s careers should be honored and compensated respectfully as a valued skill, regardless of the nature of the job.

  • Suzanne Forbes
    November 17, 2014 - Reply

    You are a queen and a superhero, and I thank you and cherish your inspirational courage. Let All Artists, In All The Worlds, say it now: Fuck you, PAY ME!!
    ps we’re leaving SF’s beaten, played-out, exploitative art scene for Berlin. Join us?

    • Moot
      December 19, 2014 - Reply

      Just had to comment that I misread that – I thought you were saying she’s a sombrero.

      Back to the point. Well done Revolva.

  • Laura Doran
    November 17, 2014 - Reply

    Brilliant!!! Couldn’t agree with you more!! Well written! I hope she sees this!!!!

  • Powers
    November 17, 2014 - Reply

    Thank you for standing up for y/our principles & writing this eloquence, Revolva! Fair wages for all (yes, INCLUDING working artists) and people being able to pay their rent/eat food, etc. should not be a fantasy. Way to actualize the life you want. Gratitude and love to you. smh.

  • ben (the juggler) Cornish
    November 17, 2014 - Reply

    That……was perfect. As a performer of 25 yes I have had this propostion a number of times…the bigger & richer they are the more of a privilege it should be to perform at their event…ironically very often having an artistic bent. As you say the technicians, sound people etc all get paid & often very well ….and quite right too…BUT the actual people on the actual stage , who put in the hours for no pay etc etc…..thank you for being SO eloquent…and forceful but not rude….you have expressed so rationally and emotionally the outrage that we can feel at the insult levelled at us. RESPECT !!…..Bravo & I hope your career goes from strength to strength and your financial worries ease soon…..

  • Bonnie MacDougall
    November 17, 2014 - Reply

    Thank you Kari!! Let me count the ways I love you :-). Your integrity is astounding. I am grateful for your standing up in this situation. Your stance is not only for yourself, but for all of us. Big Love!!

  • Donna
    November 17, 2014 - Reply

    I am a teacher, so you can imagine my budget. However, when I planned my “last Day of 39 Almost Birthday Party, it never crossed my mind to ask the cover band or the hoop dancer to perform for free. What an insult! Well done for saying no.

  • Kimberly Jo Smith
    November 17, 2014 - Reply

    Kari, Your letter is so well written. I could not agree with you more and applaud you for speaking out against this travesty. It is absolutely obnoxious and obscene that they would insult you like this and ask you to perform for this event without pay. Good job standing up for what is right. I really hope Oprah reads and this addresses this and for it to never happen again. If not, I hope this goes viral and everyone knows that this occurred.

  • Desert
    November 17, 2014 - Reply

    Very well written. Good for you!

  • Rachel Peak
    November 17, 2014 - Reply

    Spot-on points and engagingly written, Revolva! As a creative in another role, graphic design, where people routinely solicit free or drastically underpaid work, I may borrow this letter to explain in better terms why I don’t support giving away one’s talents to those who can and should realize their worth. It devalues entire creative communities of their worth. Brava!

  • Julia
    November 17, 2014 - Reply

    Every artist, performing, visual, or otherwise, needs to read this and take it to heart. Well said!!

  • TAlullah
    November 17, 2014 - Reply

    GOD THIS IS INFURIATING!!! THANK YOU for writing this and I hope it goes insanely viral. Asking artists to work for free is so RUDE. We live in a society where you are not safe if you don’t have money, yet we are asked to live without it all the time – I am shocked (not really) that Oprah is so far removed from reality. $99 tickets for the homeless?!?! $599 for fast food workers? NO wonder people are stuck. Ye Gods.

  • Jennifer
    November 17, 2014 - Reply

    Like it no wait LOVE it! You are right. If they want outdoor entertainment they need to provide for it. I have been taken many times by people with the means to pay for a photographer but, well would settle for a “FREE” student. I am not a student. I am not young. I am a hard working professional photographer. Just remember you get what you pay for and you are amazing! Love Brave women.

  • andrea snyder
    November 17, 2014 - Reply

    I totally love Oprah…..BUT, ROCK ON! You are brave, and right, and laying down the line!! Well done! Who are these people paying all of that $ for those tix anyway?
    I wonder if Oprah is even aware of this travesty of justice….or this is her “people’s” doing.

  • Michelle
    November 17, 2014 - Reply

    Compleatly agree with you. As a photographer I get everyone’s sad story. I get pressed for deals and freebies and for the great reviews and exposure after 10 years in this business I’m still asked to work for free. And then images are stolen from gallery’s and shared on social media and at the end of the day I’m suppose to be happy clients have promoted me. Pass. When I show up at a house that’s 10x the house I’ll ever own and they are still pushing for a better deal I get frustrated. You did the right thing, I cheer your courage to say no to such a big name.

    • Chantel
      November 20, 2014 - Reply

      Yes! It always kills me to book a discounted session fee and then roll up on a house that costs 300,000+ and hear about how the outfits were selected with care from the priciest places in town. And yet, if pressed, the very fair fee I normally charge is maligned as ‘exorbitant’ and they are just so glad I dropped said fee lower so they could “afford” me.

  • Rebecca DeShon
    November 17, 2014 - Reply

    Right on, Kari! So very well written. Thank you for standing up for all of us by writing this article. It takes tremendous courage at times to speak our minds when we are being treated unfairly and you have hit the nail on the head, my friend. Mad love and kudos to you. Good luck paying that rent. I told a promoter last week that the power company and grocery doesn’t accept exposure as payment therefore I couldn’t work for free. I nearly lost my lunch as I hit the send button however someone in this town needs to say no. Thank you Kari for the constant inspiration in so many ways. I wanna be more like you when I grow up.

  • dream
    November 17, 2014 - Reply

    I’m so proud of you. It is very, VERY important that ALL artists say no 100% of the time to requests like this so that we can end this mentality and problem in all artistic fields ONCE AND FOR ALL. If you are an artist of any kind, it is your responsibility to say no, no matter who it is. From one artist to another, I thank you for doing your part. Oprah. you should be ashamed of yourself!

  • Frances OH
    November 17, 2014 - Reply

    Thank you for accessing the courage to speak up to the beloved billionaire Oprah. I sincerely she hears you and amends her ways. Your letter was excellent and thorough and I hope more people will speak up their truth too.
    May all good things bless you♥

  • Mark Karavan
    November 17, 2014 - Reply

    Well said, Kari. It is disgusting how society treats its artists.

  • Laura
    November 17, 2014 - Reply

    You. Are. Amazing. So well written and thoughtful!!! This makes me want to stand up and cheer out loud!

  • kasiaKul
    November 17, 2014 - Reply

    Spot on! Good on you for taking a stand. This situation was just so off! Well done xxx

  • Wendy Fambro
    November 17, 2014 - Reply

    Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes. The irony behind this entire episode is more painful than entertaining – but, as an entertainer – I hope your chutzpah in how you responded to this whole thing triples your take-home pay. I shared it on FB. (p.s. thanks for “liking” my comment on Gigmasters – my husband is also an entertainer.)

  • Caroleeena
    November 17, 2014 - Reply

    Well said Kari. I am proud of you. I know this was a hard decision. Every time someone asks me to work for free, it makes me feel sick to my stomach. Again and again and again, I have to stand up for my worth. Sometimes, even I begin to wonder about my value. What you do is one of a kind and wonderful and I really hope something comes of your brave stance. Hugs and love to you.

  • Marilyn Keller
    November 17, 2014 - Reply

    MY She-ro! Thank you for saying what I and so many others have needed to say to agents, Artistic Directors and venue owners. The ability that we, as Artists, display to the world is merely the tip of the iceberg of experience, education and personal fortitude that contributed to our development. I had a Cousin that was an associate Producer for the Oprah show. I never made the contact and I regretted it when the show ended. I do not regret it now. I will continue to work my craft as a Vical Instrument and when success comes, I will celebrate it as I earned it!

  • Debra Smith (@Artgrl150)
    November 17, 2014 - Reply

    Thank you for this, and I love your sarcastic reply! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked to work for free, or got a blank stare when I’ve brought up the subject of payment. It’s like it never occurred to them that I do this for a living…hello.

  • Neon Emu
    November 17, 2014 - Reply

    It breaks my heart how common this crap is… Thank you SO much for making such an amazing, well written post about the horror that it is just trying to put yourself out there. Who knew it could be so hard to be respected as payable entertainment even though we CLEARLY are?

    *sigh* PREACH SISTER.

  • Zinnia
    November 17, 2014 - Reply

    Thank you for the balls to post this and keep it real. From a friend who actually paid the ticket price to go there – it was a commercially sponsored plug fest. Outside was filled with all the tents of the sponsors (Tide, Oil of Olay, etc) handing out little samples. And you could only get ONE each – because once they handed one to you, your little wrist bracelet got beeped and they knew you already got your share. So by the time you returned home, your email inbox was already pinged by all those same sponsors with spam sales message about their products. To gild the lily, Oprah and Co. sold your email address that you used to register to all her sponsors so they could hound you forever. Not exactly “Best Life” material. So crass and appalling. I think I”m living my best life without her tour.

  • John Wiley
    November 17, 2014 - Reply

    Well done, Kari! You hit the nail square on the head. I can never fathom why people who wouldn’t *think* of working for nothing often do not hesitate to ask (or worse, EXPECT) others to do it.

  • lee
    November 17, 2014 - Reply

    I agree with everything except yourblove for one of the world’s most wealthiest women who hoards her money while others starve. While people go without Oprah’s money sits in her account. Some die from lack of food, medicine of housing, but the Oprah’s pile gets bigger and bigger. Good write but don’t be afraid to go the whole way. People always say, well she does give to people. Well, check it out, if Oprah’s money was a pizza with eight slices, the amount she gives away would not even be half of the cheese on one slice. Chew on that for a while.

  • ruben
    November 17, 2014 - Reply

    2 things

    – your linky thing is broken in the tweet (gets me a 404)
    – you need a clever hashtag – how about #TooRichToPay

    • Moik
      November 18, 2014 - Reply

      Brilliant idea. I love #TooRichToPay

  • DB
    November 17, 2014 - Reply

    This is a really great piece. As someone who’s been in the same spot I can identify, but the scale of this is just baffling. Thousand dollar tickets? Gimme a break.

    I hope the entire internet reads this and there’s some kind of blowback for Oprah, although I’m not holding my breath. This kind of bullshit needs to stop.

  • Laura Seagraves
    November 17, 2014 - Reply

    I was a stagehand, on the stop before San Jose, Seattle. And I know the stage you would have performed on, and entertaining people waiting in line for free stuff, all donated by Oprah’s corporate sponsors? You missed nothing, no matter how bad they try to make you feel for not doing it for free. For all I could see the message was, they same as all the magazines, “isn’t the person you want to be, the person who buys all our crap?”
    Who needs it, I just want to have a life, pay my bills, and be part of making art, why is that so wrong?

  • Dave
    November 18, 2014 - Reply

    How can we use the power of social media to amplify this message that artists should not be expected to work without pay? We get a similar request each year from America’s Got Talent, as well as about one a month from worthy causes whose directors are extremely well paid.

    • Event City
      November 20, 2014 - Reply

      Dave, Lots of ways to blow up this wonderful, compassionate, incredible, prose by a true artist and a creative cannon capturing the hearts of all who are creative and know their value and choose to stand up for their rights! WOW this Revolva is one heck of a lady!!
      So here’s one way to increase the speed of the viral energy of this post – @eventcity, #RevolvaRocksOprah, #RevolvaRefusesOprah, #eventcity, #RevolvaQueenArtists, #IloveRevolva. There you go, that’s a start!!
      You are pretty awesome girl, would like to republish what you wrote on one of our Magazines and a couple of blogs to help share the message to the many artists and performers we reach at Event City!!

  • Carl Root
    November 18, 2014 - Reply

    So you all think live entertainers should be compensated? Next time you go to your local tavern to see a live band, you’ll leave a “tip” in the jar if there’s no cover, right?

    • Jim
      November 18, 2014 - Reply

      Cover bands that plays bars and clubs get paid by the venue, often pretty well if they are good. And they often do pass the hat at certain venues.

      • Wendy
        November 18, 2014 - Reply

        if “pretty well” is $50-$75 bucks for 6 hours of work, and that’s if they don’t have to pay a sound guy out of it and if the bar actually pays them the agreed amount… Not sure what bars you go to. And that doesn’t include the expenses, like $5000 for the sound system, $50/hour for rehearsal space, cost of instruments, etc…

        Rarely do I see bands get more than $400 a night in your average local tavern. There are a very small handful of bands that get a living wage to play a bar/club where I live. Most get gas money.

      • kathy
        November 20, 2014 - Reply

        Hey there! If you think musicians get paid well at clubs and othet venues like that you are dead wrong. I have two cds and have worked in this industry for better than 25 years. Played coffee houses and bars, small festivals and large all over north America. They do not pay a living wage and the work is less than steady.

    • typical_joe
      November 18, 2014 - Reply

      @Carl Root:
      Yes, live entertainers should be compensated. Yes, I and most people I know, will leave a ‘tip’ if there is no cover. Sometimes, even if there *is* a cover, we will buy merch to provide additional support. Why is this even a question?

    • Heather
      November 18, 2014 - Reply

      Bands also shouldn’t accept gigs at bars that won’t pay some kind of deposit in the very least. My group will never play for free at a bar or any other venue without a deposit and a guaranteed fee. It’s not the patrons fault for not tipping a band. It’s the band’s fault for having a low standard and booking at a shitty bar if they end up not making any money, and it’s the bars fault for having shitty, run of the mill bands that really don’t entertain anyone by continuing a policy of taking advantage of artists. You get what you pay for. And artists, you only get what you ask for and stand your ground for. Those bars deserve crappy dime-a-dozen cover bands, and the bands that lower their standards and play for next to nothing (or nothing) deserve that nothing for how raising their bars.

      As the manager and a musician in my group, I get asked all the time to play for free or less or “I’m on a budget, what can you do for me?” and I quote them all the same price. Our hourly rate, plus mileage, period. And you know what? Keeping your expectations high, and your product high quality, people still hire us.

      Good for you, Kari. Stunning that Oprah would rape the little guy to pad her already bloated empire. I don’t care how much she helps other people. Her producers are crappy for thinking that’s OK.

      • Bilbo Baggins
        November 18, 2014 - Reply

        @Heather. You make a good point and honestly I agree that it is up to the individual artists to ALL start asking for what they believe to be worth. For some new/crappy artists free publicity may be a gift, which will continue to tweak the market a bit. But, hopefully the majority of experienced/talented artists can come together and make fair compensation an expectation/requirement.

        Any chance you will publish what your hourly rate and mileage fees are? Maybe more artists will be encouraged to post as well. I think artists need to share more information with each other so that we can all be approaching jobs/gigs in a similar fashion. Otherwise, this will continue to be the “state of affairs”.

        • Event City
          November 20, 2014 - Reply

          Great comments Billbo!! So true, so very true!!

    • Bill Owen
      November 18, 2014 - Reply

      Everyone who performs a service or provides a good should be compensated. Are you stupid? Yes, yes, you are.

    • Call me crazy, but....
      November 19, 2014 - Reply

      I certainly expect an artist who places a tangible value on their craft to not be performing free at any venue. If they do so, it is by their own choice. Revolva was given the same choice and turned it down in principle. She then wrote about it and opened dialogue on what is and isn’t accptable about people’s expectations of her. I didn’t know anything about this because I’m not an artist…but now I do. I now know better, and her standing up for the rights and responsibilities of and towards local artists has enlightened me. So yes, having read this blog, I will from now on tip the band (if I can identify where to actually do that for them).

    • Abby Franquemont
      November 19, 2014 - Reply

      I do so religiously, actually, yeah. I also usually buy music direct from the artist. I do these things not because I’m rich, but because my living also depends on people thinking it’s worth paying creative professionals, entertainers, and the like.

  • Suzanne Eaton
    November 18, 2014 - Reply

    Kari, YOU ROCK!! Don’t lower yourself to Oprah’s level. You’re better than that.

  • Holly
    November 18, 2014 - Reply

    I am so proud of you. Until we stop saying YES to free work, people like Oprah will keep asking. Too many people do work for free, that’s the key issue here. How do we make them realize their worth and stop the insanity?

  • Tuffy
    November 18, 2014 - Reply

    As if I could respect and admire you more! Thank you for this and for calling it out. Stay strong!!

  • Fred North
    November 18, 2014 - Reply

    I make my living as a VO talent. I’ve faced the same issue (on a less mega level) and I resent it as well. I’m happy to help out a non-profit but if you in it for the cash, then I am too. Good job telling Oprah to stick it.

  • Crissie
    November 18, 2014 - Reply

    Kudos. First of all can I say how awesome and amazing you are for being asked to perform at such an event! But how even way more totally awesome and amazing you are for standing your ground! I’m waiting to see you cartwheel across her stage. Stay strong! It WILL happen.

  • Lynn
    November 18, 2014 - Reply

    Thank you, Revolva. And halle*fucking*lujah!!!
    Down with demeaning!
    “But, you could get EXPOSURE!”

  • Sarah sanders
    November 18, 2014 - Reply

    For your years performing, services you provide, lessons and quality handmade hoops, I just want all your readers know that it seems To me, now a good decade since we purchased your hoops and they stand today, used by children who weren’t even born yet at the time. Your letter was amazing and I thoroughly enjoyed reading your sentiment!
    Thank you!

  • Rohde
    November 18, 2014 - Reply

    I *do not* luuuuuv Oprah. She has gotten fat on the largess of giving away other people stuff while sucking up the adoration of kool-aid swilling masses. In doing so she has become drunk with her powers of extortion to the point of hubris.

    Good on you for calling BS. This is a real example of speaking truth to power.

  • erich
    November 18, 2014 - Reply

    it’s really a shame! greed rottens people, more they have more they want ….

    will start a call for donations to help oprah reach 3billions, poor thing, must be a hard life sitting on money but not knowing what to do with it

  • Cory Huff
    November 18, 2014 - Reply

    I’ll just leave this here: https://vimeo.com/22053820

    Good for you for standing up for yourself, and I hope Oprah hears about this and fires her producer.

    • Event City
      November 20, 2014 - Reply

      It is NOT the Producer’s who did this, it is Oprah. It is very well known in the industry that Oprah really does oversee all, and I do mean ALL aspects of her shows, to a point of craziness! But then, that is Oprah. So don’t kid yourself to think that she is hiding behind some producer vale, when in fact it is she who is always in charge! Spread the word of this grand little lady’s deed, she is a true Queen an Entertainment/Music industry Angel that needs to be recognized like all of us are doing so here! Thanks again Revolva!

  • Tom Noddy
    November 18, 2014 - Reply

    Thanks Kari. As you know well, there are plenty of gigs that are worth doing for free. There is, even, the occasional gig worth doing for “exposure” (though, it’s good when those include *some* money). But this one is the perfect example of the other. Your stance on this is impeccable but your public letter and its patient but firm tone brings it to a higher level. You deserve the accolades being gathered now on this site and elsewhere. Brava!

  • nothanks
    November 18, 2014 - Reply

    it’s very cheap to ask a baker to give you free bread, or a plumber to fix your toilet for free

    people without decency ask other people to work for free..

    many short-sighted people think artist should work for free where others never work for free. It’s easy to think like this if you IQ is below 100.

  • Lucy
    November 18, 2014 - Reply

    Great answer Revolva…
    I write you from Sweden and thank to your letter I know that you exist, as you can see it’s not necessary to work for free to promote your work. If you come to Sweden to perform, please say it. I will be glad to buy tickets for your show, that actually it looks very entertaining, of course if they don’t cost $999 :)
    Btw, is OW serious, charging $999 per show?!?! Who can afford those prices in these days?!?!
    She should call the show: “The life I want you to pay me”, it’s more honest.

  • Charlene
    November 18, 2014 - Reply

    Articulate and 100% spot on. More creatives need to say NO to working for free.

  • Becky
    November 18, 2014 - Reply

    Right on! I’m a professional writer with 30 years of experience. If I had a nickel for every time I’ve been asked to write something in exchange for the exposure it would give me…

  • elsa
    November 18, 2014 - Reply

    You said NO to Oprah!!! That’s fantastic! REALLY FANTASTIC!!! You are my hero!
    I believe that anything spiritual shouldn’t cost an arm and a leg and should be shared with compassion and love. These people, Oprah, Deepak and whoever else was there are way over rated and revered in a way that is perverse.
    Wishing you the very best ~ you are an inspiration!

  • Michelle
    November 18, 2014 - Reply

    Good for you! I am so tired of seeing these incredibly rich people asking the rest of us to ‘give money to charity’, ‘work for me for free for the exposure’, not pay their fair share of taxes, screw us all over in so many ways while still raking in the millions a month. And $999 for a ticket for this event – you would have to be an idiot to hand over that kind of money. Then again, it’s Oprah. Haven’t trusted her in years so, no, no surprises here.

  • Sean
    November 18, 2014 - Reply

    Spot on. I worked with a guy who volunteered at NHL games. I used to ask him why he would volunteer when the players were making millions, after all, they’d probably only be paying him minimum wage anyway. He told me he liked going to the games…he was “working” and didn’t even get to sit through most of it anyway.

    Kari, if you’re ever performing in NC I’ll definitely pay to go see your show.

  • Cindy
    November 18, 2014 - Reply

    Bravo!!!!! as an artist I taught thousands of kids for mere pennies my entire life! about time someone speaks up!!!! Very disappointed that Oprah would think this is a good idea….something tells me she knows…..

  • Lisa
    November 18, 2014 - Reply

    The other side of this is Toyota supposedly paid 10M to be a sponsor for her tour because of the exposure they received. At least they didn’t ask you to pay to perform :-)

  • steven t
    November 18, 2014 - Reply

    this is a great message, not only as it applies to artists’ struggle, but also to the larger workforce. I am a house painter (with a network admin diploma), and you’d be amazed how regularly i get squeezed for bottom rates by people driving vehicles worth two times my yearly gross… All while being held to exacting standards by people with very high expectations… thanks for speaking out, maybe one day we’ll see you in Montreal! (Check out our yearly summer fringe fest!)

  • Stan
    November 18, 2014 - Reply

    Good for you!

    I work in the office of a University fine arts program and I often see people and organizations trying to get free art or free work from “my” students. That’s why I keep the link to http://www.shouldiworkforfree.com/ close at hand. It’s been very helpful in letting students know that when they give their work away for free it can devalue the work that they’re doing.

    • Kayla Suverkrubbe
      January 24, 2015 - Reply

      I am a painting student at a university and I will often give work away for a cheap price, but I am beginning to think you are right…That I need to stand firm and charge a decent price. I do think students maybe shouldn’t charge as much as professionals if they haven’t developed, but they still deserve compensation.

  • Karl Saliter
    November 18, 2014 - Reply

    Three cheers from a brother in the business. You Tell em!

  • Erika Harrison
    November 18, 2014 - Reply

    Yep…Face and Body painters are all in the same boat. If only my landlord and the grocery store would accept, “exposure,” in lieu of actual cash.

  • Bryan
    November 18, 2014 - Reply

    I worked this tour in Houston, as a stagehand. I can see how they think they can get something for nothing. As an artist, I ask what you feel would have been fair compensation for, say, a 15 minute performance? $25? $50? $100? More? Where do you set the bar for worthwhileness?

  • Bill Owen
    November 18, 2014 - Reply

    Principles? How the fuck do they work?

    My driveway needs shovelling, it’s on a busy street. You can put up a sign with your email on it, you know, for the exposure. See you at 1PM.

  • Cal
    November 18, 2014 - Reply

    So the 1% wants to provide “a great opportunity for exposure” to the 99%… and doesn’t want to pay them. “Job creators” they are.

    The 1% want the 99% to entertain them… for free. I mean, it IS the next logical step, enit?

    “We pay you people too much, s we’ll move the jobs offshore where they on’t cost as much. We don’t want you to cost us any more money – our shareholders expect double-digit returns every quarter, after all. Y’know what? Here’s a brilliant idea! Work for us for nothing! It’ll be good for you!”

    Pardon my French, but F-that. Good on ya, Revolva.

  • Tim
    November 18, 2014 - Reply

    Some Oprah numbers: If she took $1 Billion of her net worth and used just 5% of the INTEREST income generated off that, she could pay 27 acts per day $10,000 each every day of the year. Shameless.

  • KeithShow
    November 18, 2014 - Reply

    She adds wonder, joy, laughter, and amazement to society. What do you do for a living?

  • Jennifer
    November 18, 2014 - Reply

    This been a struggle I have also had… with others and even within myself. Know your worth and let no-one, not even yourself, discount that worth or your craft!

  • Melissa Dunphy
    November 18, 2014 - Reply

    I’m in the arts, but I employ fellow artists too. And I absolutely agree with you. Here’s a blog I wrote on the subject when the Amanda Palmer incident went down: http://blog.melissadunphy.com/2012/09/paying-musicians-modified-facebook-rant.html

  • Noah Stephens
    November 18, 2014 - Reply

    First, kudos to you for sharing this. Also, good for you for denying their request for free work. A couple of thoughts:

    1) This is further evidence for my theory – that despite her genial facade – Oprah Winfrey is actually a terrible person. And by “terrible person” I mean a cynical merchant of half truths and outright lies who has made herself rich by telling people what they want to hear instead of telling them the truth (remember, we have Oprah to thank for the quack medical advice of Dr. Oz; the pseudoscientific word salad life coaching of Deepak Chokra; and most dangerously for Jenny McCarthy, who spearheaded a anti-vaccination movement that to this day continues to maim and kill children).

    2) Well-resourced institutions ask artists to work for free because artists are stupid. And by “stupid” I mean too hungry for exposure and validation to stand up for their own economic self-interests. If someone with a lot of money asks you to work for free, you should tell that person to go fuck themselves. If more creatives had the good sense to do this, then well-resourced institutions would stop asking artists to work for free.

  • Ase Anthony
    November 18, 2014 - Reply

    Good for you for sticking up for yourself as well as local artists, and fellow spinners. Please post any replies if you get them! Thank you!

  • Suzette Davidson
    November 18, 2014 - Reply

    This is a great open letter, Kari! All of us who perform and create need to hear about these experiences. We need your views. Many of us have experienced this and some of us even quit hoping for better scenarios, or given up making any effort to Live this creative life because it is so tough to survive.. Time for a paradigm shift. We are already creating a life worth living and we need support . Thank you so much for Telling the Truth. You rock.

  • Jodhi
    November 18, 2014 - Reply

    YES! Amazing – brave and important. This really inspired me today! It’s time for people to stop taking and not giving when they can – that’s why that 1% even exists. You lay it out truthfully and with great wit! We need to value each other and our skills. This is more important exposure than they could have given you! Good for you!!!!!!

  • Morgan
    November 18, 2014 - Reply

    Good for you! I am also a fire dancer, and for every time a producer has asked me to perform for free… gah, I can’t even go there. I feel it too. And it makes me want to find out who DID perform for free there, and tell them how undercutting their fellow artists is hurting the business. I have 10 years of experience, and it kills me when someone who’s only been doing it for 9 months agrees to do a gig for free, mostly half-assing it on stage presence, safety, and costuming. That makes it harder for the dedicated performers to get a gig, to make it look like its worth the money, basically cheapening the whole thing. And to all the people calling her stupid for not taking the opportunity, this is not an article solely about taking a gig, its about the hypocrisy perpetuated by OWN and their kind in general, and the inequality they push despite trying to make it look appetizing on the outside.

  • Jenni Chiu @ MommyNaniBooboo
    November 18, 2014 - Reply

    “I want a life in which people are not asked to work for free—by people who can totally afford to pay.”
    *slow clap*

  • Hannah
    November 18, 2014 - Reply

    Well said Revolva! I can’t tell you how many times Fire Groove gets asked to perform in exchange for “exposure”!

    • June
      November 19, 2014 - Reply

      People can die of exposure!

  • Bill Perron
    November 18, 2014 - Reply

    This past summer here in L.A. a local upscale mall had performers performing outdoors on a stage. Since I knew some of them I asked how to get booked and how much did it pay. The pay was half off on a Fudruckers burger. When performers don’t value their art and craft they will never rise above half off a Fudruckers burger.

  • dustin
    November 18, 2014 - Reply

    Hey there Tyler, let’s reign in the condescension and put our critical thinking hats on because you clearly missed the point. This has nothing to do with economics, this has to do with living in a culture that undervalues the work of artists. In fact, your response is a case in point of that. If you can understand economics, then you can most likely understand this super simple concept, art=work.

    Basically, everything you’ve ever enjoyed since you were born (film, music, books, comedy) is art. Whether you agree or not, art has a very high place in culture. It’s entertainment and inspiration. It’s what we enjoy over weekends and discuss with friends. Life would be super boring without it. And it takes more work than you could possibly imagine to make good art. Literally, thousands of hours over years of development.

    Musicians, comedians, actors, and writers are held in such high regard because art and entertainment are valuable, and even synonymous with a healthy, high functioning society. Thinking through history, the three kinds of people that are typically remembered are politicians, scientists/thinkers, and artists. Yet it’s fine for artists to go unpaid for their significant contributions to culture. Why is that okay?

  • Marria
    November 18, 2014 - Reply

    Revolva, I love you. Thank you for standing up for artists everywhere and writing this blog. I am so proud of you for believing in yourself and the value you deserve. For the haters out there who ask “what does hula hooping add to the world?” It’s called art. It’s form adds beauty, dance & laughter to the world. If you can’t see the value in that, you should really check your values.

  • Reggie Olson
    November 18, 2014 - Reply

    I agree with you 100% and am so glad that you stood up for yourself. You remind me of my favorite book “Atlas Shrugged.” Do not work for free and to not let anyone tell you that your skills should be free. “The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.” Ayn Rand. If I had the money and the venue, I would expect you to negotiate what you SHOULD be paid. Don’t quit!

  • Julia
    November 18, 2014 - Reply

    You go Girl! Self respect is a lot more important than a non-gig with Oprah.

  • gkj
    November 18, 2014 - Reply

    spot on!

  • Lisa
    November 18, 2014 - Reply

    Right. Fucking. On.

    If you wouldn’t ask an accountant, or a plumber, or a doctor, to work a day for free for millionaires, for the exposure, why the hell would you ask an artist? Because we’re supposed to be grateful for whatever scraps we’re thrown, while accountants, plumbers and doctors are trained professionals? Fuck that. I’m a trained professional. Pay me.

  • enness
    November 18, 2014 - Reply

    Hello, business acumen? What? There’s no such thing as a “free marketing opportunity” that requires you to spend your time and gas. That’s called taking a loss, and any business generated would be pretty difficult to trace. An uptick in YouTube hits, perhaps…please, give me a break.

    Maybe fewer of us would be in $20K debt were it not for wealthy misers.

  • Anandha
    November 18, 2014 - Reply

    In my performing arts career (over 30 years directing a modern dance company) I was always shocked at how often I was asked to bring the company to perform for free. And it really sucks that it was so often events that we would want to do because they were produced by famous people, who were really quite well-off financially. Yes it was good exposure, but it is such a sign of the de-valuing of performance arts in the US that we are so often asked to perform for free. I think of Oprah as one who tries to right the wrongs of the world… so this just doesn’t make sense. Oprah… SPEAK OUT ON BEHALF OF THE PERFORMANCE ARTISTS!!!!!! Right this ongoing wrong!

  • enness
    November 18, 2014 - Reply

    If there was no “demand” they wouldn’t have called her.

  • Mike Overly
    November 18, 2014 - Reply

    Thank you for raising your One Voice to represent the Many Voices that Must be hEard . . .

  • Casandra Tanenbaum
    November 18, 2014 - Reply

    Yes. Thanks. <3

  • MandaWritesThings
    November 18, 2014 - Reply

    This is amazing. I’m sharing this with my blog followers on Facebook, as well as many of my coworkers. I work in an industry that encourages people to take low or non paying crap for the experience, and it’s BS. It’s always some client that you KNOW has deep pockets too.

  • Darlene
    November 18, 2014 - Reply

    I think you should contact Oprah directly…she may not even be aware that the outside performers are not being paid. Seems kind of silly not to pay them when the theme is all about just the opposite. At the very least, she will know how you feel. A lot of people in the spotlight completely forget how it is for struggling performers, it’s a large project and the decision not to pay may not have been made by her.

  • Tina Dietz
    November 18, 2014 - Reply

    Thank you for standing up for the value you bring. Extremely well thought out, I am happy to help this message go viral.

  • Alma Carey
    November 18, 2014 - Reply

    Are you a member of The American Guild of Variety Artists? If so, would they have been able to negotiate for you?
    My response to questions about performing for free for exposure, “I already have plenty of exposure. How did you get my number? Do you know we only work with professionals.” I say that if they can’t afford to hire professionals then they shouldn’t be soliciting donations. I tell them they won’t be happy with non professionals.

  • LaTeefah J
    November 18, 2014 - Reply

    I would love to hear if Oprah contacts you to apologize. I think what they asked of you is ludicrous and applaud you for standing your grounds and making a difference.

  • Brad
    November 18, 2014 - Reply

    I love Oprah and who doesn’t? Many people would have jumped at this “opportunity.” Good for you to stand up and say no. Know your worth! I applaud you.

  • CC
    November 18, 2014 - Reply

    Bravo! Very well written – and I hope every artist – and everyone who loves Oprah – reads it. And “gets it.” Artists have bills to pay, same as everybody else.

  • David
    November 18, 2014 - Reply

    Revolva, I just wanted to congratulate you on how you handled the situation. You went viral, got tons of exposure, and kept your sanity and your soul…a rare trifecta. Sometimes doing the right thing pays off.

  • Andrew F. Butters
    November 18, 2014 - Reply

    This. A million times this. Thank you for speaking up!

  • Cynthia Baldon
    November 18, 2014 - Reply

    Yeah – not cool. I love Oprah but her neglect to local arts stings like a dozen paper cuts on my hands that are squeezing lemons. I’m conflicted by her do good messages then her allegiance to capitalism. She can help people in Africa then kick over the coffee can filled with the hard earned pennies of a true artist who is busking for a piece of bread on the very sidewalks of the American streets who made her who she is today. Dorothy Parker once said,”if you want to see what God thinks of money, look who he gave it to.” Sadly, I’m starting to believe it.

  • Peter
    November 18, 2014 - Reply

    Awesome post. Spot on. I sent you some money since they wouldn’t. ;) I hope that others do as well.
    Keep on being awesome!

  • claude
    November 18, 2014 - Reply

    hi Revolva, Thanks for taking a stand, and writing about it and posting. You speak clearly for all of us artists who are barely surviving…treading water, or are on the verge of giving up in the face of the ignorance and greed that passes for mainstream ‘culture’ and values. the often used term, “starve the beast” also applies to artists who are not conforming, playing the art industry-game, music industry-game or the entertainment-industry game. make more art, take less shit !

  • Melody
    November 18, 2014 - Reply

    Very classy open letter!

  • Rod
    November 18, 2014 - Reply

    Fantastic post! I would love to repost it to my acting blog. Very well done and ignore the “economists”.

  • Lance Gibson
    November 18, 2014 - Reply

    It drives me nuts that Oprah pushes such simplistic feel good “if only you believe hard enough you’ll succeed!!!” messages. Success isn’t that simple. Not to begrudge her success in building her empire but as someone who has survived to the top of the food chain I think she foregets how many millions don’t make it. Pop psychology and Gurus of the week don’t equal success if followed religiously. Hard work, persistence, being in the right place at the right time and a lot of LUCK are what does it, and even all of that doesn’t guarantee you’ll succeed.

  • Jenny
    November 18, 2014 - Reply

    shared and shared and shared. I love you girl, AMEN. This isn’t about entitlement, it’s about living in a world where we can genuinely help each other out and then we CHOSE to do what’s right for everyone involved. Get PAID girl. <3

  • Javon
    November 18, 2014 - Reply

    You need to put an ad or 2 on this site so you can get some extra $$$ in to get you on your feet. You’re trending, take advantage of this.

  • Kelly
    November 18, 2014 - Reply

    Brava to you for taking a stand! With all that money they are charging for tickets and sponsors, they can afford to pay for talented artists…which you are. I hope that this viral exposure from your brave stand gets you many totally awesome gigs where your talent is paid for and appreciated. Hoop on!

  • Melissa Botting
    November 18, 2014 - Reply

    Thank you for being so open. It is clear how Oprah got to be a billionaire. I gave one of her events my email address. I constantly get sales pitches from her and her affiliated sponsors. She has figured out how to live the life she wants and it consists of looking out for number 1. Glad you learned her “how to live the life you want” lesson without wasting $999.00

  • MK LeFevour
    November 18, 2014 - Reply


  • Daniel
    November 18, 2014 - Reply

    Good for you! Confronting the hand that’s (not) feeding you is the way to make change!

    For an event of this magnitude, there is no reason in hell not to put aside, say, $20.000 to pay the group of performers working the outside stage.

    As Oprah’s persona is all based on her being a “good and giving” person, I would be surprised if she doesn’t change this policy. Please, keep us updated!

  • Yeah No
    November 18, 2014 - Reply

    Sorry Zardoz….you’re probably trolling but just in case you aren’t go back and re-read the article. She clearly has enough exposure (and is getting even more now thanks to this post). If she didn’t they would have never contacted her in the first place.

    If you needed plumbing, would you look online for the best plumber, then call them up and say, “hey can you do it for free, I’ll tell all my friends about it, it’s great exposure”?

    You wouldn’t because that’s absurd, yet that’s exactly what Oprah’s producers did to her. The fact that you can’t see why the expectation that someone who provides a service do it for free wrong is baffling. You want a service, you pay for it, ESPECIALLY if you contact said service.

  • Vanessa
    November 18, 2014 - Reply

    Great message and well said.

  • Donna
    November 18, 2014 - Reply

    I agree with you, 100% too! When Oprah left free television and moved her new show to a pay only cable tv spot, I lost quite a bit of respect for her. Someone gave me her magazine recently and the majority of it is advertising with very short, fairly uninformative articles. I don’t much care what Oprah does anymore and I used to be a BIG fan!

  • Anthony
    November 18, 2014 - Reply

    Well done! I’m a stagehand- one of the people who would have been paid my union rate for erecting the stage. Nobody would ask us to do our job for free because we would laugh at them. And then picket the event if they attempted to replace us with unpaid labor. Hopefully your actions and your writing about it will inspire others to take the same stand. Stand strong, stand proud! (And I will now make a small donation to help offset all that you lost by turning down the opportunity for exposure).

  • liz
    November 18, 2014 - Reply


  • Maxie
    November 18, 2014 - Reply

    As a performer, or as a struggling performer it galls me that someone who is making millions of dollars would ask me to work for free. I appreciate your standing your ground. I hope the people in charge of Oprah’s tour see this and I certainly will post this so people will hopefully think twice about paying that $99 – $999 ticket. Keep up the good writing…

  • Abby
    November 18, 2014 - Reply

    Right on! It IS a race to the bottom and everyone loses. Somehow our society has decided that “fame” and “exposure” and “eyeballs” are better than money but, as you said, landlords don’t accept “eyeballs” or “exposure” for the rent. This is bullshit and I hope you get famous as a result of calling one of the world’s RICHEST women out.

  • PatriciaB
    November 18, 2014 - Reply

    Perfect , well written and I agree 100%. I am so tired of being taken advantage of especially when I am desperate for cash to be able to live.

  • Response to "what"
    November 18, 2014 - Reply

    @ the person who posted “what” – It seems to me that you missed the point. Perhaps I might be able to express it to you in a different manner. – NO ONE LIKES BEING USED!!! The reason to BlOG about it is to expose this practice to deter others from employing the same methods. And as for hula hooping – while you might not find value in it – other that are a a part of this society might find value in it. Going forward please try to put yourself in others shoes. Your view point would suggest to me that you have not experienced being taken advantage of. If you have – then THINK BACK to how you felt and then perhaps, maybe you can understand how this artist feels.

  • tabatha smith
    November 18, 2014 - Reply

    Free exposure? Isn’t that what YouTube is for? I could see maybe working for free if this was for charity or all funds raised were going for a good cause but to line Oprah Winfrey’s pockets with more money is absurd. Good for you for saying no thanks!

  • Lynn V
    November 18, 2014 - Reply

    Good for you. I produce music in public/private spaces in San Franciso. I always pay the bands. Often downtown buildings will want to to be a venue but are shocked when I tell tell him that they have to pay to sponsor. I wonder if performers start refusing to perform for tips only a new mentality would grow? A small entertainment charge could be added to restaurant and bar bills. All would go to the band.

  • Nina
    November 18, 2014 - Reply

    Stephen Colbert is always joking about “The Colbert Bump,” but Oprah truly does have that effect, and she has made businesses and performers profoundly wealthy (think Dr. Phil, Dr. Oz) by displaying their talents. Meanwhile, your car is still broke and you still have bills to pay. Self-righteousness is tough to eat.

    • Matthew Wayne Selznick
      November 19, 2014 - Reply

      Nina, sitting across the table from Stephen Colbert, being interviewed by him, is not at all the same as being asked to perform on a second stage outside of the main event, far removed from Oprah.

      By your logic, there should be buskers getting famous every day by playing for free outside of the building where The Colbert Report is filmed.

  • Yollana
    November 19, 2014 - Reply


    Someone posted this on my Facebook feed… And FB kindly made some suggestions of related material. I thought you would enjoy this, one:


  • ~sarah
    November 19, 2014 - Reply

    You are awesome and courageous and rockin’. Thanks so much for taking this on.

    Super disheartening to see this (although, I have to say I’m not surprised).

    As a fellow creative soul with small-scale local events, we’re lucky if we can break even with a budget of a couple of grand … and still, we try to pay our performers.

    This is insanity and disgusting. But props to you for standing up.

  • jack
    November 19, 2014 - Reply

    I don’t know you. I’ve never seen you perform, but you are my favorite for telling the over preened, over indulged, and overly cock sure of themselves how it really is.

  • joni
    November 19, 2014 - Reply

    OMG… you have a talent and they want you to work… the life i want is to be paid for a job well done….
    i hope oprah sees this and compensates you for bucks that her producer humiliated you with her “do it for free” line
    No respect any more for harpo or oprah…..

  • Kevin
    November 19, 2014 - Reply

    Way to go! I don’t support businesses that don’t support small businesses or self-employed people. I don’t shop at Walmart, Party City, and other establishments that have a history of not supporting local self-employed. I’ll add Oprah to the list.

    It’s bad for the economy as well. It results in a concentration of wealth, where the poor get poorer and the ultra-rich (like Oprah) get even more rich.

    I encourage people to boycott Oprah and other businesses that don’t support “the little guys” in the economy!

  • Tarita
    November 19, 2014 - Reply

    It is really disturbing to me that you are attacking Oprah for offering local artists a venue. Their performances are NOT the main part of the tour and don’t make any money for the tour. The tour would occur whether or not local artists performed at the ancillary show.

    You gloss over the fact that *artists* asked Oprah to provide a venue; she did so, and now she’s being criticized for it. She’s not making money off local artists’ work, she is providing a stage *at her cost* for them to work on, including set up and take down, lights, audio, etc., and she is offering exposure to her audience. No good deed goes unpunished, I guess.

    • Morhek
      November 19, 2014 - Reply

      “Sure, I’ll let you guys play at my event to entertain the crowd. What, you want to be paid? But I’m just letting you use the stage! Really you should be paying me!”

      At the end of the day, if someone sees you doing something for nothing, they’ll assume you’ll do it for nothing again, and that’s when they stop thinking you deserve to be paid.

    • Call me crazy, but....
      November 19, 2014 - Reply

      Every portion of the tour experience for ticket holders has a tangible, monetary value for Harpo both on the tour and for future tours. The author and artist did not contact Harpo, they contacted her. She turned them down based on principle and wrote about it, which has in turn enhanced her exposure far beyond what it would’ve been if she had accepted the idea that her act had no monetary value at such an event. If Harpo didn’t believe there was added value to having performing artists they wouldn’t have paid for all the trappings required to host them. This was a paid event, not a charitable act. You have the choice of singing or swearing at Revolva’s perspective, but whatever the motive, it has opened dialogue on her idea of what is right and wrong about people’s expectations of her.

      I’m going to venture to guess Revolva isn’t personally replying because she is too busy accepting (all expense paid) interviews from The Tonight Show, Ellen, and a host of morning shows nationwide. Turning down Oprah’s “I support local artists” ancillary show is probably going to be the best career move of her life.

    • Caroleeena
      November 20, 2014 - Reply

      Honey, Revolva did not reach out to them to perform at their show. THEY reached out to HER! It was only when she called them on not paying artists that the producer pretended it was “other” artist’s idea and not her own. It is disturbing to me that you put “artist” in quotes like it’s meaningless. Clearly you are not very intelligent if you can think that. It is disturbing to me that you see someone “attacking Oprah”, a billionaire making money off of everyone and demanding free labor to make it look like the life of HER dreams is even more sparkly and shiny than it already is rather than see that this is a rich woman taking advantage of a poor woman. You gloss over the fact that Oprah isn’t doing this as a favor. She’s doing this because it benefits her. Ooooooo! She’s paying for a stage FOR HER EVENT! Are you serious!?! It’s people like you who make excuses for the excesses of the 1% who represent everything that is wrong with this country. Shame on you. Oprah is not doing a good deed. She is taking advantage of people and pretending like she’s doing it for them when she’s really doing it for herself. Wake up and stop being so gullible. I get that you worship at the alter of Oprah but when you support someone who steals from workers and pretends it’s a big favor to them, you demonstrate an economic ignorance that is staggering. THAT is disturbing to me!

  • Rhiain
    November 19, 2014 - Reply

    I stand by your every word!!! It is hard to stand up to celebrities but us artists need to be heard! I am actually amazed, shocked & astounded that Oprah & her team would let this happen! :(

  • Briana
    November 19, 2014 - Reply

    Brilliantly brave post! Thank you for sharing and good luck to you on future PAID gigs

  • mary
    November 19, 2014 - Reply

    you are fantastic, a very well done letter. Shame on oprah, and all of them. they are all useless. good job

  • Michelle Green
    November 19, 2014 - Reply


    I spend all my time teaching cake makers this very same lesson – that you shouldn’t work for free unless it’s really and truly for the love, and that “exposure” is really code word for “how well you market this experience yourself, because nobody will do it for you.” It is both nice and sad to know that it’s not just our creative industry that has to deal with this kind of thing.

    BRAVA to you dear Revolva for stepping up and being brave and saying NO. I’ve learned that it’s the things we say no to which allow us to say YES – in this case, YES to being valued.

    It’s time for the creative community to step up and say PAY ME.

    With love and as much supportas you can handle,

    PS In case you want to know what I think, here’s my take on working for free for us cake makers: http://www.thebizofbaking.com/2014/08/working-for-free.html

  • Royce
    November 19, 2014 - Reply

    I salute your choice to self-value.

  • Lisa
    November 19, 2014 - Reply

    This makes me ill, as a visual artist so often the extremely wealthy love to show off all their “stuff” and then explain that this is why their budget for the project is miniscule… it always seems as if the regular hard working joe shmoes really understand the worth of my work. Good for you for telling it like it is. God this woman is beyond ridiculous!

  • Glo
    November 19, 2014 - Reply

    Just wanted to say that you are not the first person to turn down Oprah, I know a jewelry artist, who was asked to provide over 100 pairs of earrings, for free, for gift bags being given out to attendee’s of a paid Oprah event.

    But your response is more eloquent, and involves less curse words than I heard from her.

  • Tres
    November 19, 2014 - Reply

    Proud of you for being so strong and confident in the value of you’re talent!

  • K
    November 19, 2014 - Reply

    Wow, Tyler, thanks for mansplaining that so well! I bet she didn’t know a thing about economics before your comment. You’ve changed her life with that explanation. Supply and demand! What a concept!

  • Latrise
    November 19, 2014 - Reply

    Wow! What an incredible and Well written letter! I hope it gets the response that it truly deserves and that Oprah herself responds for herself.

  • Kerry
    November 19, 2014 - Reply

    Like, like, like. All artists, regardless of their specific talent or artistic medium should be compensated for their work–especially when their work is inquired into and requested–hula hoop, opera, canvas or otherwise. It always amazes me that so many people just don’t GET IT–that it will be a *cold* day in hell when ‘exposure’ starts to make up for or equal all the time and money we all spend on lessons, equipment, instruments, supplies, education, etc, etc, etc. Trust you me, in expecting to be paid, it’s not like we’re asking for the moon–we’re all quite accustomed to sometimes/often working for ‘less’, and hoping that you’ll do well in the tip jar that night, but at the very least you should be PAID for what you’re doing. It’s more than rent money (although it’s definitely that!) It’s an acknowledgment that what you’re doing isn’t a hobby–it’s a career. Maybe next time I’ll ask my doctor to work for free if I’ll start referring my friends to him. See how that goes over–I mean, exposure and all…Anyhow, Kudos to you Revolva for your blog post and your supportive voice.

  • Kaleigh Almond
    November 19, 2014 - Reply

    I was so happy to read this. I am also an artist who is CONSTANTLY being expected to do gigs for free. And honestly there is only SO MUCH exposure you can get from that. You should be so proud of yourself, I to love Oprah and this took some real courage. You go girl! <3

  • Pratibha
    November 19, 2014 - Reply

    Wow! I didn’t expect this from the team of someone as famous as Oprah!

  • Micah K
    November 19, 2014 - Reply

    Well said; don’t let anybody tell you that artists shouldn’t get to be capitalists. Anything worth making part of our culture is worth paying for.

  • Kristen
    November 19, 2014 - Reply

    Three cheers for you for your integrity and for telling this story so wonderfully! There’s another tragic side to this story which is that so many kids will abandon their dreams of a creative career because of this kind of reality. My teenagers would love to a drummer and a traveling writer and I can’t help but worry about their futures in a world that devalues those talents.

  • Nomtha
    November 19, 2014 - Reply

    I could kiss you right now! way to go Revolva…your letter has so much humour in it, i laughed all the way down. Kudos for saying NO to the Big O when u feel that it’s exploitation and I hope she can see your reasoning…as another business woman

  • nabanita
    November 19, 2014 - Reply

    Awesome…So good that you wrote this…Shows their hollowness this and shows your courage :)

  • J
    November 19, 2014 - Reply

    You took the time to read and comment on the blog, which pretty much sums up the purpose of writing it: to provoke thought and discussion. At what point was it determined that in order to write about an experience on your own blog, it had to reflect what everyone else would do and not its author? Why does it matter what course of action she took if it has no impact whatsoever on your own life?

    As for what she contributes to society, that’s all relative to what you consider to have value. I knew nothing of hooping until I read this blog, which in turn lead me to watch some videos that made me smile. I am terminally ill, so what I consider of value is going to be different from what you do. And that’s ok.

    • Caroleeena
      November 20, 2014 - Reply

      J, I am very, very touched by your comment. It really does say it all. The value of art is always subjective. I can think of no higher compliment than the one you just gave. I am sending you love and hugs and blessings of courage, comfort, resilience, healing, patience, and peace. Thank you for your kind words. They really meant a lot to me to read them. Much happiness to you.

  • Dan Dunn
    November 19, 2014 - Reply

    I worked the gig in Houston. You didn’t miss much. Great letter and I only did the gig because my manager insisted. Nice people once I was there, but a big hassle at a very busy season for me. I admire your hutzpah!

  • Economics, whaaaa?
    November 19, 2014 - Reply

    Why would you say the performers out front have nothing to do with a conference about living the life you want when certainly such a concept would apply to everybody?

    Why would you begin a comment stating you respect her work and what she does, and then contradict it by insinuating what she does has no tangible value (“…and think about what people do that others are willing to pay them for…”)?

    Lastly, from an economic standpoint, this letter and the exposure it is receiving will undoubtedly result in a greater return than if she hadn’t held firmly to her original perspective. You may not agree with the perspective she has and acted on, but I foresee a catapult effect in her persona and demand based simply on the actual exposure she is receiving as a result of it. It is inevitable she will now get calls for paid interviews and performances (I see an Ellen appearance in her future; just a hunch) and have tangible, marketable, monetary value even to those who don’t think she’s earned it. And that, Mr. Tyler, is the true lesson on economics. Well played, Revolva. Well played.

  • Nick
    November 19, 2014 - Reply

    Been a while since I read a massive post on an artist’s blog and thought “holy fuck that’s some good writing, I’m going to read the lot.” Not to criticise artists, but I’m a trained writer and there’s no way I could command that much attention. Anyway, awesome post, totally deserves the Jezebel post, you’re fantastic.

  • Margot
    November 19, 2014 - Reply

    Thank you!
    1.For speaking with such eloquence and transparency (it’s not always easy to speak about one’s financial challenges),
    2..For broaching one of the biggest challenges an artist of any kind…I’m a Visual Artist and could relate to most of what you’ve written in this letter, and the hyperlinked article pertaining to your expenses (sans checking hoola hoops onto flights)
    3. And for your bravery (Oprah, I hope your people are reading my comment, the previous 150, and I expect every one of the future gone-viral comments of Artists and supporters, and respond by showing your class by starting a Support The Artist Campaign. With the “Make It” movement that is absolutely EXPLODING, you’d continue to build on that empire of yours, and make it a complete, well-rounded one that includes the passions of millions of heart-lead North Americans).
    4. For your Art. I watched. You’re right. I think she would have done well to have paid you to perform :)

  • Dennis Wood
    November 19, 2014 - Reply

    The one way to prove to people that other artists and folks with varying talents they are worth seeing is to PAY for their talent. As community volunteers who help folks with home “FaceLifts”, we may bring on volunteers to spruce things up, but we HIRE at market rate the painters and don’t tell them they’ll get “exposure” for their efforts. For awards we CONTRACTS with local artists and PAY them their invoice prices to create amazing pieces in order to show to our volunteers these businesses and studios exist, are talent and worth their asking price. What a crock and an arrogant money grab to offer “exposure” as payment. Hell, those cars she gives away aren’t paid for with money, they are negotiated as product placement and the car companies are pitted against one another and guilted into being the “winner”, because they’ll get that exposure. The cars’ costs are taken from the car companies advertising budget and passed on to us. I hope writers and other artists stand up to this awful tactic.

  • Cathy Zielske
    November 19, 2014 - Reply

    I love this. Thank you. Seriously.

  • Julie
    November 19, 2014 - Reply

    Thank you for seeing the opportunity and having the courage to say what needs to be said. Given that I have had even my fellow artists use the bait of free exposure to pump me for freebies, we have a loooong way to go in changing attitudes about the value of art and artists today.

  • Linda
    November 19, 2014 - Reply

    So they actually wanted you to PAY, by default, to work there. How generous of spirit… Great read!

  • lisa
    November 19, 2014 - Reply

    Great step towards “the life you want “. The statement alone says you are getting there, and we don’t get there for free! Oprah got there… She worked hard for her money, too. I believe in charity and donating… But that is for those who do not have.

  • J. Barrett Wolf
    November 19, 2014 - Reply

    As a former singer-songwriter and a touring poet, I long ago discovered the answer for those promoters (and that’s all they are) who expect me to work for free…

    “Exposure? People DIE of exposure.”

    You are right, they are wrong… and world-class users.

  • Kandl
    November 19, 2014 - Reply

    Love this! Thank you for saying it.

  • Tom S.
    November 19, 2014 - Reply

    Multi-gazillionaires like Oprah are not the only ones pulling this maneuver. Bar and restaurant owners across the country have been dangling the exposure carrot in front of musicians since the days of wandering minstrels. The business world (and politics) has it’s unpaid-interns with the promise of contact and access… and free labor. In CA (and elsewhere) the wine industry has been offering UC Davis and Fresno students unpaid “summer internships” for decades, which everyone knows is nothing more than free lab support/harvest labor. So Oprah didn’t exactly invent this form of exploitation, and artists aren’t the only ones exposed to it.

  • WithYou
    November 19, 2014 - Reply

    When you pay people for their work,
    It grows the economy.
    Thanks for sharing!

  • Tess
    November 19, 2014 - Reply

    As a fellow performing artist in the bay area, who serves on union committees and has occasionally worked “for free” (=at a loss) to learn a new opera role, sing a concert I can videotape (or do an indie film) to use for auditions for paying jobs, or try out a new venue I couldn’t afford on my own, your post is an awesome burger covered in awesomesauce, with a side of righteous fries. Thank you for standing up for yourself so that we all can too.

  • PNW_WarriorWoman
    November 19, 2014 - Reply

    Spot on. Teachable moment. Economic justice. Left tip.

  • Ricki
    November 19, 2014 - Reply

    Just found this via a link on Facebook. Good for you! And I agree with everyone else–SO well written. Let’s all share on Facebook and tag Oprah–maybe she’ll hear about it and do something. If anyone has the power to change this mindset, it’s Oprah, right? :)

  • Gene-Manuel Whirling
    November 19, 2014 - Reply

    Thank you!! Thank you for writing this and thank you for saying NO to the Big O machinery. It’s sad really. Enraging and sad. I could go on and on but your brilliant post says it all. THANK YOU!!!

  • Doreen Pendgracs
    November 19, 2014 - Reply

    thx so much for having the courage to write this post. As a professional writer, I’ve encountered many situations (on a much smaller scale than Oprah!) who have expected me to provide writing services for free, thinking that the ‘exposure’ would thrill me. You’ve done a great job in showing how the big names are making huge profits on the backs of those of us trying to make a basic living.

  • Charles Don Noderer
    November 19, 2014 - Reply

    As teachers and musicians my wife and I have been asked countless times to work for free. It’s degrading! We taught for ten years at a very exclusive, very expensive private school teaching the children of the bluebloods of the bluegrass at salaries 40% below public school salaries. It never ceases to amaze me at the ability of those who have wealth to find ways to keep it at the expense of others.

  • AMT201444556
    November 19, 2014 - Reply

    Wow! You are amazing. It’s too bad that being a bad-ass hoola hooper/entertainer/artist doesn’t pay the big bucks (except if you’re part of a Cirque Du Soliel?). Your post was well-written and I hope that it is given the time and attention that it deserves by the Oprah camp.

  • Liza
    November 19, 2014 - Reply

    You’re an amazing woman, Revolva! Kudos to you and your courage. I can hardly wait to see what happens. Oprah dear, are you listening??? ♥

  • Michelle Ridley AKA Elektra Fire Performer and entertainment
    November 19, 2014 - Reply

    I was proud to share this link, very well said Revola. I did put my own mini rant on it. I thank you for standing up for all performers.

  • Hannah Mae
    November 19, 2014 - Reply

    People whose jobs are thought of as fun get asked to work for free: performers, writers, artists, designers…. People whose jobs involve caring are underpaid and aren’t supposed to ask for fair wages: teachers, nurses, day care pros…. The implication is that we do what we do for other reasons – that we are paid in artistic or spiritual fulfillment instead of money. Which is indeed what ends up happening for many of us: we keep making art because it makes us happy, we don’t walk away from students or patients because they aren’t the ones who decide to underpay us. Does that mean that our lack of compensation is our fault? Should we stop making art, stop caring, until someone gives us money to do it? NO. What needs to change is the bullshit notion that because an activity is satisfying in a non-money way, that it should not *also* be compensated with money.

    For me, it’s not exactly about not working for free – it’s about getting a fair piece of the pie, whatever the pie is. If I am asked to work for free in a context where nobody else is getting paid either, I am not insulted. I might not do it, but I’m not mad. If we’re all volunteering, we’re all in it together, we’re all in the same boat. What makes the above request so noxious is that there is clearly a maelstrom of cash involved in this event, and only some of the people who worked there got any. It creates two classes of people: those whose work is worth something, and those whose work is not. When you are asked to work for free at an event where everyone else is paid, you are told – in this capitalist system of ours where value equals money – that your work has no value. Who *wouldn’t* be insulted?

  • Abby Franquemont
    November 19, 2014 - Reply

    I make my living teaching people how to spin yarn by hand, and writing about the subject. I’m well-known in this micro-niche, and travel all over the USA and beyond doing this. It’s absolutely a labor of love, but it’s one that I can’t do if I have to have another job to pay the bills; therefore, I have to get paid to do what I do.

    For most people, what I do is a hobby. To do it professionally, I have to really take things to another level, and make no mistake — it’s work, and it keeps me on the road away from my family a lot of the time. And I’m lucky, because I have managed to make this into a living.

    But, for all of us in that scene teaching yarn-related skills, we’re constantly asked to do jobs for no pay or at a loss. And we’d love to be able to do that, but it’s just not possible. Even so, it’s usually my colleagues and I who feel guilty if we have to say no.

    The flip side is, nobody wants to *not* be asked to do a gig because the person putting it together figures you’re out of their league or price range. But choosing to take that underpaying or nonpaying job? That’s what starts this slippery slope. Step one is standing up for ourselves, even when people holler “But it’s an honor just to be asked!” and “Are you crazy? I’d totally do that Oprah gig for free!”

  • Stella Scott
    November 19, 2014 - Reply

    Being an opera singer myself I don’t know how many times I’ve been asked to sing for nothing, the exposure, food or becaus its a fun event… And I just don’t!

    I’m spreading this everywhere on my social media channels. AWESOME job! I totally salute you!

  • cc
    November 19, 2014 - Reply

    Well done. You got my $5.00 and a standing ovation.

  • jo
    November 19, 2014 - Reply

    Bravo. That was courageous and filled with integrity and self-worth. All the stuff that Oprah ‘says’ she believes in – but it is hard to believe her when this sort of thing goes on. I hope she hears about this and NEVER does it again. AND invites you onto her show to discuss what integrity and self-worth really looks like.

  • Dawn Carolee
    November 19, 2014 - Reply

    BRAVO Revolva! – for speaking out so eloquently and for speaking out SO well on behalf of other artists, authors, entertainers who experience the same type of devaluation for sharing their greatest gifts. I send +++ vibes to you. You already SHINE – both on stage and off!

  • Anonymous
    November 19, 2014 - Reply

    Yes, BRAVO!! I am a “Freelancer,” whose main client is a large corporation and we are now being asked to “pay to play.” We now have to “join” their payroll system (at $500 a pop) and provide our own insurance – oh, and the insurance is not for me personally mind you (they couldn’t care less about ME), but I am being mandated to insure THEIR 6-figure projects. I am a small, independent, one-man band who pays out-of-pocket for his own health insurance, yet I am being asked by this multi-million dollar corporation to cover THEIR insurance. Sadly, I can no longer afford to carry this “Target” on my back.

  • Lisa Ann
    November 19, 2014 - Reply

    Shame on Oprah – the richest woman in the world. People can’t live the life they want, if they don’t get paid to do what they love & excel at. Shame on Oprah for making a ton of money at the expense of struggling, poor artists. That is not supportive. It is exploitation. It is slavery disguised as alleged opportunity & exposure. Your arrogance Oprah, is appalling. The idea that these artists should be somehow grateful for the privilege to share space that is in close proximity to you & your name, that payment for services rendered, which contribute to your earnings, is more than sufficient.

  • Dimi
    November 20, 2014 - Reply

    Thank you for speaking up and out and all power to you, and us, that say NO to modern slavery dressed up as opportunity. It’s all about walking the talk, not just talking it isn’t people? And we are all responsible for checking in with ourselves about that. Oprah?

  • Bizzaro
    November 20, 2014 - Reply

    I’m not sure what’s more insulting. Being asked to work for free or being offered a pittance. One is ignorance the other is outright maliciousness. The downside there will ALWAYS be some lackluster performer willing to take a gig like that and then souring them on it for future performers.

  • sangeetha menon
    November 20, 2014 - Reply


    Loved your post…

    Each word you uttered is so true and is an ideal slapstick to them.

    Let them know that there is no free lunch served in this world.

  • Nikki
    November 20, 2014 - Reply

    Yes! all of this! I’m so glad you said no, and shared this with the rest of the world. You know that everyone at the weekend is going to look at the local talent and go “awwww, opras supporting local artists! I bet she bought them all a new car!”.

  • Keith Hague
    November 20, 2014 - Reply

    Artists are real people. Pay them with real money!

  • Event City
    November 20, 2014 - Reply

    Wow, you are amazing! Thank you for this and what you stand for, and for having the Chutzpah to stand up to the GIANT Oprah W and tell her like it is (or really should be)! I hope you taught her a thing or two, not just about life, but about the business of entertainment. Like other’s above have said, OW should be ashamed of herself – Bad BAD girl Oprah!!!

    Funny thing with all of this happening now, I work in a startup and our company is creating numerous disruptive options for paying performers and others in the same line of work. Artists, Painters, Performers, Variety Artists, Musicians, Bands, Dancers, talent of all types, who we deem as “Super Creatives™” – we are creating new ways for them to monetize where they are still doing what they love but with a twist. This will include options for buyers (agents, clients, customers, producers, etc) to pay performers not just what they are worth, but to extend gratuities and optional incentive gifts for those that bring so much joy to others! The idea is two-fold, not just to pay artist what they are worth, but to change how society feels about the artists and creative professionals and truly “teach” them how to appreciate what they bring to all of us when they are hired for any particular type of gig.

    The experience of reading your words and what they create in one’s minds eye is, for me, a “spiritual” awakening! You bring life, hope, and joy to Artists and more with your words of encouragement and a “Telling it like it is” attitude.

    Gosh I love what you wrote! It mirrors the exact reason why I founded the start up Event City™; to be there for all that is Creative to help them grow and become more successful and open doors for all who they are and attempt to be!!

    Thank you Revolva (by the way I LOVE your name), for the spirit of greatness that floats off of the pages of our screens and into the hearts of so many who are Creators of Happiness. Thank you for jumping into the ring to knock out the apathetic world champ who is admired by so many but who’s reality seems so sad. Today you are my favorite pugilist, the fighter of friendly talent who is not afraid to jump into the ring and toss around some blows for all who are Creative and mindful of just being too darn nice!!

    Thank you for that edge Revolva…


    • revolvahoopdance@gmail.com
      November 22, 2014 - Reply

      Thanks! Your company sounds interesting. So it’s like a booking site mixed with some crowd sourcing aspects? Like a chance to support artists beyond just a single gig? Anyway, I’ll have to check it out. :)

  • Lorrie Beauchamp
    November 20, 2014 - Reply

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. I’ve been complaining to friends and family about Oprah for decades, and they all think I’m just resenting her success. No! I never saw her as a success, I was always puzzled by it. There are so many more genuinely inspiring people out there, and I think (like many other deluded individuals) she is simply good at marketing a brand, which turns out to be herself. She sells herself well. She is a slick salesperson. That’s it, that’s all. And she has obviously surrounded herself with people who convince her that it’s OK to exploit others. Bravo to you, for bringing the world a concrete story which allows us to see the negative impact her influence has – charging people money to simply “be in her presence” (what an ego!) and then not paying people who will enhance her image with skill-sets that she herself does not have (i.e., true creativity). It’s pure exploitation, in the name of greed for power, money, and fame. I wish you much success with your genuine talent, and am deeply admiring of your courage to say no to her ingenious invitation. BRAVO.

  • Chantel
    November 20, 2014 - Reply

    Beautifully written and THANK YOU for putting it out there! So many of us are working for free or for well below a living wage because we are shamed into believing that we aren’t worth more. WE ARE. I donated a bit to your car crisis. I’ve so been there, girl. Good luck and lots of light your way.

  • Terri Cabral
    November 20, 2014 - Reply

    Bravo!!!! What a wonderful letter. Sending it to Facebook AND Twitter. I and my many performer friends feel your pain. I am an artist, author AND performer and have been CONSTANTLY asked to do performances or give away my art for FREE! “Think of the exposure!” Yeah, I’ll think of it..wait until you SEE MY exposure!!! Thanks for your reply to the richest woman on the planet. Shame on her! All the great things I though about Oprah just went down the toilet! GO Revolva!

  • Mitch Brillon
    November 20, 2014 - Reply

    Congratulations for being true to yourself! You kept something extremely precious which you will die with and that no one, not even Oprah (2 faced) Winfrey can buy. YOUR PERSONAL INTEGRITY…

  • Merrie
    November 20, 2014 - Reply

    Yes, I applaud you for your integrity, which Oprah seems to lack. I recently cancelled my subscription to her magazine, & glad I did!

  • Johnny D
    November 20, 2014 - Reply

    Excellent! What usually tends to happen when artists play for ‘exposure’ is that they are seen by others who similarly want to ‘expose’ (exploit) them. As long as artists continue to go along with it, it becomes an endless cycle of performing for peanuts and stressing about the cost of living. Notwithstanding the occasional benefit performance for a worthy cause, artists need to value themselves and the tremendous gift they give to our culture. Thanks for writing this, and I truly hope that Oprah reads it.

  • suzanne sterling
    November 20, 2014 - Reply

    thank you for writing about something that has been challenging me for my 20 year career as an artist and teacher. I have thought of creating artist unions and am now calling out for economic transparency so that we (artists) can make clear decisions about how and when to offer our gifts!!!

  • Raquel
    November 20, 2014 - Reply

    Good for you speaking up!! The nerve of them! Even if Oprah is unaware of the insulting efforts of her people, she should take better care to stay aware of what exactly goes on with whatever her good name is attached to. I really hope this letter reaches her eyes. Funny how money and fame blinds a person. Shameful!

  • Kasi
    November 20, 2014 - Reply

    Preach girl PREACH!

  • newestfan
    November 20, 2014 - Reply

    I have no idea what you do but now I love you.

    And I tipped you too! (to help with that car payment)

    Will you run for congress? We need some real people and your ads would go viral. And remember, one term getdsyou a pension and healthcare for life!

  • Britney
    November 20, 2014 - Reply

    You did a great job, here. A truly great job. And by standing up for yourself and other artists, maybe you even built a little respect for the hard work you do.

  • Pie
    November 21, 2014 - Reply

    I completely agree with you since this is a money-making event put on by a brand that touts itself as the vessel for inspiring women to reach their potential…which is what Oprah’s Tours are. That behaviour is a publishing company bulking up on side experiences at the lowest price possible, solely to increase their margins.
    There is a fine line—and that brand should know better than to skim cash from artists.
    At least offer something minimal in the way of pay [not tickets].

  • Nanci E
    November 21, 2014 - Reply

    Well done. I must say, I liked ELizabeth GIlbert’s last book- and was following her on Facebook- but it got to be reallllllly tiresome to see her posting about – or more like gushing about – being on this tour, and posting pictures of whichever dress she was thinking about wearing for the evening. She was totally bought out. But you weren’t! Way to turn around a pretty sleazy experience and come out better for it.

  • Bomber H
    November 21, 2014 - Reply

    Thank you for writing this piece. I totally agree with you and, as a musician, I daily have to deal with the same kinds of issues. While it is immensely irritating and dis-spiriting dealing with people who can pay but don’t want to (or perhaps better stated as don’t need to), we need to be mindful that an equal part of the problem is that there are still plenty of artists, musicians and performers who will do it for nothing. The spectrum in the arts goes from total beginner, through hobbyist, semi pro to total professional earning their sole income from their craft. In my experience, only those in the last category are serious about getting paid and everyone else is basically just doing for fun and will take whatever they can get. Anyone with an instrument is a musician even if they just bought it five minutes ago. So there is always a ready supply of people who will play for nothing in bars or for exposure at events. The producers filled up the Oprah stage no problem with such wannabees…I don’t see payment terms changing any time soon, they simply did not need to pay and so did not

  • Aniko Kosi
    November 21, 2014 - Reply

    Thank you Revolva for sharing your story! BTW, I always found Oprah mediocre and massively overrated, you seem 100 times more interesting.

  • Diana D
    November 21, 2014 - Reply

    Completely agree with your sentiments.
    The event will earn something in the region of $10million so not paying performers is a scandalous act of deception and dishonesty.
    My resident math genius (not me) has worked out that if Oprah receives 50% of the income from this event, it would make a difference of 0.18% to her total worth…
    If she receives only 20%, the difference to her total worth is a mere 0.074%!
    Based on her current net worth, and not taking account of future income, windfalls, interest, tax breaks etc… If she spends $10million a year – every year – from now until funds ran out, she would need 290 years to spend everything!
    If she lives another 40 years, she would have to spend $72.5 million a year to divest herself of her fortune.
    Which begs the question: “How much does any individual need?”, but that is a separate discussion…
    Unfortunately, yours is a lone voice of dissention amid a wilderness of (perhaps naive) performers who are eager to step up and jump through their hoops for free.
    Well done for expressing such a candid opinion so well.

  • Abby
    November 21, 2014 - Reply

    Kari, you are a badass in every sense on the word. Good for you, for standing up for your worth! You’ve provided a valuable lesson for all of us in the performance art world. I don’t know many people who would say no to Oprah. I’m completely in awe of you… from your amazing hooping skills, fortitude, writing and all around awesomeness. Rock on with your bad self!

  • Desiree
    November 21, 2014 - Reply

    Awesome letter. You are SO right. I hope Oprah realizes how wrong and insulting that was. It is absolutely gross that the richest woman in the world would ask artists for free work. The title of her tour is just like a slap in the face with a request like that! Im glad you said no and I hope all other performers did as well!

  • Julia
    November 21, 2014 - Reply

    Good for you! If you ever come to B.C . We live in the Okanagan on a orchard. Every year we have small concerts of about 100 at $20.00 a ticket. All ticket money goes to the artists. Our payment is to have the opportunity to have live music in our orchard and to meet some wonderful artists. So you would be paid.

  • LuAnn
    November 21, 2014 - Reply

    It’s the same business model utilized by the Huffington Post which was sold for millions on the backs of bloggers that worked for free. I WILL NOT work for free except for my volunteer work, of course. I am in awe of your courage and truely inspired… Thank you!

  • Amy Rosenberg
    November 21, 2014 - Reply

    You are SO right, this is such an important issue, and I really admire the way you clearly pointed out their BS. I can’t believe they had the gall not only to request that you work for free, but to actually HIDE that fact until after they had called and talked about offering you a gig with them. I also love how you responded to their email, calling them out on their BS lies about “we’ll get back to you in the future” and “I totally understand where you’re coming from, but we’ve booked all the acts.” Obviously they didn’t book all the acts yet; or else they wouldn’t have asked you. Thanks for standing up and exposing this … this kind of exploitation only thrives when it’s hidden and unchallenged.

  • Jill Chiu
    November 21, 2014 - Reply

    You are so smart and brave. If a producer from Harpo Studio contacted me, I would naively say YES to working for free. I am a big fan of Oprah and would die from happiness to be asked to perform.

    I admire you for standing up for yourself. By saying no and writing about it you are setting higher standard for artists, performers and anyone in non-conventional jobs. You are definitely an inspiration!

  • Michael
    November 21, 2014 - Reply

    I totally adore you! I’ve been thinking this exact thing for years. I’d turn down an Oprah interview in a heartbeat. Dignity and integrity far outweighs fame.

  • selina maitreya
    November 21, 2014 - Reply

    Good for you! Well said and spot on.I wish I could say that Oprah’s lack of consistency in her spiritual integrity was not the issue,but clearly it is. This is an event billed as a” spiritual one” however merchandising is king, and little substantial content is truly offered other then mass appeal , new age jargon. I find it curious that Oprah has taken this route and look forward to the day when Spiritual teachers do the work on themselves that they profess we should all be doign. Good for you!

  • Sherry
    November 21, 2014 - Reply

    I agree with the writer. I attended the Oprah show in Seattle, paying $199 for my seat. Between O Town and other marketing activities, it was clear that some people were making a pile of money, which I don’t slight them for one bit — unless they are doing it on the backs of other people who are not sharing in the wealth also. I would expect Oprah’s values to be about everyone thriving, not just the privileged, and I wonder if she knows that was even happening. I do hope you share it on FB.

  • ScottFromPortland
    November 22, 2014 - Reply

    Way to go Kari. Proud of you. :)
    Your Portland peeps are tickled pink at the way you handled this, and at the much-needed attention it’s gathering. I thought it was just a local phenomenon to be asked to perform for free “for exposure” by producers who are paying every single other person involved in the production, other than the performers. DJs, sound folks, lighting folks, the folks who sweep up the floors after the show, everybody gets paid except the “talent” that isn’t headlining.
    Performers get offered so much charitable exposure! It’s amazing that so many of us wonder how we’re gonna make each month’s rent.
    Thank you for not only saying the things you said, but also saying them without undue vitriol. You could’ve been way bitter and snide, and you kept it pretty well reigned in. You’ve set a good example to the rest of us for how to handle requests to work for free! :)

  • Kim
    November 22, 2014 - Reply

    So proud of you for standing up for yourself. How appalling the producers wanted “free” acts.

    Makes me think twice about Harpo.. wow.

  • revolvahoopdance@gmail.com
    November 22, 2014 - Reply

    It’s finally Revolva, back on here! So sorry for a delayed response on the comments here. I have SO appreciated the outpouring of support. It helped to counteract the fact that I woke up Wednesday with people emailing, “Are you OKAY? I’m worried about you!”—because they were in England or Ireland or Montreal hearing about this. And then I realized that to keep my composure, I would just have to do whatever made me feel grounded.

    To that end, I had to step away from the comments on here for a minute, and my amazing friend Carolyn Maybry (aka Caroleeena) has been on the back end, slogging through the approvals FOR me. Even if I sounded composed on TMZ, it still took all my courage to do that. And I welcome opposing viewpoints on my blog (I just don’t want trolls—which is why there’s an approval process), but if I had to read and approve all the comments myself before getting on national TV, that would have been too crazy.

    So *thank you* Carolyn for helping keep the discussion going … and thank you all for understanding my delay in getting back on here to write a comment of my own.

    I’m going to write a follow up post asap. For now, however, I just want to see how deeply touched I am about this mega surge of, “Hell yeah!” from artists, freelancers, independent workers, and anyone who provides a service that people want for free. It has been an honor to have this unexpected opportunity to use my individual voice in national press to speak on behalf of the larger issue of not being able to survive if we’re always expected to work for free/cheap/exposure.

    I said this on FB, too: This story isn’t just about me vs. the Oprah tour. It’s about all the people who are working really hard vs. the idea that their work can be devalued. Because someone else will do it for free/cheap, under the frantic feeling that they have to. Or because it looks fun. Or because there’s an idea that doing it for the love of it should ALWAYS be enough.

    One of the “Revolva is an idiot” comments I saw said, “I can’t believe she wanted to work for money! First world problems!” If it has to be broken down, the need for money is not a “first world problem.” We live in a culture where money = *survival.* Not everyone has to be billionaires. But we all have to eat food and pay our rent. So asking for a paycheck is not an act of indulgence or excess. It’s an act of surviving.

    Assuming workers wouldn’t NEED to be paid is a first world response.

    I don’t hate Oprah Winfrey! I do love performing and writing. We all have gifts to give the world, and sometimes you just have to listen to your intuition when you’re on a path that has no clear markers. That’s what I did, and then I wrote about it. That’s all.

    It seems to have created a ripple, and—who knows the result? Maybe some events will think harder about their budgets, moving forward. Maybe y’all will feel a bit more empowered. I hope everyone else who is also living their calling, doing hard work, and providing a service can benefit by any public discourse that’s currently happening around how “The Life I Want”—is probably one in which people are *at least* able to pay their bills.

    Thank you for the support. I feel a lot of love for y’all because I’ve obviously been right there with you. I’ll post a follow-up blog post soon. In the meantime, here’s a link to the TMZ interview.: http://www.tmz.com/videos/0_qx7lry9c/

    And Jezebal: http://jezebel.com/oprah-expects-hula-hoopers-to-accept-payment-in-the-for-1659855673

    And Bold Italic: http://bitly.com/1xlg6Wj

    MadameNoire: http://madamenoire.com/489848/performer-pens-open-letter-to-oprah/

    Daily Caller: http://dailycaller.com/2014/11/18/angry-hula-hooper-puts-oprah-through-the-ringer-video/

    And even though there are nasty comments on some of those, there’s also lots of compassion. So there: people are talking. This is a good thing. Go forth with your own stories, and keep the conversation going.

    Much love!

  • bc
    November 22, 2014 - Reply

    I mean, except, that’s what Oprah’s show and the Tonight Show and all the rest have always done. Comedians and bands aren’t paid to appear on those shows (which make considerably more money than will this event). They do it for exposure. We would have never even heard of The Beatles had The Beatles asked to be paid for their American TV appearances.

    I guess it would just depend on your position, though. Like, would you perform on TV for free but not live on stage? Is that that issue?

    • revolvahoopdance@gmail.com
      November 23, 2014 - Reply

      If you translated the promise of exposure, it would sound like this: “Our event will not pay you. But we are connected to HELLA people, and we will pay you in the idea that THEY might pay you!”

      As an artist, you have to weigh out A) whether it’s likely that audience members or future booking people who are impressed by the event’s brand name WILL come through with enough work to make it worthwhile, and B) whether you are in a position to be taking that kind of gamble—or whether you just need to pay your bills.

      I think the reason artists start to twitch when they hear the word “exposure” is that (referring to the points above) A) does not often come to fruition, and B) is always an issue. Of course, the Tonight Show puts you in front of an insanely large audience, who are specifically watching *you.* Your appearance is also recorded and can be replayed as many times as The Beatles on Ed Sullivan has been replayed. There might be some realistic revenue that comes from being seen there.

      The Oprah stage for local artists was adjacent to the arena, not inside, and Oprah would not be present. The performances were temporal; they didn’t exist as footage forever. The big name on a resume may be something to leverage in the future. It’s all something each individual artist has to weigh out.

      Regardless, here is something important to consider:

      EVERYONE wants artists to work for exposure. Schools. Fundraisers. Bars. Churches. People throwing a party for their Aunt Edna. Every single type of event that has ever existed has claimed to only have the budget for every other aspect of the event *but* entertainment, and asked artists to work in exchange for “handing out your business cards.”

      Unfortunately, we can’t eat the promise that someone might pay us later. We can’t take shelter under it.

      Artists HAVE to get paid, in order to continue to exist.

      After a while, when you know an event is charging 18,000 people up to $999 per ticket, you hear for the 10 millionth time, “We don’t have the budget to pay performers” (see email screen capture about not having a high enough budget)—and, to boot, the event is the one contacting the artists—you just get exasperated. And then you write this blog post.

  • RMc
    November 23, 2014 - Reply

    Way to go, Kari! Totally agree with everything you have said. I have never been an Oprah fan and this just re-enforces what I have always thought. Oprah is not who she appears to be.

  • KTC
    November 23, 2014 - Reply

    You are so much nicer than I am. I would have read them the riot act.

  • Ruth Ava Lyons
    November 23, 2014 - Reply

    preach it sister! As a professional visual artist, this predicament has tortured me the entire 35 years of my career.
    Our worth is also in our words…and in this case, yours are golden!!!!

  • Janet
    November 23, 2014 - Reply

    I find it interesting they were willing to pay your gas attendant for your mileage and the stage hands but not the people inspiring the paying audience. How much exposure would you even get outside while everyone was inside watching Oprah? I spend more time exposing myself for promotion than working for pay and very frustrated by it. Yeah for you standing up for yourself.

  • Kate
    November 24, 2014 - Reply

    Good on you. I loved Oprah for many years. Couldn’t watch every day, but I liked what she seemed to represent. After a while though, I got to noticing that she would get testy when the audience didn’t respond fervently enough to something she’d say or do. Took a bit of the shine off.

    I admire the work she’s done and the fact that she has gotten where she is largely by being smart and determined. Luck has played it’s part, but I don’t think that’s all it was. By any means.

    But it does mean that I am very disappointed that she would stoop to that kind of exploitation. She has more money than she could ever spend and to put on this kind of circus where all these “coaches” can come and push their own programs to a vulnerable crowd like a tent revival is really lower than I would have thought she’d go. You’re better off outside that tent.

  • Elizabeth
    November 24, 2014 - Reply

    Thank you for your blog post. My professional musician friend and I talk about this all the time. “Perform at this festival/charity event/market for free. We’re raising money for artists…” Most of the artists I know are starving, or close to it. I used to donate my art to fundraising events until I realized that I needed a fundraising event to support myself and my family. You are right, people treat you like you are selfish when you are an artist who demands the respect of a payment for the work that you do. The cost of most clients cars are at least 6x more than what I make in a year as an artist. Thank you again for standing up for yourself publicly. Most of us do it quietly as if we are ashamed of money, but my lawyer won’t take art in exchange for his services and neither will my doctor. Thank you for being a voice for artists!

  • Kandy Gordecki
    November 25, 2014 - Reply

    The only people getting what they want are the people that continue to try to persuade us to pay them to find our happiness. I had no idea of the ticket prices and asking people to work for free. What a façade and I bought into much of this hype for a long time. Thanks for being brave.

  • Osun Thyruss
    November 25, 2014 - Reply

    The fact that she’s expecting REAL artists to perform without pay so she can add more to her near poverty 2+ Billion dollar lifestyle says very much about how things really are with Orca Winfrey. She should pay ALL the artists, and not just those with the courage to call her out.
    Revolva, don’t ever give in or sell yourself short just because some big name noticed you. You and your talents are worth far more than free exposure on a side stage at Oprah’s User Tour. Thank you for standing up.
    I really dig what you can do with those hoops!!!

  • L C
    November 25, 2014 - Reply

    But wait, there’s MORE!

    I was selected to apply for one of the beauty ambassadors positions at at whopping $18 / hr to schlep brands which are probably mass produced, full of toxins and downright crap! I’m my private practice, I earn $85/$100 power hour of treatment time, yet for $18 per hour on my feet all day they didn’t allow a full hour lunch break, only 1 rest break was mentioned, and no parking was covered in the rate. The parking alone at the San Jose convention center would be approximately $36 per day (3 days of work commitment required). I said no thanks, and even though I don’t think it was a bad gig to begin with, the pay was insulting–the staffing company knew my hourly rate and didn’t bother to negotiate up. I’ve been published in over 100 news articles around the world, have an incredible service and great demeanor, which is why they reached out to me in the first place, but they have zero concept of what it takes for us to earn what we make. You did the right thing.

  • Rishi
    November 26, 2014 - Reply

    Hi Kari
    well done, brave and spot on. Did Ophra actually care to respond yet? Well I guess, it’s below her “spiritual niveau”… I have seen only few of her shows, because I didn’t dig her, but if she doesn’t care to reply, it tells you something about her niveau…
    Take care

  • Lianne
    November 26, 2014 - Reply

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts Revolva. Your blog inspired me to discuss this topic with my business students (I am a business coach) and to write a blog to provide a different perspective. I hope you and your followers find it interesting, possibly even helpful. The title is called: Should Artists, Writers or any business do work for free? Check it out: http://www.designingtransformation.com/2014/11/24/work-free/

  • Kerry Ann
    November 26, 2014 - Reply

    When I received the same phone call from Extreme Makeover:Home Edition, to make the window treatments happen, I was also surprised at how much they thought we could give. In the end, only large paying sponsors were allowed to use the show logo to promote themselves. The producers are charged with making things happen within a certain budget, and if there is someone willing to do it, they’ll move on. However, when I told them I needed a team of seamstresses and payment for materials, they made it happen. I was willing to give my time (almost 2 weeks) because someone who truly deserved it was getting a new home. The reward was not the exposure, but the comaraderie, the “getting out of yourself” experience that makes life richer. We made some great friends, and had some nice PR, and the producers were all gracious and for the most part respectful of our time and talent. But, setting boundaries in life is an important lesson. Thanks, Revolvva, for drawing the line – surely, they could have come up with $500 for each act, and spread the love a little!

  • Lori Fredrics
    November 28, 2014 - Reply

    Oprah, I heard you have been asking local performing artists to work for free on your tour.That is outrageous. Local artists enhance the world and most are struggling. You have an opportunity with your tour to provide some work for deserving people and YOU BLEW IT.
    I am so disappointed in you. You really have lost touch with the regular people

  • Valerie Young
    November 29, 2014 - Reply

    You GO GIRL!

    Artists and entertainers are not the only professionals who are asked to work for free.

    Very early in my speaking career I was asked to moderate a panel of women engineers talking about impostor syndrome (that nagging voice that says, “You’re in over your head and they’re going to find out you’re not as talented… intelligent… capable. A feeling, by the way that is only heightened when the people around us devalue what we have to offer.)

    The panel was going to be videotaped and available to women engineers all over the country. Just one problem. The sponsor, Exxon Mobile– #5 of the Forbes list of wealthiest corporations in the world –“didn’t have a budget for the event.” Instead I was expected to travel from Massachusetts to New Jersey on my own and volunteer my time to help women engineers gain confidence.

    “Great exposure,” they said. And it was. But like you the disconnect was just too great. So I took a deep breath and declined.

    Two years ago an association representing female attorneys for the entire state (which will go unnamed) asked me to keynote their annual conference. In return I’d get to spend the weekend in a nice location and get… great exposure.

    Have I done things for exposure? Absolutely. But at some point people/companies worth billions and organizations dedicated to advancing women need to stop exploiting the hard work of those who work for a living.

    I hope your message got to Oprah, to corporate event planners, and to all women’s associations everywhere that women deserve to be paid for their work — just like they do.

    Thank you!

    Dr. Valerie Young

  • Bruce
    December 6, 2014 - Reply

    So don’t do the gig and don’t whine! You made a choice (a good one in my opinion) but why so overwrought?

  • A-J Charron
    December 9, 2014 - Reply

    Love it! You did right!!! Bravo and all the best!

  • Matt James
    December 9, 2014 - Reply

    This is about the line again.. between: Cannibalization (you’d be busy earning elsewhere so she pays you for your valuable time) and.. Promotion (you pay her to promote yourself on the platform she spent years building up). Truth is there is no line. It’s a blur from one to another. Unfortunately the production office just has to get the job done, so if you disagree about which side of the blur your value lies, then it’s ok. But the good news is that your story here may help harpo be more sympathetic in the future. That’s might be your win.

  • Eszter Balint
    December 10, 2014 - Reply

    Well done. Important. Thank you!

  • Ronnie J Darling
    December 12, 2014 - Reply

    You did the right thing. If she didn’t know about it and finds out, you’ll know. If she knew about it and doesn’t care, you’ll know that too. I’d like to think she is as compassionate as she presents herself to be, and not bought into her own branding and the consumerism culture. She’s certainly profited from it, and her net worth is… so obscene. I don’t think I could ever spend that amount of money, and I’m disabled with very little to my name! We all have value, even if someone like Oprah doesn’t seem to think so, and if she doesn’t think you are worth a couple hundred dollars for your time, then be okay with that and call it a day.

  • I am not anonymous
    December 12, 2014 - Reply

    While I can appreciate your personal conviction, I remember one time when a guy approached me about putting a song in a movie. I asked about pay, and he frankly said you’re getting the better end of the deal for exposure. To perform for that many people and put this on your band bio might be a smart move for a long time performer. Stick to your guns and never back down, but it appears you see yourself as a victim for being asked to piggy back onto a cool event. Those people you mentioned have a lot on their resume like best selling books and TV programs. That’s kind of just the way it is.

  • S
    December 12, 2014 - Reply

    Thank you for taking the time to speak out. Event organizers would no longer try to pull this crap if all artists banded together and demanded fair compensation for their hard work!

  • Joel
    December 12, 2014 - Reply

    Great post. I’ve tweeted this to Oprah – I hope she reads it. It’s completely possible that she isn’t aware that her touring company is employing this sort of strategy…it does seem rather “un-Oprah”.

  • Matty Ice
    December 14, 2014 - Reply

    You can’t include Amanda Palmer in that way. I volunteered for her “unpaid” gig, and it was pretty easy to tell they were just scraping by on that tour. They definitely needed free performers. At the end of the night, they paid me $100 and a bottle of vodka. So don’t include her in that group, it’s a different situation entirely.

  • mindy
    December 15, 2014 - Reply

    As so many people have said, I applaud you for taking a stance and know how hard it must have been for you to do so. I just tweeted Oprah and Deepak and told them as a purchaser of their 21 Day Meditation cycles and as a fellow artist I was so disappointed to read this. I hope others are forwarding this to their social media and doing the same. I truly have loved their meditation cycles, but they need to put their money where their mantras are and do their part to be the change they wish to see in the world. I really hope – not only for you but to rekindle our faith in what they stand for – that they reach out to you and rectify this. Your time and your talent are worth compensation, rock on.

  • Dave
    December 15, 2014 - Reply

    Good for you. I would have caved and done the work for the exposure…in the ever expanding dream of someone worth my time noticing my work.

    I think you did a great thing and I’ve had to fight the “exposure” payment for a long time. From playing in a band to being a photographer, everyone wants to take…no one wants to give. It’s a sad world we live in :(

  • Satanica Batcakes
    December 17, 2014 - Reply

    Love it! As a retired fire eating showgirl from Hollywood I can’t tell you how many times I have had to say these same things to millionaires, production companies, aw hell I had to sic SAG lawyers on HBO for breaking contracts. I’ve even had a super famous, super rich comedienne refuse to pay me AFTER I ate a lightbulb and fire for her stating all the shows proceeds go to single mothers. (I am a single mother). She did not tell me this before the show.
    What I would like to know is if these women are so “pro woman” why do they insist on ripping off us off?
    Thanks for the call out.

  • CJ
    December 18, 2014 - Reply

    So Starbucks is starting to offer live music at some locations.
    I emailed to ask about this.

    Hi J,
    Can you give me the details on performing?
    Does it pay?

    Usually the performers perform for 2 hours. It does not pay but we do give you a free drink for all performers and free food minus evenings food. You can put out a tip jar but you cant ask for tips.

    Hi J, thanks for getting back to me.
    Why are performers not paid?

    We are offering a free space and an audience that performers might not otherwise be exposed to. We do not have the budget for it.

    J –
    Hmmm. Starbucks. Does not have a budget. Really?
    Maybe Starbucks should not be starting to offer live music at their locations, if they can’t afford it? Let’s not kid ourselves, Starbucks is not doing this for the performers – it is benefiting Starbucks, or they wouldn’t be doing it.

    I know that it’s not you who makes the call on these things but I wish you would please, please pass these article clips on to those who do, or send me an email address so I can do so.

    There is also this recent online buzz: http://revolva.net/2014/11/13/an-open-letter-to-oprah/

    An overly familiar line from promoters states: “There’s no money in the gig budget to pay musicians”. But is everyone else, from the bar staff, sound and lighting guys through to the caterers working for free? If they’re getting paid, why are you expected to work for free?

    The latter point is one that lies at the heart of the issue. There is a prevailing attitude that, as a musician, your job is more enjoyable than the others at an event — meaning you would happily do it for nothing — whereas others will only do their jobs if they get paid.

    Exposed To Who? 5 Reasons A Band Should Never Play For Free
    by Jersey Mike

    1. You Are A Business – You eat pizza, right? Has the local pizza shop you get your pizza from ever given you a free pizza? You walk into that pizza shop and expect to exchange a little currency for that pepperoni and mushroom, right? Think of your band in the same light. Every dollar counts. Don’t give away your goods in the name of “exposure”.

    2. There Is Always A Budget – And if there isn’t, it’s probably not a gig you want to play anyway. If someone calls you and asks your band to play their event but immediately follows their pitch by “we don’t really have a budget”, your reply should be “then we can’t play your event”. Every event – be it a church bake sale or Coachella – has a budget. If that budget can afford to include a service in it’s festivities, it pays for it. If it cannot afford something in the budget, that item gets CUT. Why should the band be treated like something of no value?

    3. Exposure To Who? Is Rick Rubin going to be at that gig you were offered? No? How about Irving Azoff? Oh, he’s not either? Maybe the head of marketing for Apple Computers? Then who are you going to be “exposed” to? A bunch of pedestrians who would be at a particular event either way? Maybe they’ll buy your CD, maybe they won’t. And if they DO buy your CD, are they coming to your next gig? My experience says “No”. And that’s what you want that exposure for, isn’t it?

    4. It Cheapens The Industry – Now more than ever before, a band needs to view itself as the currency generating commodity that it is. When you get booked at a bar to play for three hours, you’re expected to either bring your fanbase out to consume mass quantities of alcohol and food or entertain the built in crowd the club already has. That’s an exchange of goods for services.

    1. Stage time on a small scale is not inherently valuable.
    2. They’re definitely making money off of you. If live music didn’t bring in money, businesses of different sizes and varieties wouldn’t accommodate it.
    More people show up at a place where there is live music to spend money. Even if there’s no cover charge they’re making money off of you, therefore they’re not doing you a favor by letting you play. You’re essentially working for them.
    3. Free promotion is a cloud without rain.

  • Forrest
    December 18, 2014 - Reply

    What a great, well-written and “enlightening” article. Love it! I agree with you completely.

    And besides, what O is selling should be free, except maybe for her crappy Chai Tea (well it’s not too bad).

    Wishing you the very best. xo

  • Jack Jett
    December 19, 2014 - Reply

    My respect for you just shot up to the moon. I can understand it must have been a tough decision to speak out about and I think others will reap the benefits (or at least I hope someone will) of your response. It simply doesn’t make any sense that ANYONE should be doing volunteer work for Oprah. She has really become a cult figure as her bubble is SO FREAKING THICK that she couldn’t possibly relate to anyone outside it. However she can talk like she would buy day old French bread. She should put her money where her mouth is.

  • Jade
    December 20, 2014 - Reply

    Good on you! The effing NERVE of these people who are worth billions to even THINK they could ask something like this of an artist for an event that’s pulling in so much money! An appropriate response could be: “Oh, exposure – great! I’m sure I’ll get plenty of that when my landlord evicts me because I can’t pay my rent!”

  • Carlisle
    December 21, 2014 - Reply

    I’m a singer and keyboard player, and many times I’ve had to play for free or be asked to play for free. I generally have stopped playing for free. I think the problem is that being a performer or a musician is not a licensed profession per se. There is no standard created to determine what makes someone a professional musician. Right now, the standard is, who can get the most attention drawn to them — either through being terrifyingly good, incredibly attractive, or incredibly silly and counter cultural. There is nothing you have to graduate from per se. So there is no standardized or graduated format for what we should be expected to receive in terms of compensation. We are left with the reality that we only can demand what we can leverage. Unfortunately, in your case, you had no leverage with Oprah, and they felt they could leverage exposure on you. An angle that you could have taken is to get them to agree to let you advertise for Oprah/Harpo at your events or something like that. If she thinks that you can make her money by giving her additional exposure, then they would be more likely to invest in you. I think that is what we have to start doing as artist. We have to start branding ourselves more, even at the local level — find local business that want to advertise. Mom and Pop shops who themselves are struggling for exposure. If we can come up with a model of how we can generate more exposure and business to other business, I think that is how we can start to be taken more seriously and demand more money. If you are very good, you can get people to advertise through you. Even major label artist, if it wasn’t for advertising dollars, if you break down all of the people they have to pay after they sell records and do performances, often times, they only get significant money from their endorsements. We have to start finding ways to get ourselves endorsed, even at a local level. If anything, it can cover the price of equipment and travel.

  • Dizzle
    December 30, 2014 - Reply

    I am proud that you did this.

    You don’t need approval or to be liked by Oprah enough so that she can take a part of your life without compensation.

    This would happen for me with parkour. I would get tracked down from someone hearing about me. They want me to be in their event or “independent” (shell company of a studio) film as a really cool non-talking side character or extra. And pay in exposure.

    They didn’t realize I actually had a regular job. So all the offers in the world to book a vacation day to work for free, away from my family, would shock them when I explained the situation. The calls from such people dried up, because word gets out.

    Some individuals would call it morality over money. They miss the point. There is no money, there is a loss of money and time.

  • Joanne Bartone
    December 30, 2014 - Reply

    You are SO my new hero!

  • Caroline
    December 31, 2014 - Reply

    Wow, I’m impressed. I know that when I started my singing career the hardest thing I learned was to say “I’d love to sing at your wedding, be a soloist in your Messiah… My fee is”. People assumed that I would do it for free because my voice was a ‘God given gift’. One friend who was a Church musician defended my by asking if she expected the minister and organist to work for free as well. The lady’s response was ‘no, but you’ve had training and he has a degree.’ My friend told her that I too have a degree in music as well as my ARTC which is an associate degree with the University of Toronto. No, I don’t work for free.

  • Mr Master Key
    December 31, 2014 - Reply

    Kari, I just contributed a few hundred bucks as a recognition of your work. (Ad copy follows…) Since coming across the Master Key System some years ago, not only do I know how life works, but I’m also in the position to give back. And the more I appreciate “others“, the more they appreciate me, and in the end we all enrich each other in many beautiful ways.

  • Erinka Vanburhen
    December 31, 2014 - Reply

    Oprah should not be put down for a hula hoop performer not being offered money to perform outside of her venue. I would give anything for this opportunity, and if not offered money for it, I would still be gracious about it. The amount of money that goes into setting up this venue, producing it and promoting it, is millions of dollars. That alone is worth the opportunity. I would have shown grace and kindness toward the producers. You never know what kind of connections you make, or what impressions you give, in this life. It is best to be kind and gracious.

  • Mr Master Key
    December 31, 2014 - Reply

    Just as a quick add-on: remember the old Hermetic axiom, “As within, so without”? It means that the life experiences you make are in resonance with your own core beliefs. So if you feel offended because someone asked you to work/perform/… for free, go inside and ask yourself where you lack self-love and -appreciation.

    Truly (financially) successful people don’t go in resonance with those asking for freebies. Their energy dimension mismatches.

    So, work on yourself. Show yourself love. Appreciate yourself. Affirm that from now on the appreciation of self is going to reflect on the outside. Affirm that abundance comes your way. Show your gratitude. Be grateful even for small things. Practice this daily!

    The challenge is that most artists are “softies” of sorts, and money/business is often “tough stuff”. You need to balance out those two. Keep your artistic softness, but be firm when it comes to your worth and value.

    Long story short: how do you expect others to appreciate you (financially and otherwise), if you don’t appreciate yourself. If you don’t have it within you, no matter how much it exists on the outside, you’re not a vibrational match, so you wouldn’t recognise it if it hit you in the face. Only that, which you are in alignment with, can ever reach you.

    Peace and blessings, and to all of you a rewarding 2015 from Mr Master Key (who had to “wait” 40 years before it finally dawned on him, and whose life hasn’t been the same since. See my website for more details)

  • Jennie
    December 31, 2014 - Reply

    As a fellow artist, and as a human being, thank you for speaking up. Sharing this on Facebook for all the other artists I know. No one in their right mind would ask a plumber if they could fix your shower for free if you promise to tell other’s about their service, and yet they think nothing of doing this to artists all the time. Don’t let the muggles get you down, and keep making more art!

  • Starr Hardgrove
    December 31, 2014 - Reply

    I have experienced a lot of this in the performing arts. Someone actually said to me, “Find who you want to be and work for them for free” the other day. I’ve invested about 100K in myself being an artist. I’ve had some pretty amazing experiences from that, but when people want me to work for free, I go back to the 100k. All I want in life lately is just to earn that back. It’s crazy, but I’d like to not be under a crushing student loan debt. I like your statement of “you’re paying for everything that artist put in to their work” to paraphrase. It’s insulting. I like the art that you do, keep it up.

  • Vivian Beckett
    December 31, 2014 - Reply

    Many thoughts here – mainly as a producer myself. It is not Oprah or the other people mentioned personally running the tour or using her personal assets. The tour is operated by a company and that company sets a budget which includes venue costs, travel costs, talent costs, insurance, payroll, staff, benefits, etc. – many more than most people realize. I will use Broadway as an example – tickets are very high and yet – the costs of developing and opening a show are so high – that more than half close without having made back the original investment. Now… perhaps the company was trying to create opportunities for exposure for local artists but it wasn’t part of that budget. Perhaps they were asking people to work for free – I do not know. What I do know is that you have to do what is right for you which it sounds like you did. But it doesn’t mean these folks are evil. It means they’re running a company, just like any other company and they have a product to sell and a budget in which to do it.

  • Samuel Alder
    January 2, 2015 - Reply

    Hey Revolva,

    Don’t really want to get into the debate, I think you made the right choice, but if you decided to perform, that would also be the right choice… it would be interesting to know if they’d let you get your name / dvds / cards out at her event?

    Regardless, what I really wanted to say was, I watched your performance and I thought it was really great!

    Good job!

    Love from Germany,

  • Lori
    January 3, 2015 - Reply

    You nailed it, “(you’re) certainly paying the going rate to the lighting people, the sound people, the caterers, the janitors, the people who erected the outdoor side stage, basically everyone except the local artists appearing on said stage.” Good grief!
    Thank You for saying something!! Great success to you! Love your act!!! Passion, creativity, honesty and tons of hard work goes into it.

  • Scot Nery
    January 4, 2015 - Reply

    Here’s an article I wrote about how to hire an artist for free… The Oprah crew messed up, but artists do work for rich people for free all the time and much of the time, they like it. http://jugglegood.com/blog/how-to-hire-an-artist-for-free/

  • Pauly
    January 6, 2015 - Reply

    Kudos to Oprah for encouraging local talent and giving them a venue and audience they wouldn’t otherwise have. This woman Revolva is doing exactly what she’s bitching about in this blog, working for free and capitalizing off of Oprah.

  • brent copeland
    January 6, 2015 - Reply

    I’ve got to say, I disagree with this entirely. You are missing out on advertising. Why do they pay 0 for these side acts? Because they can, there are tons of people willing to do it for free in exchange for the publicity and resume fodder, which in turn will make you money. When I was in a band, we opened up for other people, sometimes for a really crappy fee, or for nothing. All in a chance to show people what we could do. Eventually we were the ones headlining and selling out the local bar.

    You will be showing your act to people who can afford this outrageous fees. Meaning, they could hire you for their events as well.

    You need to look at this as advertising, and not as a slap in the face. Think about all the companies that pay to have products on her stage. You get to do it for free.

    Sorry.. I think you’re missing out looking at life this way. But good luck either way.

  • ronke'
    January 7, 2015 - Reply

    I agree with Brett in totality….yet I clearly see R’s point of view. If you are going to charge for the tickets to a national tour, ask one of the corporate sponsors to underwriite the performers travel expenses and an honorarium for their performance fee.

    I believe that R made her point, but I would not have started the letter with “no effing way”. Lastly, her convictions are strong, so I can only understand and respect that. All the best R…..

  • ama
    January 7, 2015 - Reply

    I have done small scale booking of diverse local artists’. I would not dare ask them to perform free. What I have done is create not only an opportunity for them to perform, I have also networked with community businesses or corporate organizations who were more than willing to underwrite the fee for those artists. By the way, the artists were also given lunch, refreshments and transportation reimbursement.

    My own philosophy as a business woman and lecturer, I’ll offer my services pro bono to programs for children and elders when it is time permitting; but for the most part when I leave my house to share important information that I have spent time and pride preparing, a written contract is in hand with a confirmation for my honorarium. In other words, when I leave my house a paycheck is in my future.

    I wish Revolva all the best’

  • American Bigelow
    January 19, 2015 - Reply

    I was directed to your story, not that it suprised me how they ended up treating you, I come from over 10 years of Talent Promotions, Booking Agent for the House of Bricks and Toad Hollar (Known now as Super Toad) After the first few years I gained Mass Popularity Not by financial Success but by Unselfish Loving Devotion to the Talents Success and Complete Happiness, if I got a $50-$100 cut off the top from door sales and the Artists made nothing my cut became theres all of it! there Gratefulness and Happiness drove me to Working directly with nearly every local artists of all Genres , I quickly became Loved and Hated the ones who were against me couldnt do anything to me so they would unsuspectedly have the audacity to go directly to my guys and spray Febreez in my Lead Vocalists eyes and I am willfully releasing his name ” Corey Taylor” Lead Vocalist for 35 inch mudder, he also worked for Des Moin, IA 103.3 Rock radio station as the voice for all local artists good enough to have a track of theres played on on a major radio network, , bout a year later my Booking partner Died and that radio station went to both my venues during a live event i put on and shut me down after battle of the bands ended that night , I previously arranged funds for all the talent there and after it was over was told that noone will be getting paid that Exposure was there reward, I however got this National booking rep to open his walet so we could drive home but they got what they wanted, me out of the picture, I then went on and started Promoting Linkin Park when they got there first major tour, sorry for my abrupt ending i have to leave but will sign on and finish the rest of my story if you are interested in knowing. Mark

  • Darlene Calder
    January 19, 2015 - Reply

    I’m so sorry for the lack of respect you were show’n in regards to this event dose not suprise me the wealthy treat other’s like second class people I do not support people like that any more Thank You for speaking up to Oprah on behave of all of us that struggle you are living the life you want with grace more then most people. Best Regards to you and you can make it with out her you have already.

  • TVBHwrites
    January 20, 2015 - Reply

    Not to sass you… and as an artist who has been in this same situation, at the start of my career (in business in the middle) and now back to it again in the past few years, I am with you. It is shocking how people who have the most, always think they can get creatives for free. As a business person, I myself was rarely so lucky and even with small private projects always paid; possibly it’s the artist in me showing respect for art, but I also don’t have the gall (or was I ever one of those huge companies who can afford to ‘try it on’). In this specific incident it seems fair to guess that Life You Want did make a heap of money and wouldn’t have missed the price of a few tickets to pay performers their day rate. It is important to say that many small to mid-sized businesses cannot afford creative fees however because of all the overheads and taxes on them that they MUST pay and that is part of the problem of this problem of why people cut corners with ‘non-essntial fees’ (along with the ignorant mentality from people with lower ‘sensibilities’ that photography, graphics, dancers, actors -all of us- aren’t doing a real job)

    HOWEVER BACK TO OPRAH, and really we should say HARPO?/OWN? as Oprah’s personal wealth is not relevant here, but that of her her company’s… In this particular incident with this particular exceedingly profitable company, I think you have possibly made the misjudgement of your career. I know it’s after the fact, but since we are discussing it. (And I know you said your car broke down and all, so maybe that was the deciding factor.)

    **Before everyone starts yelling and holding up pitch forks., please remember I am on your side and in the same position – just more than 12 years in (and I’ve also seen it from both sides).**

    Oprah does have something that they could have offered you and that is her stardust. Even fans with ordinary private Twitter accounts who have more or less nothing to say, have thousands of followers because they have an image of them with Oprah. Just like we all have to pay for business cards, flyers and other promo (not to mention the massive drain of showing ourselves off and trying to prove to people -who often have no idea of what is good and what is not- that we are WORTH HIRING, worth noticing, interesting enough to give their attention to in this world where people’s attention is being pulled every-which-way) you could have milked the life out of this for promo that none of us could ever afford. Images of you on a stage with Oprah’s logos all over it and your promotional material saying you were personally invited by Harpo and worked for Oprah would command you a much higher fee at those children’s parties (and corporate parties and fairs). Fair or not, that stuff matters to middle money people… and actually it also matters to the big guys if you career got to the next level.

    If Oprah’s, people (or anyone at that level) would have asked me to do any graphics, or photography, or writing for for free, I would have explained obviously that doesn’t pay the mortgage and put food on the table… “But sure! If you can help me out with some photography of my act on stage?” (they have photographers on site anyway). “Could I have a photograph with Oprah?” (Since she’s taking photos with everybody else). They might have said: ‘We’ll see what we can do’ and maybe the way these things work, I may have never see those photos, but even taking a camera as back up and asking someone to get an image of you is worth a lot. I do know when money is tight and you only have yourself to rely on with any type of event to put on, taking time out for arranging documentation of that event is very, very hard, because so much energy goes into the event itself, but I think preparing for these situations as best we can, makes the difference between putting food on the table and being a starving artist.

    So anyway, for my $2 (inflation from 2cents) in this case, I truly do think this “exposure” would have boosted your earnings with the bread and butter jobs exponentially. I am not necessarily speaking about fame, but basic earnings. When they are trying to decide between you and someone else, or anyone AT ALL, that would have been a clincher… I am saying this and i live in the countryside in the UK where almost NOBODY want’s to pay for art work (even for the big stuff Americans will usually shell out for like weddings) and that’s with lots of previous exposure, expensive degree and long experience in various creative fields. If I suddenly could say oh yeah, here is some work I did for Oprah, THAT is another matter all together. For you as a performing artist I think this rings true to an even greater level.

    People are not going to stop asking for us to work for free. “No” IS usually the best answer, but it is up to us to choose when we will be principled and when we will be shrewd and scrappy.

    Saying all this, writing about your experience (and the way you have went about it) is very good… I think perhaps you will have some luck yet.


  • Boston Rob
    January 21, 2015 - Reply

    As a man who only knows of Oprah as “that self help lady all the women seem to love,” I must say I don’t rightly understand why someone would want to see her on stage. I mean, does she even do backflips or play an instrument? And then to deal with the crowds, the parking, the price of tickets. Eff that.

  • Kalon Wiggins
    January 23, 2015 - Reply

    Good read and good for you for not playing for free. I’d love to see Oprah respond to this or even better have you on her show to inspire other people not to be taken advantage of.

  • R Reynolds
    January 25, 2015 - Reply

    As a musician, I’ve been asked to perform for more times than I’ve been asked to come home with a beautiful lady. Now that might not be a very high figure to top, but had I taken up every exposure offer, I would have a long criminal history for exposing myself. That having been said, I’ve learned how to turn this around. Got my kitchen completely redone with the ol’ “think of the exposure” line. Garbage service week after week: “for the love of it.” Groceries, massages, vaccinations, a 2003 Honda Odyssey, my taxes done, tickets to Vegas (including meals, shows, gambling, renewing our wedding vows), gas, pedicures, bullets, cable TV and cat litter just to name a few things I’ve finagled with these gems.
    But seriously, excellent post. Thanks for not buying into the bullshit.

  • Lisa Armstrong
    February 2, 2015 - Reply

    Revolva, your letter was bravely written. I am a photographer and am constantly asked to donate my time, trade my work and do photo shoots for the exposure. While I do want to participate in charity events, and love to give of my time, it feels as if people do not appreciate the time and effort that goes into my art. I applaud you! My mom used to always tell me to “claim your worth.” I try to remind myself of that constantly. I can’t imagine how hard it was to “claim your worth” and not give in to doing something, ANYTHING, associated with Oprah (my hero BTW). I wonder if Oprah even realized artists were being asked to perform for free? In any case, I stand behind you and am proud to be called an artist with you! Loved the video of your performance – you truly are gifted. Lisa

  • Kyra
    March 11, 2015 - Reply

    Bravo! I’m a visual artist, and the “exposure” nonsense is continuous. I’d be happy to go paint a mural in a cancer ward or something, but I cannot even count the number of solicitations to create art for “exposure” in someone’s coffee table book that THEY are getting paid for, but I would not be. Or design a logo. Or create a portrait. Or… It’s the same thing. I don’t know why so many people disrespect artists of every type, yet cannot live without our influence all around them for even a moment (even the toilet paper has designs on it!)

    I sincerely hope you heard something back from them with this circulating, but if not? Every person with art in their blood, whether it be music, dance, performance, paint, or what have you, well – WE value you, and each other. Well done.

  • Ned
    April 29, 2015 - Reply

    When you pick my brain, you pick my pockets. Kudos kudos kudos for having integrity and a backbone unlike most hamster wheeling Americans who enjoy being used and abused by psych ops. Say no to moochers and brain pickers revolva! No pay—no work. Period.

  • Mia Simone
    July 8, 2015 - Reply

    I have so much respect for you, and your response; stand your ground and know your true value!

  • Ester Benjamin Shifren
    July 13, 2015 - Reply

    Congratulations on writing such a great piece, that proves you are also a talented writer who could probably have a new career. I’m an all round professional artist, musician, painter and author. I’ve been exploited many times and offered free gigs for “exposure”. I’ve written free theater reviews for a thriving group, but I’ve now said “finis” on all counts. I’m so proud of you for refusing to appear gratis on an outside stage. We should all be saying no to the exploitation. I think something great will come your way through taking a stand and putting your case in writing, so eloquently. You speak for all of us.

  • Sean Leslie Casey
    July 27, 2015 - Reply

    Bravo! Perfect!

  • Motherpeople
    January 9, 2016 - Reply

    I rarely stand up for artists that complain about their “rate of pay”. You chose your profession as did I. Who told you that being an “artist” was a money career? I chose it and knew what I was getting into. You do it because you love it, if you are lucky enough to make a living, you are very VERY lucky and I am very happy for you (and maybe a wee bit jealous). Having said that, this “open letter” couldn’t be more bang on. Any money making venture as massive as this should full well pull a few dollars to pay artists involved in any part of the event. The unfortunate part is the loss of any integrity in this “open letter” by adding an opportunity to pay at the end. Now Revolva, you are trying to cash in on Oprah’s name knowing full well your “open letter” will likely go viral. Will you be offering Oprah a percentage of your take from this? After all, it will be Oprah’s name, fame and brand that interest people in your article.

  • Kim
    January 13, 2016 - Reply

    Good for you….I see why the rich stay rich, unfortunately…shame on Harpo

  • Mary-Ann Jelonek
    January 14, 2016 - Reply

    It is completely wrong to ask anyone to work for free. I’m so sick of unpaid internships, and any other kind of unpaid labour. It’s such crap to offer ‘experience’ or ‘exposure’ to people rather than monetary compensation for their work. Enterprises that can’t afford to pay people for their work should fold – obviously they are poorly managed.

  • Gregg Prescott, M.S.
    January 20, 2016 - Reply

    My website, In5D Esoteric, Metaphysical, and Spiritual Database, is having a small conference here in Sarasota on February 20, 2016. We only charge $65 per ticket but pay our speakers well, plus pay for their airfare and hotel stay. If we can do this on such a limited budget, then surely Oprah can do much better…. but apparently not. I’m sorry that money, greed, and success had blinded Oprah to the point where she lacks compassion and empathy for those who are struggling to make ends meet.

  • debbalou
    January 21, 2016 - Reply

    I love the “exposure” you’ve given Oprah.

  • Stephen Tyner
    January 27, 2016 - Reply

    P.O.O.R. mindset!
    Passing Over Opportunities repeatedly!!
    Never lose sight of the dollars chasing the pennies. This could have been a financial blessing to you at the end. You could have took the gig an inspired thousands on how your hard work paid off on Oprah platform which could have open the doors of all the fortune and fame that you seek. All I will say is bad move… and in this business entertainment your attitude determines your altitude!!!
    Steve Tyner

  • Kim T.
    February 6, 2016 - Reply


  • Janie
    February 6, 2016 - Reply

    No offense, but this letter to Oprah is practically impossible to read since the scroll button on the right keeps scrolling on its own, or jumping to the bottom or jumping to the top. Please remedy!

  • Janie
    February 6, 2016 - Reply

    Hello Revolva, The letter you wrote is very compelling and true. Since it is from 2014, I am wondering what the purpose is of showing it today?! Which leaves me wondering if Oprah’s people ever got back with you, or Oprah, and possibly it’s still relevant today to make the point about artists being paid for their work. I imagine Oprah and others with plenty of money are still requesting artists to work for free. This is out exchange, out integrity!

    • revolvahoopdance@gmail.com
      February 6, 2016 - Reply

      Hi Janie! Thanks for engaging with the piece. I’m not sure I understand the “what is the purpose of showing it today?” question. I wrote this in November, 2014 (the date listed on top of the blog post) and it’s now existing on my website, in my blog posts. Someone perhaps shared it with you recently, so you’d have to ask that person, “Why did you show this to me today?” I think the answer may be because the theme is still relevant. No, Oprah didn’t respond. You can check out the update blog here: http://revolva.net/2015/11/18/we-dont-have-a-budget-why-artists-die-of-exposure/

  • good for you! I have said this forever!

  • Lisa
    February 7, 2016 - Reply

    And that’s why Oprah and the rich people get rich and the poor people get poorer.. I’m disgusted and wouldnt pay any of her prices to see her.. even if I could afford to…
    Good on you for this article.. stick to your guns..

  • Steve
    February 7, 2016 - Reply

    Thank you so much for taking a stand on behalf of all artists, I applaud you and your bravery. I shared your post on all of my social media outlets. I sincerely hope this reaches Oprah and prompts a change both in her and her compensation policies.

  • Percell St Thomass
    February 7, 2016 - Reply

    Awesome and profound writing. You have my total acquiescence and support. I love O, and am quite surprised at my fellow Maui`ian.

  • Priya
    February 7, 2016 - Reply

    Awesome job standing up for yourself Revolva!! 1) If you caught Oprah’s attention it sounds like you’re pretty exposed already! 2) More people need to say no like you did. If people come together to say no to working for free for those who can afford it, they will all get paid. And, if they say no to everything they don’t agree with, things will change. As long as people continue to work for free, and do things they don’t believe in – because that’s how the world works – that’s how the world will continue to work.

  • esoo
    February 8, 2016 - Reply

    Perhaps you should have taken the gig, and used your time on stage and all that “exposure” to highlight what a greedy and manipulative b**** oprah really is.

    • revolvahoopdance@gmail.com
      February 9, 2016 - Reply

      For the record, I don’t think Oprah is a b****. I actually admire lots of things about her, especially how open she has been about being a survivor of sexual abuse. I just think our whole culture is set up to channel money toward corporate endeavors, and to exploit artists/workers in the process. And that’s supposed to be “normal.” Obviously, it’s messed up to consider that “just the way things go,” and I do wish Oprah would have joined the conversation about paying artists. Since she never responded — I’m happy that, even without her, people are talking about how to create a new normal.

  • caro
    February 8, 2016 - Reply


    Well done! It takes so much courage to stand your own ground, specially when it is up to Oprah Winfrey’s producers. I am excited for you. I’ve learned that once you make the decision to say “no, I won’t work for free” and defend your value, then people who value you will come your way.
    I’m curious, have you hear from any of the producers since then?

  • Maite Mardomingo
    February 9, 2016 - Reply

    i think you are right and being myself a newly artist i am learning from you. you are intelligent, brave and talented and oprah has just forgotten how hard it is to be an unkown arist. She shold do her homework anmd her producer too. they have become a big industry and they clearly lack solidarity, humility and recognition for artists. all the best for you dear and i am gratefull for your standing because will expose exactly the same thing to somebody who wanted me to film her for free….Namaste sis!!

  • Maria
    February 9, 2016 - Reply

    You are AN AMAZING WOMAN AND THANK YOU THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!! Well said you should be paid for your work. We should all be paid for our work. As the saying goes the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

  • revolvahoopdance@gmail.com
    February 9, 2016 - Reply

    Thank you all so much for your comments and support! :) The best thing that happened from this was having tons of interactions with people all over the world. This was originally posted a bit over a year ago, and it seems to somehow be having another round of high sharing. Probably because the general issue with our culture hasn’t changed. Speaking of which, here’s a question:

    What kind of practical steps do you think could be taken to CHANGE our culture of “no pay for exposure”?

    For me, speaking up is always powerful. One of my favorite quotes is by Maggie Kuhn: “Speak your mind, even if your voice shakes.” And while it’s true that Oprah did not respond (see my more recent blog posts for an update), I also think that this post was seen so many times that it HAD to have had an impact on how Harpo Studios would run future tours. Between my blog and its reprint on Digital Music News site, this letter had 1 million 30 thousand views last time I checked totals with DMN … and that was like 6 months ago. I can’t imagine that they would have another Oprah tour with an unpaid creative labor stage ever again.

    So there’s that. But what else? I just thought it would be interesting to throw out a prompt for brainstorming if anyone wanted to share ideas for things you could do, or even things you’ve already done, regarding trying to ensure creative workers are paid.

    I wish all of you lots of luck with your careers — and also lots of respect from the clients and events who are hiring you! Your work has value, regardless of how often corporations try to cash in a super saver coupon on your life.

  • Tiffany
    February 10, 2016 - Reply

    Completely agree and I give you kudos for standing up for what you believed was right!

  • Barbara Meyers
    February 10, 2016 - Reply

    Well said. Get it. Identify with it. You go, girl.

  • jafabrit
    February 10, 2016 - Reply

    thank you and yes I agree, even though you wrote this a while ago, unfortunately things haven’t changed and the exploitation and parasitic profiteering from other people’s work continues.

  • John
    February 10, 2016 - Reply

    Couldn’t have said it better myself. Had to stop playing music and become a Chef so I could get paid for gigs like this. But guess what……they ask chefs to cook for free and they will be so generous to cover the cost of the food. Wellllllll, thank you so much…sorry, I’ve gotta pass on that. The last time someone said it would be great exposure, I told them if I wanted exposure I would go stand naked in the snow. Feel free to use that line anytime. The reaction is always priceless. Ciao and all the best in your artistic efforts.

  • sylvia
    February 11, 2016 - Reply

    Yay! Standing ovation to you, Revolva for a beautifully written post and for speaking your mind! Love it!

  • Haralee
    March 3, 2016 - Reply

    Takes a lot of courage to turn down O but congratulations on sticking to your worth!

  • Rena McDaniel
    March 4, 2016 - Reply

    Awesome job! Take note Oprah!

  • Odain
    April 27, 2016 - Reply

    Great job!

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