Yer ‘aving a larf, ain’tcha???!!
HOT TOPIC AMONG LOCAL MUSICIANS: SHOULD YA EVER PLAY FER NOWT?
Absolutely NOT!! Are you kidding?!!
Especially as what most mean by ‘playing for nowt’ is actually paying to play!!
You have to buy and maintain your instruments, you have to get yourself to gigs and you probably buy drinks and maybe food when you’re there.
Next time, ask yerself, ‘Is everyone involved in this gig doing it on a non-profit-making basis? Is it free to get in? Is the landlord offering the booze at cost, or is he charging his regular prices? Is the PA system being paid for? Is there a paid band on the bill?’
And if others are being paid, what makes you worth nothing?
In my early experience, playing for nothing gets you treated as being valueless. Play for good money and you’ll have free drinks brought to your dressing room and asked what stage lighting you prefer.
Truth is, doing one free gig usually merely leads to an invite to do another free gig.
And don’t fall for the promise that doing it cheap one time will lead to proper pay next time as, no matter how well-intended that promise may be, it rarely pays off.
There was a club dahn Sarf famous for the audacity of its owners who ran ‘auditions’ every Saturday night. For several years punters paid for an evening featuring three different bands a week vainly auditioning for a gig that was never to happen.
WHAT ABOUT GETTING YER FIRST FOOT ON THE STAGE?
If you want to get started or build your craft, best get yerself down to an acoustic, or singer / songwriter session, or a folk club or blues club where everybody’s doing it as a fun hobby. You’ll get a sympathetic listen and perhaps some helpful advice.
WHAT ABOUT CHARITY GIGS?
This is a matter of individual conscience, of course. My general view is that charities prop up inadequate government – they ain’t really the answer – so I’m reluctant to do them.
I make my living from performing arts and the more people there are going around paying to play, or playing for nothing, the harder it will be for me and others like me to earn enough to pay their bills. Other professions do not seem to suffer from this.
I wonder, do the people who organise charity events write to plumbers and electricians to do work for nothing in the name of their charity? Perhaps they do, but I have never heard of it.
Occasionally I have played a charity gig if it has had a strong local connection and it’s in the afternoon and not interfering with any paid gigs. But, if I think a charity worthy enough to overcome my political objections, I’d rather just send them some money.
WHAT ABOUT ACOUSTIC SESSIONS?
These are fine when everybody’s in it together for the joy of the music, community and mutual support, like at the Full English, where the landlady and landlord, Lynne and Dave, are an equal part of the endeavor and show their appreciation of the music by providing food for the performers.
IS THERE A TIME WHEN PLAYING FOR NOTHING MIGHT BE OK?
Well, if you think that you need a bit of exposure to attract proper bookings, then perhaps a carefully staged appearance at a local venue might do the trick. But, to make that pay off, you will want PA provided, you will want your name on the publicity, you will need to send out invites to potential bookers, you will need someone taking photos and pref vids of your performance.
Even then, you should be paid expenses. And if the venue doesn’t think you’re worth even a fiver or a tenner or a few quid more, tell them **** off.