The "free gig" that wasn't...

Concrete Pete

Senior Member
Hey Crew,

This is a post for both upcoming and seasoned "giggers" that may feel despair concerning that "is it worth it all" feeling we might get now and then.

Last night was a "free" gig at a new location. "Free" as in "for free drinks and tips" only--no pay. (To get our foot in the door for possibly being the house band)

We started at 8:00 pm and were supposed to play 3 sets and knock off by 11:00 pm. That didn't happen-- the bar had tripled the traffic by 9:00, and the place was packed to the rafters. The crowd kept egging us on for more and more tunes, and longer sets. I noticed that our tip jar was getting pretty well taken care of, so we went on. And on. And on....

We knocked off at 1:15 am, and the bar owner said he was compelled to give us $50.00 each, since we brought in so much business. VERY cool. Our tip jar netted $61.00, and after we had finished packing out all our stuff, I went to the bar for "one last brew".
The bartender gave me one, and then set a beer pitcher next to it with $$$ in it, saying that this was the "bar's tip jar for the band!" Another $43.00 for us.

Now keep in mind that I had poured and finished a huge concrete slab earlier in the day, and in 42 degree weather. Every bone and joint in my body was "hurtin' for certain" after the day's work and I was NOT looking forward to having to doing the gig.

I actually felt no pain after the last set-- I think it was the "stress relief" from the joy of Rock N' Rollin', and the unforseen income! I slept like a baby last night, and woke up with a big smile this morning.

You just never know what can happen...

C. P.


Platinum Member
Every now and then it all works out. It makes up for all of those nights when it doesn't.
I've had just a few good things like that happen at what was supposed to be a no pay gig.
It does give you a better outlook on life in general!
I'm happy for you and your mates!


Gold Member
Almost every free gig I have done (and I'm talking even stuff that there is no tip jar) has paid ridiculous dividends for me. The first one in recent memory was playing a musical for free. It meant a week of rehearsals and shows, all for free. I met a guitarist/bassist/banjo player there who is one of the biggest guys in our local paid theatre scene, and he fell in love with my playing. I have been hired by him for numerous shows over the last two years, and made well over $3000 from those shows.

One of my bands is an acoustic duo, and we offered to play a free show for a fan of ours who has done a ton to support the band. Our intention was to play like a small holiday party at her home, but she asked us to play her company party. Turned out that it was for the Navy Depot in our town. We killed, and have already gotten asked to play 4 private parties (all paid), and been informed that we are going to be back for other company events (paid), and that the Commander will tell other divisions at the base to hire us as well.

It's always an amazing feeling how that happens.


Silver Member
That is really great that the bartenders had a tip jar for you as well. I always love playing in a bar when the bartenders realize what you are doing and how much you help each other out. I read in men's health magazine that the average beer lasts 7 minutes when loud music is playing, 14 minutes when quiet music is playing.

There is a bar I play at every once and a while and the bartenders actually book the bands and pay the bands out of their tips. It's an out of the way venue in a tourist spot down by the beach, and the bar is in a hotel and so you get free rooms do two nights in the bar and the bartenders pay the band. Really cool deal.


Platinum Member
I've always thought one should, when looking at different gig possibilities, take the one that has the most potential to take your career to the next step, rather than just the one that pays the most.

This story shows this is true, you took the gig not expecting much, if any money, and you got paid anyway, and looks like it might be a regular thing.


Silver Member
Missed a gig on a tour due to weather, ended up in this small town just about in the middle of nowhere. Open mic at the bar across the street from the motel, we hit it up. Has turned into 4 decent paying shows at 2 different places on later tours and is now a regular stop if we head that way.

You just never know.

keep it simple

Platinum Member
Great story CP and warms the heart. My band's just done it's first gig. A private party for 300 guests in a local hot gigging venue. Got paid £200 for the party (not exactly free but close to it) but got booked for the venue's annual outdoor summer beer & music festival. 1 x 1 hour set for £1,000!! Not bad for a under rehearsed first gig with zero expectations. Close to 150 of the audience also confirmed for our new year's gig & we're on a door + bar take percentage deal. That'll be some second gig & the venue's thrown in accomodation, drinks & food for the band + families! Whoohoo. All this in a town in the middle of nowhere with a reputation for growing apples, making cider & tractor jams. Merry Chrismas everyone.
Yeeeaaass! Awesome story. I love to hear that stuff.

Reminds me of a show my band did last year. We were scheduled to play a weekend, back to back Fri - Sat night for $300. The bar made so much money the owner gave us $700. We couldn't believe it.

Concrete Pete

Senior Member
Hey Crew,

The story just got better---

I just got back from SoCal a couple hours ago (I live in NorCal) and there was a message on my answering machine from the bar--the bar owner asked me if my band could be the "regular Friday night band" for $50 each and free drinks! He said if we're cool with it, we'll be booked into April.. WOOOHOOO!

Man, life is just too cool sometimes! Hope everyone had a GREAT Christmas, and will have a killer 2010!

Rock forever,
C. P.


Gold Member
I was offered to play a free gig with some jazzers that I jamming with last year. It was in the parking lot of a strip mall in front of a pet store for the spay and neuter festival. (This is a true story.) I turned it down and later learned that the gig got cancelled on them.