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Playing free

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by Paulabass, Dec 19, 2017.

  1. Paulabass


    Sep 18, 2017
    Anybody that tells you playing free is great for exposure is just a creep who wants a free band.
    I play free for 2 or 3 LEGITIMATE charity events, as part of my payback for living thru another year.
    I play free if my sister asks me to bash out a tune at a party.
    Everyone else can pay me.
    Ask a bar owner to bring free food to your next party 'for exposure'.
  2. Tony In Philly

    Tony In Philly Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Oct 25, 2007
    Filthydelphia, USA
    When you play for free for "exposure", you have just exposed to the world that you're willing to play for free.

    That said, charity gigs are a whole different thing and shouldn't, as you stated, get lumped in with cheapskates who expect free bands.
    Alik, Wisebass, Wfrance3 and 17 others like this.
  3. el murdoque

    el murdoque

    Mar 10, 2013
    yes, that seems like the normal approach.

    Basically, you never play for free, unless you're not too bright.
    Sometimes it's just not money you receive as compensation.
    If strategically planned and placed, some gigs for 'exposure' are worth more than a few bucks.
    When you play in an empty bar for the regular, drunk patrons, the exposure is not worth much.
    When you play an event where people that book bands themselves are present and you put
    up a good show it's something else entirely.
    When you play for charity, you gain karma points.
    When you play for your sister, It is because she would (and has, and will) do things for you for free that usually cost money, too.
    Alik, chip134, dbsfgyd1 and 6 others like this.
  4. Seanto


    Dec 29, 2005
    I'll say this topic has been beaten to death around here. Others here have actually convinced that playing for free is sometimes a good idea if you are in an originals band and really do need that exposure. For the more commodity type bands, usually a bad move.
  5. Paulabass


    Sep 18, 2017
    'If strategically planned and placed, some gigs for 'exposure' are worth more than a few bucks.'
    Sure, an opening shot at a big showcase, go for it.
    In a bar- nope. Amazing how few record company folks will see you at Moe's tavern.
    Twobass, Nashrakh, Lvjoebass and 3 others like this.
  6. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Supporting Member

    but not since september! ;)

    Paulabass : i appreciate your POV (stated and implied!). however, while i believe musicians (real ones) should always be compensated, the type of compensation only needs to satisfy the 'payer' and 'payee'. lots of folks on TB call themselves "pro" just because they get paid some $ for doing something they would do anyway. and what about the group that says: "if i didn't get paid i'd hang it up...or i'd only play for my own enjoyment in my house/bedroom." probably a lot of BS! if you're making good money (enough to support yourself and your loved ones) for a living, you're probably a pro.

    el murdoque seems to have it right (regarding compensation), IMO.

    my personal experience includes decades of full-time playing --- for a living! i'm retired now = more choices re: compensation!
  7. Biggbass


    Dec 14, 2011
    Planet Earth
    If you compare local band wages paid today for the average weekend warrior band playing pubs and such, versus what we were being paid for playing similar gigs 3 decades ago, and factor in inflation, we're playing for less wages now than we were then...in some cases the negative earnings profile adds up to free, in comparison, even if we get paid. But as far as exposure gigs, I put the kybosh on that from day one.
  8. MrLenny1


    Jan 17, 2009
    Legit benefit gigs I'll do for free.
    All others no way.
    I have spent a lot of time and money learning
    my skill and I only play for money.
    Rip Van Dan likes this.
  9. Wanker_Joe


    Sep 26, 2017
    If it weren't for the odd free gig and showcase my highly niche originals band would get zero gigs. Playing free isn't always a bad thing. Though on some level the bar owners get what they pay for...
    G Aichele and 3Liter like this.
  10. GBBSbassist

    GBBSbassist I actually play more guitar... Supporting Member

    Nov 23, 2010
    Unfortunately for anyone who agrees with you, there are countless bands out there that will in fact play for free.
    elgecko likes this.
  11. Paulabass


    Sep 18, 2017
    In 1978 I could pay the rent, and eat, with a tiny bit of discretionary income- from being a bar band.
    Now, it pays my bass maintenance. Yes, if you look at it your way, most of us are playing free. And yes, that sux!
  12. As far as I'm concerned, if the venue is making a profit either through door fees, the 600% mark-up on alcohol, or however, they should be able to throw the band a bone.

    My Top 40 cover band doesn't need exposure. We give our target audience what it wants, popular pop rock dance funk singalong covers. It's a no-brainer. Patrons and guests are willing to pay $6.00 for a beer and maybe have a plate of food in order to stay in the room and party.

    If my band holds them in the room and there is a profit, venue needs to factor a band fee into that profit. Pay me. I boiled it down to a bottom line of $75.00 a member (X6) for what could amount to an eight-hour day if we bring P.A. and lights. That's a mere $450.00. Any venue that can't come up with that modest fee isn't worth my time, and it's probably a pretty sketchy unpopular dump as well.

    Indeed, all the venues that tried to low-ball me below my bottom line was a hole in the earth that smelled like an outhouse. The only thing "exposed" from playing places like that is how desperate the band is for a stage.

    Even if you are in an originals band, if the bar is making money off of your efforts, you deserve at least a token of their appreciation. $20.00 each puts a little gas back in the tank and is more respectful than nothing.
    bolophonic likes this.
  13. DirtDog


    Jun 7, 2002
    The Deep North
    Yep - totally beaten to death five times over.

    The acceptable response when being asked to play for exposure is: “you can die from exposure, you know”. :D
  14. five7

    five7 Supporting Member

    Dec 5, 2009
    play for free would be great, better than paying to play.
  15. basspraiser

    basspraiser Jammin for the Lamb! Supporting Member

    Dec 8, 2006
    Chicago - NW Burbs
    I play for free every week..... And don't mind it....I actually love it.....

    Actually... It's at church though... So....

    Alik, Mktrat, Tony B. Filthy and 3 others like this.
  16. Acoop


    Feb 21, 2012
    Playing free is a choice, and nothing more. You want to do it then do it but, don't be surprised when you play free the rest of your life and complain before your old that there's no money in music.
    DirtDog likes this.
  17. interp

    interp Supporting Member

    Apr 14, 2005
    Garmisch, Germany
    When I was 16 in the late 60s I was in the musicians union, played every weekend with my mates and we made $25-30 per 3-hour gig. That’s about $175-200 in today’s money. And we NEVER played bars, only teen centers, school dances, etc.

    Given that background, playing for under $100, much less for free, for anyone who is making money from my performance is particularly abhorrent to me.

    Edit: That’s $25-30 PER PERSON, after union dues.
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2017
    Conkal and pbassjbass like this.
  18. Nick von Nick

    Nick von Nick Supporting Member

    Oct 29, 2014
    Upstate NY
    I've played a lot of fill-in gigs for weddings, pit orchestras, punk shows, etc., and it has always been a nice bonus to get paid. However, because I work nine-to-five in IT during the week, I've never relied on gigs for money. I simply do not expect it, even though I can hold my own with some of the best musicians in my area. I'll concede that this isn't always beneficial to everyone. It does make me part of the greater problem on many levels...

    That said, I've played plenty of gigs where there wasn't any monetary compensation (nor would there be). It never bothers me because these gigs are almost always on my terms and put me in situtations where I will challenge myself and improve as a musician. When I was in the conservatory at Ithaca College, I had very few chances to play with other musicians. My advising professor expected me to learn everything in the practice room. I transferred programs after one year. And now, while that certainly shaped my expectations, being onstage is sometimes all I need anymore.

    Music is ephemeral and experiential when you play live, but by creating a dialog between myself and my bandmates or my audience, I feel like I gain something valuable in itself. Ultimately, my greatest reward comes when I see people dancing to the pulse I generate, when something I create in a single moment takes them away from whatever misery or challenges they face and brings them to a plane of utter elation. I once had a fellow in the audience run up to the stage after a song, spread his arms widely in praise, and shout, "Oh my God, that bass!!!"

    That's what it's all about.
    G Aichele, rllefebv and HolmeBass like this.
  19. My understanding, according to your belief system, is that there is a reward, and it is being stored in a special place for you. ;)
    scuzzy, jam.majors and HolmeBass like this.
  20. EdwardofHuncote

    EdwardofHuncote I Still Dream of Jeannie Supporting Member

    Aug 21, 2013
    Southwest Virginia
    I always end up playing for free... it's hauling around gear and putting up with idiots and slackers I get paid for. :D

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