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Playing for free - your thoughts?


Moosey

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Hi,

 

Thought this might be an interesting discussion if anyone was interested in joining in (I don't fancy starting work yet...)

 

Often, we see posts advertising for bands for events. There are lots of them, and often they advertise for the bands to play for free.

 

What are people's thoughts on that?

 

For an up and coming originals band, I can see reasons to do it, but an established club/function band? Would they?

 

Should musicians ever play for free? Does that affect your bookings in the future? Would you ask a painter to paint your house for free, as it was good advertising?

 

Just wondered what people's thoughts were?

 

PS Not criticising anyone, having a dig at anyone, I'm just interested in the thoughts on this from various types of musicians (and non-musicians).

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As one of the blaggers and a member of a dance troupe that perform I can see both sides, from the organiser point of veiw I would love to be able to pay my acts, I know how much work goes into performing, the reersals, costume time, travelling etc but with communinty events like ours we have no funding and very little return, we are trying to keep it as acessable to stalls, businesses and groups as possible, most of our stands are charitys and non profit organisations and therefore we don't charge. despite this we still have had to rasie nearly £2000 just for the basics.

If the event is one that charges admission etc and makes good money they should pay their acts.

As a dancer I do enjoy performing and spend a lot of my time volunteering so I just see freebees as an extention of that, I'm lucky in one way though that this is not my career, for professionals it adds a whole new dilema

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My band often plays for free for charity events, we also do get paid for some gigs.

It's always helpful to raise more money to cover the cost of rehearsal space, new music, conductor's expenses etc. On the other hand, we're all doing it as a hobby and we pay subscription to do it, and we want to perform, or what's the point of working so hard at rehearsal?!

 

For professional outfits though, unless they're incredibly successful, they probably can't afford to play for free.

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I help manage and coach up and comming bands and performers who are very young and getting the chance to play in front of an audience is very important when you are only 12 or 15. The venues that allow them to perform at such a young age outside school are very few and far between. Often you get chance to play at summer festivals or community events or even charity fund raisers. The problem is however as you say playing for free becomes a habit but not one you want as an adult or group of adults once you have confidence and a mor professional aprouch. Playing for free is good for getting your confidence up but at some point the hard work and hours of practice and commitment has to reap financial rerards.

 

But not for me.

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It really depends on the gig. As an amateur (hobby, I suppose) band our aim is to cover expenses and anything more is a bonus. We charge a fixed fee for pub gigs and a different fixed fee for weddings and other private events. Both of those are negotiable, though, and we are happy to consider circumstances realistically. We are happy to play at charity gigs for nowt or minimal expenses.

 

The grey area is outside of those events. Small festivals, for instance, often can't afford to pay the bands much, if anything. If a band was rigid about fees then they would probably exclude themselves from many such events. We'd consider this a bad thing because festivals, for us, are very desirable. We get to play to new audiences, don't have to worry about PA or soundman and so on, get to see other bands for free, plus we regularly get booked for private gigs on the back of a festival performance. Also, when, in the near future, we have our cd out, each festival will be an opportunity to shift a few more units - maybe so many that we actually recoup the outlay!

 

I guess I'm saying that not getting paid for a gig is not, necessarily, "playing for free".

 

On the other hand, something that someone experienced told us early on does often turn out to be true and that is: the respect and quality of treatment a band gets is often inversely proportional to the amount they're being paid. I've found this particularly noticeable when playing at charity events run by younger people - perhaps because of a lack of understanding of the time & effort the band put into the preparation and the gig itself.

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In bands doing their own material, yeah sure I'll play for free (if need be)...but for a covers band theres no WAY I'm doing it for free as I'm doing THEM a favour by playing material THEY know, not particularly stuff I want to play for myself. Music is a business, and it'd do lots of venues good to remember that! But then you get the old codgers who "just love doing it" so they end up doing it for free because younger people try to demand money, therefore when the younger ones DO get a gig they can't get paid...or generally don't get paid enough

 

If I wanted to do covers just for free I'd do SONGS I WANT TO myself in my room without having to wait around for 2-5 hours to play somewhere miles away having lugged my expensive equipment there to play for a load of people who don't really care for it...!!

 

I'd rather not gig doing covers if it meant never earning anything, why bother? (sorry, BA Performing arts/music here...we all left that course under the impression it's possible to earn money from playing live...possibly even a living)

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Random thoughts on the subject . . .

 

Maybe we shouldn't expect music to be paid for at all*. Just do it for the love of it, maybe if you're lucky -- or good enough -- make a bit back to cover costs? Then if you do it with enough love, and enough people like you you might make a bit more off it.

 

Fact is, there are way more bands/artists than the market as it exists can support so we probably need more DIY scenes that support music than there are currently.

 

(* Unless you're good enough to command several hundred/a grand a night as a wedding/function/covers band or are talented or lucky enough to have got onto the corporate music biz machine, in which case you're probably not reading this or will chuckle to yourself as you give thanks for your privileged position)

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I am a professional singer who works paid gigs several times a week. I think playing for free is entirely a personal choice. However, lending your professional expertise to a charity gig is a nice thing to do. Similarly, if a festival or carnival is running "not for profit" there is also something community spirited about doing this too.

 

Any singer is only as good as their next gig and like any business picking up future work is the name of the game. In return for giving your services for free you will receive some local exposure and the potential of further paid work so is not entirely outuristic.

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I am a professional singer who works paid gigs several times a week. I think playing for free is entirely a personal choice. However, lending your professional expertise to a charity gig is a nice thing to do. Similarly, if a festival or carnival is running "not for profit" there is also something community spirited about doing this too.

 

Any singer is only as good as their next gig and like any business picking up future work is the name of the game. In return for giving your services for free you will receive some local exposure and the potential of further paid work so is not entirely outuristic.

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