#PaisaPhenk graphic from Tamaasha's Facebook page

The Pakistani artist’s lot is not a happy one. Unpaid internships, freelancing for peanuts or for no money at all and being exploited in the name of exposure are all unfortunately commonplace. While such injustices have inspired grumblings on social media, not much has been done to counter such practices. Nor has any strict action been taken. Now a new movement fighting for change has started up across the country. The #PaisaPhenk (“Just Throw the Money”) movement is inspiring people to use social media to share their tales of being exploited for little or no pay.

#PaisaPhenk’s Roots

On June 21, Pakistani rock band Tamaasha posted a teaser of its debut track on social media sites titled “#PaisaPhenk” along with the following caption: “For too long have artists in Pakistan struggled to make a living, to find the right platform, and forced to work for ‘exposure’! With the launch of our debut single, Tamaasha calls on the artist community of Pakistan to rise up and get their voices heard! You can be a musician, an artist, a writer, a designer, a photographer, or a practitioner of any art form whatsoever! Support the #PaisaPhenk movement if you believe you deserve greater opportunities, adequate compensation, or simply believe that artists in Pakistan deserve RESPECT!”

Tamaasha gained recognition for their participation in the Pakistani television series Pepsi Battle of the Bands. During the show’s third season, the band gained popularity through their original song Roshni and their renditions of popular songs by famous bands Junoon and Aaroh. They earned standing ovations from the judges and took third place overall.

Two days after announcing the new #PaisaPhenk movement, Bilal Ahmed, lead vocalist of Tamaasha, posted a short video message about #PaisaPhenk. He briefly talked about the song before proceeding to discuss the movement. Ahmed emphasized the movement’s importance to artists and freelancers in Pakistan and to anyone who may have been exploited in the name of so-called exposure and who had experienced being underpaid or working for free. He shared his own experiences of how his own band had been exploited through such practices in the past.

This one goes out to all artists that are victims of exploitation and disrespect!SHARE YOUR STORY at #PaisaPhenk!

Posted by Bilal Ahmad on Sunday, 23 June 2019

After this, many musicians, writers, photographers, designers, visual artists and others shared how they had been exploited using the hashtag #PaisaPhenk on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Many famous names from Pakistan’s entertainment industry such as Dino Ali, Ahsan Bari and Khurram Waqar, also endorsed the movement.

The song “Paisa Phenk” accompanied by a music video was released on YouTube and streaming platforms such as Spotify, Patari, JioSaavn and Apple Music through Rearts Records. The music video features the band as well as many members of Pakistan’s artistic community, including Zaeem Asad, Sanki King, Fatema Gain, Muaz Iqbal, Sarah Awan, Anarchy, Reham Rafiq and Lyari Fire Eaters. The music video was directed by Zaeem Asad. Paisa Phenk has received acclaim from both critics and the public. Considering that this is their debut track, the future looks bright for Tamaasha and expectations are even higher for their upcoming projects.

What’s next?

#PaisaPhenk is an essential movement for Pakistan. For too long, Pakistani artists, freelancers and interns have been exploited. It is hoped that the movement will signal the start of something new and inspire people who are exploited through such practices to unite and take action. Pakistan’s government must also play a role in addressing these concerns and help the people who have been exploited in the name of so-called exposure and experience.

The #PaisaPhenk movement, despite being in its initial stages, has spread waves across Pakistan and has already become an anthem against exploitation. This powerful step in the right direction is just the beginning.

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