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Bandleader offered me money to play non-paying gig

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by edr, May 15, 2019.

  1. edr


    Mar 28, 2019
    EDIT: I provide followup info:
    in this reply!
    and this one.
    and also this one.
    Probably worth reading if you are going to reply.

    I just joined a band, and I like working with them. We aren't trying to 'make it', but we typically play paying gigs, and most of that money goes towards renting our rehearsal space (so we should roughly break even). We all have day jobs, so it isn't really about the money.
    Bandleader has a potential gig at a county fair for us, but it's unpaid. I said I wasn't that interested since there's no money, so the bandleader just offered me fifty bucks to play that show.

    I have only been with these guys for one audition/rehearsal, as well as attend their final show with the previous bassist that I was replacing.
    The drummer is already on board with the unpaid gig, and I'm the new guy. Should I lower my expectations of the kind of gigs we get (this is the bandleader's/frontman's pet project, so he handles all the booking and pr and whatnot)?
    If I vote no on the gig I'm in the minority, but I also just joined so I'd feel weird asserting myself like that. I'd feel weird taking the $50, since that's basically out of his pocket, and I'm (thankfully) doing well enough financially that I really don't need the money. The drummer was already on board with the gig so this offer was only directed at me. And I'm new so I don't want to make waves. I feel weird about it.

    I'm thinking of turning down the money but also making it clear that we shouldn't be learning any new material for the unpaid gig, and there shouldn't be any special preparation for it since we'll already be in shape to perform by then anyway (it's not long after a different, paying, gig).

    TLDR: Bandleader offered me $50 to play an unpaid gig with our band, because I was operating under the expectation that our gigs would generally be paid. I just joined the band and don't need the money out of his pocket.
    Last edited: May 17, 2019
  2. ScottfromCalgary

    ScottfromCalgary Supporting Member

    May 10, 2015
    Tough call. I, like you, am generally against playing for free (or even below market value) and have also been the lone dissenting voice in the band when this has come up. However, I'd look at the big picture and if the hang and the music are both there, maybe it's worth a one-time (hopefully) sacrifice in the long run. As long as everyone is on board that this is the exception and not the norm. I wouldn't take the BL's cash but that's just me. I'd either do it for free like the rest of them, or not at all.
    strat59, Dgl44, dralionux and 10 others like this.
  3. ArtechnikA

    ArtechnikA I endorsed a check once... Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 24, 2013
    Broadly, I figure I work for the BL and not the venue -- so I don't care if the BL is getting paid or not, as long as I am.
    (This is when it's the BL's project, not a team of equals...)
    And I started that rule after that particular BL booked us into a string of unpaid shows with no redeeming value (i.e. - not even "exposure" ...)
    I'm with Scott, here, tho.
    I think I'd acknowledge the BL's gesture as an indicator that the show is important to him and you're important to the project.
    But I'd turn down the payment with the express understanding that it's a one-time deal.
  4. edr


    Mar 28, 2019
    The consensus among the members is that the free shows are only occasional things. I turned down the money.
    It's a short set, opening for someone else at a car show at a county fair or something. I also don't have to bring an amp.

    As for "below market value", I'm not sure if we're a "market value" band at this point yet ;) the originals we play are fun for us, but they all start to sound similar from the audience after a while
  5. ScottfromCalgary

    ScottfromCalgary Supporting Member

    May 10, 2015
    Well market value for band members around here is about $100 each per night. I gauge each gig off this standard.
    TheReceder and BILL BO SAGGINS like this.
  6. portpc


    May 31, 2011
    If you truly enjoy the band tell the BL to use the $50 toward your rehearsal cost, You most likely will be appreciated by the rest of the band.
  7. DWBass

    DWBass The Funkfather

    I am NOT a fan of unpaid gigs. Transporting gear, PA (maybe), gas, mileage, etc..........
    GTx2, JackNasty, Kiril Basso and 2 others like this.
  8. jdthebassman


    Jul 11, 2010
    I am always upfront when I join a band that I wont leave my house for less than $100 within an hour radius and charity begins at home
    Last edited: May 15, 2019
  9. oldrocker


    Feb 13, 2005
    Long Island, NY
    Since you haven't played out with this band yet if it were me I might consider this as a chance to rehearse in front of a live audience. I wouldn't travel very long way or play 3 full sets but I would consider playing this for free especially if you usually will be playing paid shows.
  10. PauFerro


    Jun 8, 2008
    United States
    If the guy is offering to pay you, and the other guys are down for the gig, and you refuse the money and refuse to play, I'd be questioning if you're the right guy for the band.

    Caveat -- I don't like unpaid gigs unless there is a personal point to it. Even then, I have musicians available who will do those kinds of gigs. So I am not ticking anyone off with them...
    Last edited: May 16, 2019
    thetragichero likes this.
  11. Cliff Colton

    Cliff Colton

    Nov 7, 2016
    I think you handled it perfectly. Now go enjoy the county fair. Free admission, right?
  12. Bullitt5135


    Nov 16, 2010
    SE Michigan
    Exactly this.
  13. Cliff Colton

    Cliff Colton

    Nov 7, 2016
    I hope this isn’t an initiation ceremony for the new guy where the other members each get $500 and the new guy is persuaded to reject a $50 offer. The last time I went to the county fair, Rick Nielsen from Cheap Trick smashed his double neck guitar and threw the broken parts into the audience. I don’t think he would have done that if the county fair wasn’t paying something.
    Last edited: May 15, 2019
    joebar likes this.
  14. BurtMacklinFBI

    BurtMacklinFBI Supporting Member

    Apr 3, 2018
    Sounds to me like you made the right choice.
    Cliff Colton likes this.
  15. gumtown


    May 7, 2007
    New Zealand
    Just think of this one as "exposure", (which is what you can also die from when the rent doesn't get paid)
    But the occasional freebie can lead to bigger ticket gigs from self promotion.
    The Mogpipe and Mike Whitfield like this.
  16. faulknersj

    faulknersj Supporting Member

    Apr 4, 2008
    Scottsdale Az
    Get on board, be a team player and ask...what may I do for my band...not...what can my band do for me.

    Play the gig for free like the rest of the cats in your band are willing to do. It’s the right thing to do...and potentially the only path to building enough of a following to actually get paid.
    Last edited: May 16, 2019
  17. Basstigator


    Sep 23, 2017
    I would tell your BL as a matter of course that I do not condone unpaid gigs and won't support them in any way for any reason. Period. You're just showing up to help put money in the venue's pockets. You're being laughed at for doing so, as well. If you BL doesn't understand that, then, there's a problem. Getting exposure? Well, the concept of "exposure" is more bait than anything else. Paying gigs also provide exposure. The standard needs to be set and here's an opportunity for you to do your part.
  18. juggahnaught


    Feb 11, 2018
    You "typically play paying gigs"....how do you know this if this is your first time playing with this group?

    Clearly define your goals. You don't need the cash, but you want paying gigs to subsidize the rehearsal space. You like playing with these guys.

    For what it's worth, getting a payout while other band members are getting less isn't a sustainable strategy. You want to make sure this isn't a general case. (Or that the band won't make something like $19 a head for a night of playing, still a "paying" gig. I've been here recently. If you're playing a county fair for free, you might be in this situation.)

    I'd say do the gig, see how it feels and see what materializes. After that, define your goals and talk to your BL about it. If after a bit, you aren't feeling it for whatever reasons, or if your goals don't align, walk.
    Last edited: May 16, 2019
  19. Pulverizor


    Jun 14, 2018
    New Zealand
    I would have done the same thing mate, their enthusiasm sounds fun lol.
    Is that $50 something that should remain between you and the BL?
  20. EatS1stBassist


    Apr 15, 2016
    So cal
    Tell him you will take the money as long as you can put back into the band.

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