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I'll Never Play for Free Again

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by tapehead, Jan 20, 2009.

  1. tapehead


    May 27, 2008
    So my band that does mostly classic rock and some newer music do an "audition" night. The guy says up front that most bands dont make the regular rotation. I'm not worried we're good. But it does go against my belief of never playing for free, except for charity.
    I emailed the guy to see if maybe we could at least get free burgers and a pitcher out of it..Never heard anything.
    So we go, set up, and play. Goes pretty good, a minor issue with volume level (singer accidentally had a boost button on his vocals for a few songs).
    Its over, I go to ask the dude what he thought...He had already left. Wait a couple days, hear nothing from him. Finally email him and ask him what he thought. He wasnt there..Had to leave early because he wasnt feeling well. Then proceeded to take a couple cuts at the band from what people had told him (volume level, guitarist noodle a little) but said people liked our mix of songs. Said he was hesitant to hire us BUT what would we charge for a Friday night?
    All I ask is a little courtesy....You have 4 grown men taking 3-4 hours of their time for free, at least come and say thanks for coming out guys but I didnt like your sound. Just MAN UP.
    I emailed him what we would charge and havent heard a thing from him...Never play for free again. I'd rather stay in the practice room.
  2. mjolnir

    mjolnir Thor's Hammer 2.1.3beta

    Jun 15, 2006
    Houston, TX
    It happens, man. Not everybody is like that.
  3. Busker


    Jan 22, 2007
    Yeah, I know what you mean.

    I played this free gig once, for a birthday party. I was OK with it, I wanted to have fun playing music. But it would have been nice to have been offered a freakin' hamburger. Nope. Not even a potato chip. A coupla beers was all.

    So the club owner (or manager) auditions the band in the club? Sounds like a way of getting free entertainment. I'm sure the bar made a little something.
  4. ga_edwards


    Sep 8, 2000
    UK, Essex
    Yep, it does happen as stated above. But don't rule out free gigs because of one bad experience. As I have often been advised, by professionals too - never turn down a gig, no matter how crap it may seem. You never know who may be there listening.

    Besides, I play because I enjoy it, paid or not, it's good fun (ok, not always) and all good experience. Some of the best gigs I've done have been free or paltry fees. The day I only do it for the money is the day I realise I'm in it for the wrong reasons.
  5. kennydakid


    Jan 8, 2009
    Amesbury, MA
    My band played a show once which ended up as a free show. We were supposed to be paid out of the cover but the venue, seeing it was a horrible rainy night in a beach community, decided to not charge a cover. However after the show they decided to book us again and we made sure we were going to receive a flat rate.

    The next show we made $200 for 3 and a half hours, we just booked another show with this club $200 for an hour and a half.
  6. MNAirHead

    MNAirHead Supporting Member

    Remember he was invested as much as he had into it.
  7. Toastfuzz


    Jul 20, 2007
    Pittsburgh, PA
    I think thats BS that the club gets free entertainment for a night because they call it "audition night." Like you said, the bar's still makin dollars, I dunno if they charge cover but I've heard before that the cover from a good night covers all operating expenses and entertainment, and the bar is pure profit. So theres definitely money floating around that the bar owners are most likely pocketing.
  8. Sure. But get paid. I won't work cheap/free anymore because doing so sets precedent. If musicians continue to work cheap/for free eventually the status quo will be to make that the norm. I'd rather not see that. Sure it's fun to play, but think about the long-term consequences.
    At a club gig recently, an obviously well-heeled woman approached the leader, showered us with praise, then asked how much we'd charge for a private event at a certain estate. She was visibly stunned when we gave her a price of $1000.00. She said, "What? I thought it would be maybe a couple of hundred bucks. I thought you did this for fun. Never mind." See?
    Having said all that, I'll do certain charity events free, but I'm mighty particular about which ones.
    Club wants to see us for free as an 'audition?' We give 'em a DVD.
  9. tycobb73


    Jul 23, 2006
    Grand Rapids MI
    This is like saying you played an SX and now will never own a Fender copy.
  10. Tony In Philly

    Tony In Philly Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Oct 25, 2007
    Filthydelphia, USA
    Been there, done that, got the T-shirt.....and it shrank.

    From now on I want to be paid unless I have a special reason to waive my usual fee.
  11. scottbass

    scottbass Bass lines like a big, funky giant

    Jul 13, 2004
    Southern MN
    These are exactly my sentiments. There are more and more pay-to-play, play-for-free and percent-of-the-cover bars in my area (Mpls/St. Paul) every year, and fewer venues that pay a flat fee. And it's because they can get away with it. :scowl:
  12. mothmonsterman


    Feb 8, 2006

    Think the most we ever got out of a place is a few beers or 20$ for gas.
    I don't see the big deal really, I don't expect to get paid for my hobby.
  13. etoncrow

    etoncrow (aka Greg Harman, the curmudgeon with a conundrum)

    Guy wanted to book us to play his bar. We had been playing regular at a bar two blocks away for quite a while. We told him our rate. He almost needed "Depends" he puckered so hard. So, we said OK, we would play for the door and we would provide our own door man. After that week-end he paid us our asking price without blinking.
  14. Captain_Arrrg


    Jan 23, 2008
    Mountains of Colorado
    Endorsing Artist: Spector Basses
    So you had a bad audition. Don't worry, you'll get over it.

    Also- a quick buck<building a solid business relationship. It may not be business to you, but it sure a heck is for them... But hey, I'm sure that they would love to not have you wasting their time.
  15. MNAirHead

    MNAirHead Supporting Member

    I'll play free for open mic nights.. this is when we REALLY suckrox (not rocks).

    I charge $75 to play for a church hour with 1 hour of group practice.

    In the Twin Cities if you list free charging clubs on your tenure list.. you'll never be paid.. PLUS it's expected you suck (and volunteer + pay personally for strings, gear etc)

  16. scottbass

    scottbass Bass lines like a big, funky giant

    Jul 13, 2004
    Southern MN
    Then we have different opinions about this. I DO expect to get paid so I can more fully enjoy my nonprofit but self-supporting hobby. I buy gear. I buy better gear to play with better bands in better venues as I can afford it. I buy gas. I buy more gas to drive further to better gigs as I can afford it. I buy band materials. If I'm not paid, it severely compromises how much I can enjoy my hobby.

    The bars, music festivals and other venues we play make more money because we are there. We rightfully deserve to be paid part of that money.

    I guess it comes down to this: my hobby is playing gigs on stage. If my hobby was only playing in basements, garages and the occasional free or el-cheapo gig, then my opinion about this would probably be different.

    I would respectfully ask that those of you whose hobby is NOT playing gigs, (and thereby not earning money to expand the enjoyment of your hobby through better gear, etc.) please don't compromise our gigs by playing for-profit venues for little-to-free. And of course church and charity gigs are immune from this blanket statement.
  17. KrisH


    Nov 6, 2007
    New Jersey
    This past weekend I twisted myself in a knot over a band decision. One outfit does "originals," one set at a shot sharing the date with 2 or 3 other bands. We supposedly play for the door, but there's never enough to go around. I'm not crazy about the setup, and I've let them know that when the cover band is ready to go out and sell itself, it has priority. Anyhow, we did a job the other weekend that ended up being two and a half hours drive each way, through snow and sleet :)eek:) to play 30 minutes. I got kinda bent out of shape about it, and raised a stink when another such "opportunity" presented itself for next month.

    I enjoy performing. I feel bad about causing the drama in the band, but there are limits as to how much I am willing to sacrifice for the "opportunity." Was I wrong for not accepting that particular chance to play?
  18. I play in a cover band, and I don't play for free either - unless it's a charity thing, or a really great event. But as for the 'audition night' thing, we don't do those... we play for a reduced rate (usually half price).
  19. Tape-
    I'd stay away from any place that wants a free audition.....if you're an established band playing covers. Next they'll hand you some tickets that you have to sell.....
    If someone wants to hear you play, have them stop by one of your gigs or give them a CD.
  20. T-MOST


    Dec 10, 2004
    NJ via NYC
    I'm in a diff position because my main gig is a steady church gig. But, I am looking for a contemporary jazz thing so I may find myself in a similar spot. Maybe you can invite potential club owners to your "paying" gigs to listen. That way if he/she flakes or doesn't like you it's their loss. Also look into cutting a demo CD. it could be a live set recording to hand out to potentials.

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