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Paid or Unapaid Gig?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [DB]' started by jgbass, Feb 21, 2008.

  1. jgbass

    jgbass Guest

    Dec 17, 2003
    I am interested in what others think about this situation.

    I am, in general, opposed to the idea of unpaid gigs. However, the gig in question is at a church I attend and would be going to this church anyway this Sunday. There is a pianist who gets paid, and there is sax player who does this for service (i.e. free). Both usually play every week.

    The choir director called me and asked me if I wanted to fill in for the bass player who cannot make it this week. They have a bass player (paid) at most about once a month. This is not a large church anyway. I said yes, we talked about the music, and then she brought up the question as to whether I want to do this for service to the church or for $100. They were going to pay the other bass player this same amount. He is more a hired gun, vs. a church member.

    I am torn. On one hand, I do not want to set the precedent that I do gigs for free, but on the other hand, this is my first time there, the church does not have a lot of cash, I am a member.

    Also, I am more interested in being called more often for these church gigs, and I think I would be called more if it was unpaid. It is not the kind of gig that I would end up feeling resentful playing for free. There are other gigs that I would feel that way. I really want to hone my skills in this area for the future. And, I also do not want to bump the hired gun who has been playing there for awhile.

    I have no answer right now. Any thoughts? Do I need to toughen up and ask for the full payment? Or compromise 50/50? And, I started by saying I am opposed to non paying gigs but this is a gig I want to do regulary.
  2. Marc Piane

    Marc Piane

    Jun 14, 2004
    2 thoughts

    1. You don't want to mess the gig up for the other guy.

    2. They offered you the money... you didn't ask for it.
  3. How do you see it? A "gig" or a "service" to your church/congregation/god? That should answer your question.
  4. If you don't want to take the money because the church is strapped for cash, then why not take the money and then quietly donate it right back? I suspect the bass player you're filling in for would prefer you take the money.
  5. kesslari

    kesslari Groovin' with the Big Dogs Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2007
    Santa Cruz Mtns, California
    Lark in the Morning Instructional Videos; Audix Microphones
    My take on free gigs is this:

    I am glad to donate my service to a cause or organization that I support.
    So I do benefits, etc, when I believe in them.

    I will NOT play for free at a club or concert where an individual or venue is making a profit (e.g., play at a bar for free "for the exposure").

    Playing for my place of worship qualifies, for me, as the first instance, and one that I would do for free.
  6. Snarf


    Jan 23, 2005
    Glen Cove, NY

    You'll mess up the other guy's gig. And you'll be continuing the trend against paying players. This is really bad for cats that make their living (or are about to try to make their living) playing and working in music. So basically you're hurting the other guy, and in a very distant sense hurting me. Please don't play for free. :)
  7. If you are a member, do it for free. If not, get paid.
  8. jgbass

    jgbass Guest

    Dec 17, 2003
    Hi Guys,

    Thanks for your valuable feedback.

    I am more leaning to asking for a check this time, mainly because this was originally set up as a paying gig for a bass player and money was allocated for this. I am 99.9% sure the pianist and the director as well as other staff are not doing their job for free either. I am not retired or independently wealthy either. I have only been given a few days' preparation and my time is limited. There are written charts I need to learn and I will not get the charts until tomorrow or later.

    I just do not want to set a precedent here that I play for free. The other musicians do not. Why should I? I think if I start off this way, it will continue. Maybe there will be some times in the future, for other events, when it would be more appropriate to give freely of my time, such as at a special dinner or something when everyone is giving of their time freely. That's different. I will deal with them as they occur. Also, I am not interested in taking over someone's gig either because I am a freebie and/or undercutting another's price. I think the director has a sense of loyalty to her existing musicians, and I do not want to mess with how things are done. I am more a pro musician, than a hobbyist, and I would not want anyone messing with my gig in way I could if I were in their shoes.

    So, this is how it stands right now. Yes, I understand service, and I really like this church, but there are some other realities here.

    I have until Sunday. I might change my mind, but this is it for now, at least for this gig, and I might express some of my reasoning to the director as well. Comments appreciated.
  9. Uncletoad


    May 6, 2003
    Columbus Ohio
    Proprietor Fifth Avenue Fret Shop. Technical Editor Bass Gear Magazine
    This is one of the very few places you'll see me suggesting prayer.

    At least part of this question is spiritual and must be decided based on your relationship with God. On one hand your choice is a reflection of that relationship given the gifts you have received, but that choice is at odds with the responsibilities to the professional fraternity of musicians of which you are a part.

    In this case the church is creating a spiritual problem by being ambiguous. It's a typical religious irresponsibility that makes me nuts.

    Meditation or prayer may clear out the confusion of what the right thing to do is.

    My musicianship is clearly a gift and it is good service to God to give it back without additional reward. I am however a professional and if somebody wants me to provide a professional service you bet they'll get a bill.

    Frankly I find part paid and part "gifted" musicians in the same church services a real pain in the ass and at odds with what everyone is doing there in the first place.

    If you are hiring a group of musicians to provide professional services, you should pay them all whether in a church or in a bar. If you are in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir then everyone plays as a service to God and nobody gets paid ever.

    In this case black and white thinking is exactly the right thing.
  10. jgbass

    jgbass Guest

    Dec 17, 2003

    Thanks for your comments. Yes, like some other things in life, decisions seem to have to be made not from the heartfelt perspective, but from a understanding of a particular institution and the people involved. Churches are no different, in fact, when it comes to church gigs, they can be more gnarly (sp?) than other gigs. I have experienced amazingly awful politics in other church situations, though not at this church at all at present, and, hopefully never will.

    And actually, making this decision in the perspective of not wanting to step on anyone's toes is at least emotionally intelligent.
  11. mcnaire2004


    Jan 17, 2006
    That is a toughey, the ask if you wanted to do it for free, in a church. But, 100 sounds like a good number to do for a while. Or just long enough to get money and not mess it up for someone.
  12. I don't want to get into the whole karma bit here, but if money was offered take it. I play in my church for free, and if the pastor starts on me about tithing, I show him what scale is for a church gig. He gets ticked when I do this, but, it reminds him that this is not something I do 'just because I play an instrument'. It is something I maybe gave up a wage to do. Makes him get off the kick about working on Sunday as well, because what am I doing?

    However, after all that, I play in my church because that is what I feel I was called to do, I do it as a service, not for payment, but if money was offered I wouldn't turn it down. Uncle Toad said it best. This is one time I would suggest prayer/meditation.

    By the way I am the only professional musician in my church presently.
  13. jgbass

    jgbass Guest

    Dec 17, 2003
    Yesterday I confirmed with a staff person that the pianist and the music director are in paid staff positions at the church. I also give a monthly tithe to this church and am planning on offering service in a different way. She also mentioned there are occasional players who play for service/free, but they are not regulars. So, my theory of playing for service generating more gigs does not seem to hold any weight.

    As said previously, I am still perfectly OK accepting payment for this particular gig. It may be different in the future in a different type of scenario. Besides, I have already spent an hour preparing the tunes, have to make a trip for xeroxing, and a page is missing from one piece that I am going to write my own little chart out. I will not assume there will be time tomorrow. Meanwhile, although I totally enjoy preparing for this, it is time that is being taken for preparation for my Monday upright bass lesson at school with its own set of demands of practicing hours a day, being a university performance major.
  14. So, Janette, How did things work out for you with this?
  15. jgbass

    jgbass Guest

    Dec 17, 2003
    Hey John,

    The gig went great. They liked my playing and the director liked that I laid out in some areas that were kind of iffy, because we did not have much rehearsal time to pull everything together, or at least I did not. I only really had a full day to prepare about 7 pieces. I did not have time to sit down and talk with the director. I would still like more information about how the music ministry functions. She was having a party at her house right after service for all the music and choir people, so I attended and we made plans to talk this week. Thanks for asking. Keep you posted.
  16. Send me the $100. That way me, you, and the church are satisfied.
  17. jgbass

    jgbass Guest

    Dec 17, 2003
    Haha, David, you will have to do your own gig :D


    I did have the converastion with the music director. I first asked for a little more information on how things are done there, and I did get the information I needed. I found out another regular is usually getting paid. I let her know that I wanted a check for the gig last Sunday. I also let her know that I would be more comfortable asking for a check for regular Sunday gigs, but, would maintain flexibility, and would also consider some special occasions in the church as service. She was fine with my decision. I also talked with her about being also an upright player and some ideas I have for incorporting upright playing into the service as well. Things are kind of up in the air regarding the other bass player and his sudden decision to not play last Sunday, but I assured her I was interested in being a part of the rotation. Being a member of this church and the fact that they like my bass playing might help here also.

    So, when I ended the phone call I felt great and I just know that I have made the right decision for me.
  18. Well, there you go! It all worked out well, glad to hear it. I switched to playin guitar in my service, because I felt it ludicris (not to put anyone down) that I have two other guitarists, and a piano player, and none of them can plunk out a melody. I had been doing it on the bass, and it finally got to me enough to take matters into my own hands, because somebody up there has got to know what they are doing. I am not trying to be egotisical, because it actually ticks me off.

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