Perhaps the question we get most often from other artists and musicians is: “How do you make all of this financially feasible?” From our perspective, we’re more shocked so many artists and musicians make ends meet in cities where rent prices are high, and opportunities to stay out and spend money are ubiquitous. Here’s the best advice we can give on making it work: it might involve some small sacrifices along the way (translatable into a “consume less” mindset), but we’ve found our life moving from residency to residency to be inexpensive and artistically fulfilling.
We apply to all kinds of artist residencies—those that provide stipends, those that provide in-kind accommodation, and those that ask modest fees. We’re not dismissive of any of these categories of opportunities, as we take into account every aspect of the financial situation. From the cost of the residency itself, travel to the location, and the general cost of living in the country, many factors weigh in. Occasionally, we’ll run into a residency that is very expensive compared to the general cost of living in its location. As we can’t justify for ourselves those expenses, these are the only residencies that we categorically avoid.
One great resource for comparing the general cost of living for travelers is numbeo.com. The website provides continuously updated information about the cost of various items in any location, and lets you compare them to other cities. Using this, we can estimate how much we might spend on food and anything else we might need during our residency.
Several factors will increase the affordability of a residency. Longer residencies are typically more affordable, as the cost to travel to and from a location might be the most expensive piece of the puzzle. But lately we’re more focused on longer residencies also because we leave more deeply connected to the communities we were a part of.
It’s rare to find a residency that will pay for your travel; although there are plenty with stipends, we’ve only ever applied to one that provided travel. This is why planning residencies so that you’re moving the shortest distance is very advantageous. After being invited for one residency, consider applying to other interesting opportunities that are nearby, as traveling to those will be significantly cheaper. Beyond minimizing the distances, it goes without saying to consider all the travel options early in advance when prices are at their lowest.
It is worth mentioning that we don’t pay a phone bill; when we need to make a call, we use a Skype credit that’s very cheap, international, and paid per minute with no monthly obligations. In all our travels, we rely on WiFi for communication, and haven’t encountered any serious issues.
Possibly the most important factor is the time you give yourself in preparation for the residencies. If the residency is over a year away, it gives adequate time to find the cheapest travel options, to contact venues and universities for paid engagements, and to apply for grants.
There are so many parts of this equation that are specific to our situation, from starting out right after graduating school with no serious dependencies tying us to any particular place, to being a couple that can always share accommodation and support each other in the more taxing and difficult stretches of our journey. In this way, the financial side is an individualized process, that takes into consideration your own priorities and personal goals.
It seems to us that our ideas about a life spent traveling both access ideologies shared by many people in our generation, and take advantage of everything that technology and the internet has on offer in 2018. Perhaps we are early adopters of something that wouldn’t have been possible even a decade ago. Traveling has never been cheaper; it’s possible to work from anywhere in the world; and social media helps us share our music and keep in touch with others. At the same time, these choices we’re proposing address a lack of desire to own property, the unaffordability of housing, and a prioritization of sharing experiences above all.
In this way, artist residencies represent a small sliver of things in the world that are in no way property, and are only shared. Each resident comes in with the knowledge that this place where they live will soon be passed onto another artist. Like a family home being passed from one generation to the next, layers of experiences, art, and traces left behind accumulate into a rich tapestry of culture and life.
It is a lifestyle that has led us to think about every aspect of modern living. We feel that travel proposes an alternative cartography—the map of one’s own life, that isn’t at all consistent with the map of the world. What you’ve done and where you’ve been defines you, and defines your art. At the moment, we are extremely happy to travel for music and to have met so many kind and interesting people along the way. We are lucky, and grateful for it, and hope that more people will take on opportunities of their own that help make their own worlds grow.