Read below to find out more about this opportunity…
It was only recently that someone posted a similar caption to our title on an online music forum. The post was met with a wave of musicians very unhappy at the prospect of performing for free. The argument that “exposure does not pay my bills” is a valid one, and we very rarely offer gigs to cover bands without expecting to pay a fee. At the same time, could it be that some gigs are actually worth performing for exposure? The post and comments got us thinking.
After filtering through the comments on the post, it became clear that the gig advertised was a small casual charity event close to the organisers’ heart. They did not mean to upset or offend any musicians but genuinely thought that it may be a great opportunity for a band to perform. Although more information could have been given in the post to explain the situation, it seems that some musicians, without finding out any further information, began to react negatively and fire insults at the concept of the suggestion. All proceeds went towards the charity and staff members donated their wages. And so, what could have been a very positive thing for a band became sour.
What if the gig posed a nice little opportunity for musicians just wanting to perform as a bit of fun? If the gig is truly an amateur event as opposed to work offered to professionals, then why shouldn’t it be offered as free for a band to enjoy? This said if the event is of a professional nature and you are not aiming to become a pro musician, then please do not accept the gig, as you will be undercutting pro musicians and expected to perform at a professional standard.
It may also provide a perfect opportunity for a new band to gain live experience in order to build confidence and get to grips with what to expect working as a pro musician. But, will it provide good exposure? No, seriously check that it will and even then, is there going to be any industry professionals attending or a chance to significantly increase your fan base? If not, then try to negotiate a fee and if you can’t then don’t do it. If yes, then if you are sure, the exposure may benefit the band and be worth doing.
What if the event is for a charity you actively wish to support? We would always encourage a fee to be agreed that could perhaps be donated back to the charity if possible. As a musician you should be in control of the amount you are willing to give back. If you do not want to support the charity in question, then you can politely refuse. Musicians Union offers great advice about how to go about this.
It is also so important that those that are looking to put on gigs do not expect covers bands to just perform for exposure or beer tokens. It seems that frustration stems from the fact that musicians are undervalued when exposure is put forward as the main selling point of a gig. Bands deserve to be paid for their performances, they put in hard work and a lot of practice and effort perfecting their sets for everyone to enjoy. And for some, it is a full time career, so payment in the form of money is essential. So when an advert for a gig crops up advertising ‘no pay great exposure,’ it is understandable that hard working musicians get frustrated and react negatively to these ads. Most live music venues (all the ones we work with) are more than happy to pay bands fairly and that is fantastic. But based on the charity situation mentioned above, it is always worth checking the details before responding negatively; it may just be for a cause that you wish to support or a positive experience for a new band lacking live experience and looking to find their feet in the industry.
Responsibility does lie in both courts and by working together and not taking any musician or venue for granted then live music can thrive and provide great opportunities for everyone!