Play For Free ? Pay To Play ??

gillman royce

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
3,828
Aside from doing a benefit for a worthy cause, do you ever play for free just to be playing or do a showcase gig where you have to rent the room ? For me there's a correlation between the part time/semi pro player and the demise of a city's music scene. Your thoughts ?
 

buckwild

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
1,049
I've played a lot of free or semi free gigs in the last year. Playing music is not my day job or primary source of income so I mainly do it cause I love performing live.

However, I've recently started to draw the line with free gigs(minus gigs for good causes such as the Cancer Walk for life etc). Nowadays a venue will at least need to pay us $300 for a 2.5 hr set. I find that as I get older, hauling a ton of gear to a gig and paying gas for car etc..makes it necessary to ask for proper compensation. My current band is actually pretty good so if somebody doesn't want to pay us our base then we will not play.

In the South Bay Area, California, there are a lot of venues only willing to pay in bar tab etc...but some of my bandmates are full time musicians and free bar tab does not pay the bills. Places like Santana Row(a large outdoor upscale mall) will not pay their musicians anything so you have to make your money selling CD's, which doesn't work if your in a cover band.

I believe in fair trade music. If you are a business owner and expect to have live music then you should also expect to properly compensate musicians just as you would your hostess or servers.
 
Messages
192
I feel like it has a lot to do with Age, and what kind of band. For me, both my bands usually put on shows for touring bands and give the touring band the cut (after paying the venue of course) and we play for exposure and play for fun. When we tour we hope to get paid gas to get to the next town. but I imagine that for a blues, jazz, or hodge podge band you would look to get paid for playing bars, clubs, or such things. Otherwise, get your band name out at any cost
 

Jove

Member
Messages
889
As if music downloading wasn't enough, this could really be the ultimate demise of good music and people actually putting effort into a good live performance.

Seriously, if only you guys lived in Hollywood, this thread title would make you sick to your stomach because I have singer/songwriter friends that can't even get an original gig without SPENDING at least 100 bucks out here..

Add in a healthy dose of dickish sound guys...sounds like fun eh?

I really think venues need a reality check about who is really helping who, by having a band entertain it's patrons.

J
 

cmatthes

Member
Messages
4,106
I don't know about you guys, but we get paid when we play benefits...so do most other bands I know. We also NEVER play for free.

We've donated money back to the cause on occasion, but if you play for free you're diluting the franchise.
 

Flyin' Brian

Member
Messages
30,402
I don't know about you guys, but we get paid when we play benefits...so do most other bands I know. We also NEVER play for free.

We've donated money back to the cause on occasion, but if you play for free you're diluting the franchise.

:agree

And it makes no difference if you have a day job and are playing as a hobby. If you start playing for nothing, you WILL take work away from somebody who plays to put food on the table.

No freebies.
 

majordelt

Member
Messages
666
Worthy causes are cool with me but NEVER play for free otherwise. Musicians have the right to make a living too. Playing for free or dirt cheap just makes things tuff on the workin man
 

chucke99

Member
Messages
5,121
I play at two jams every week. None of the jammers get paid. But if I get called in to host or co-host a jam, I do get paid. And the guys running these jams do get paid, so it technically is a paid gig, just not for me.
 

MKB

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
9,143
We always tell folks we ALWAYS play for free: they are paying for the setup and breakdown of the gear and PA, along with travel expenses. The music is always free. :)

I'm kidding of course.

In all seriousness, I love playing totally free gigs if they are for good causes and are not too far out of town. IMHO the pressure is off and you can play more freely and have a better time. We have a local community BBQ we play at often for free; the other patrons have to pay around $50 per family to subsidize the food and fireworks, but the band and their families gets in for free. That's always loads of fun.
 

Sancho

Member
Messages
632
We've done the odd free gig, usually as opener for a big name. It's all exposure, and you'll play to a bigger crowd, get new fans, sell some merch... Plus, it's cool to be able to say "we opened for Y&T";)

I have always drawn the line there though. Never pay to play. That's bogus.
 

mbargav

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
6,508
I have many times. I've only ever played in bands that do originals, and I've often played for free/pitchers.
 

Jove

Member
Messages
889
I have many times. I've only ever played in bands that do originals, and I've often played for free/pitchers.


Yeah, this is a distinguishing factor that often goes ignored in these threads. All you guys saying you'd never play for free are clearly coming from the cover/wedding band type gig. Being in an originals band is not very easy to get paid. The venue thinks they're helping YOU out by having you play. And most of the naive musicians out here in LA, actually believe that. But I'll tell you one thing, the original bands out here that "WILL NEVER PLAY FOR FREE!" will never play, at all.

J
 

buddaman71

Student of Life
Gold Supporting Member
Messages
13,001
Here's my take on playing for free at charity events. WHY is it that typically only the musicians are asked to play for "exposure"? Every time I'm asked to play for free, I tell them I will as long as the caterers, electricians, tent/chair rental company and all the other workers do it for free too. That has never once, in 25+ years been the case...

I'll occasionally do it at a greatly reduced rate, with just enough charge to cover my expenses and overhead, but I won't do it fro free. In my opinion, NOTHING is free. SOMEONE is paying for it with their time/energy/expertise/cash.

Decades of musicians wanting to play so badly that they'll play for free of even PAY to play, has devalued live performance to the deplorable state it's in today.
 

Jove

Member
Messages
889
Decades of musicians wanting to play so badly that they'll play for free of even PAY to play, has devalued live performance to the deplorable state it's in today.

Well, to be fair, not everyone plays music to make money. So, there will always be performers doing it for the joy. I'd say we'll have to get used to that.

J
 

lazyjames

Member
Messages
1,159
Here's my take on playing for free at charity events. WHY is it that typically only the musicians are asked to play for "exposure"? Every time I'm asked to play for free, I tell them I will as long as the caterers, electricians, tent/chair rental company and all the other workers do it for free too. That has never once, in 25+ years been the case...

Can the party happen without catering, electricity or tents and chairs? probably not. I don't know about you, but in my experience the alternative to "play for free" is "don't play at all," not "ok, we'll pay you."
 

Seraphine

Member
Messages
3,600
A lot of what I'm hearing in this thread ( not all ) seems like people / bands who have no fans... A following and fans will pay for the piper.... heck man... some of you complain yet I can Busk and make more money then some of you guys are drawing the line on.....

and when I Busk I am playing for free.... yet make money? hmmmmm
 

tiktok

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
24,571
Aside from doing a benefit for a worthy cause, do you ever play for free just to be playing or do a showcase gig where you have to rent the room ? For me there's a correlation between the part time/semi pro player and the demise of a city's music scene. Your thoughts ?

If you're actually renting the venue, that's fine (although more hassle than it's worth in my experience). If you have to buy a block of tickets from a promoter and then sell them yourself along with a few other bands, that's something I avoid.

I play some gigs where all I get is free food and drinks, but I never have a place that gives you no compensation for the evening. The 'tips and treats' places are generally what I call 'amateur venues'--inexperienced owners who'll be going out of business or selling to someone else in 18-24 months. I look around while I'm playing and I know they're not showing a profit for the evening. Of course, a lot of times, they'll only have music on 'slow nights', because they're banking on the musicians bringing in some more business, or creating a more exciting vibe so that people walking by are more tempted to come in for a while.

I do one benefit a year, for my bassist's wife's workplace, and it's a large cancer benefit bike/run event. Other than that, I gave at the office.
 




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