New York-based activist organisation Working Artists and the Greater Economy (W.A.G.E) has launched a new online system to help artists calculate, request, and negotiate fees.

WAGENCY allows artists to make calculations in 15 different categories of artistic labour, ranging from exhibitions to lectures, as well as send fee requests to any organisation soliciting their work.

Instead of waiting for institutions ‘to offer arbitrary fees’, the calculator allows artists to request W.A.G.E-certified fees. These are based on an institution’s annual operating expenses, with the higher the expenses resulting in a higher fee.

Explaining the need for such a tool, W.A.G.E said in a statement: “We see the contemporary fight for non-wage compensation as part of a wider struggle by all gig workers who supply content without payment standards or an effective means to organise.”

W.A.G.E organiser Lise Soskolne told Artnet that before WAGENCY’s release “institutions would offer fees if you’re lucky. But what we’re trying to do is assert that artists are contracted workers, and contracted workers have rates”.

In order to use the system, an artist must register online and pay an initial monthly fee of $5. They can then use the platform to begin compiling and sending their own fee requests. However, that is not necessarily the end of the process, as artists can then click through to either ‘accept’ or ‘negotiate’ the rate.

This additional component puts the onus back on the artist to negotiate for themselves. Although it is possible to accept an offer that is less than the fee recommended by W.A.G.E, this will result in an artist’s status on the platform being set to active WAGENT, but not a certified one.

As Soskolne explains: “W.A.G.E doesn’t represent artists. Artists represent themselves through W.A.G.E.”

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