Lee Lang (이랑) has been an active folk artist and singer-songwriter for several years now, albeit remaining relatively unknown despite having released two albums. She attained some recognition on the 28th February by being awarded a trophy for ‘Best Folk song’ at the Korean Music Awards for her track ‘Playing God’. Whilst accepting the award, Lee Lang highlighted the stark financial reality for struggling musicians. Her last album wasn’t even available in CD format, but could only be acquired through purchase of a book to get a digital download code.
During her speech, she revealed her total income for the whole of January (420,000 Korean won which is roughly £298) and February (960,000 Korean won which is approximately £682), lamenting the fact that the award didn’t come with any prize money. This would have helped immensely due to the difficulties in making a living as a musician. She finished by saying “so I think I’ll have to sell this trophy”.
Lee Lang holding the money she obtained from selling her award. © Lee Lang. 01.03.2017. Image was featured on Lee Lang’s Instagram.
To the audience’s surprise, that is exactly what she did! She proceeded to describe the details of the trophy and started up an auction with a suggested price of 500,000 Korean won (which is how much she has to pay a month for rent). A man seated in the audience agreed to the price and paid her in cash on stage in return for the trophy.
Whilst Lee Lang selling her award may raise a few laughs (with videos of her doing so now rapidly being circulated online), it is a rather sad tale highlighting the finite lifespans of musicians; how dreams alone cannot support living costs of artists who don’t manage to catch the limelight. The income from online music sales is usually small, once production costs and other fees are factored in. The artist has also previously mentioned that although being featured in magazines can be outwardly impressive, there is no pay attached.
(Video credit: UnJi JJang YouTube channel)
Lee Lang has since had some backlash for her actions on stage that night, however, it is completely understandable that she has to support herself financially. Hopefully, she will find a way to keep some connection to music in future, but we congratulate her on achieving an award which is recognized as being critically-renowned.
Featured image source: © Lee Lang. 12.07.2016. Lee Lang’s official Facebook page.