Just had that proverbial "playing for exposure" offer

A J

Active Member
This evening, I was having a polite conversation with a local businessman. He floated the idea of my band "playing for exposure" at his venue. I was polite and professional. I didn't laugh out loud and maintained my composure.

I politely explained that my band typically charges between $600 and $1,500 per gig but we are happy to perform charity gigs for a deserving non-profit.

His venue is definitely a "FOR-PROFIT" venue. Nope. We ain't doing that!

After all these years I still find in kind of humorous that people think "playing for exposure" is a legitimate. (It's not.)
 

Mediocrefunkybeat

Platinum Member
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They'll pay the bar staff, they'll pay the security. They'll pay the manager, they'll pay the catering. They'll pay the sound technicians and they'll pay the cleaners. But they won't play the people that made them all come together in the first place on the premise that you'll play 'for the love of it'. Boils my piss.
 
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Odd-Arne Oseberg

Platinum Member
It actually happened to me recently, as well.

More common is some random local person calling me up offering probably what they think is fair and I tell them my usual rate is 5-10x that.

There are plenty of people who will do it though and guys like the on mentioned above usually end up with a teenage band who will do it for pizza and ice cream.

This is an old discussion and these attitudes are all over the place still. The idea that this is your job, how you make a living, doesn't always compute.
 

PorkPieGuy

Platinum Member
I’ve gotten this a lot over the years just like everyone else has. My favorite one was this:

In a band of my past, a member’s father-in-law wanted us to play at his car dealership for free. On top of that, after we played for like an hour, he wanted us to leave the PA and a microphone behind to be picked up at closing time. This was a high-end car dealership, and the guy is a multimillionaire.

Moron.
 

River19

Senior Member
A lot of that in my younger years......college band dealt with that a lot. Admittedly we didn't care, we were playing for the party and because Rock N Roll!!! Lol. But seriously, we would play anywhere we could like everyone else did. I would say 1/3 of gigs were paid (but not well) and the rest were parties for friends.

We also said yes to a few basically free offers that were somewhat legit "for exposure" for large national artists on tour locally. Free beer and food tickets speak volumes to a 20 year old.......

As I move along in playing and had a job, car, bills etc. we always got paid or we didn't show up. You have to know your worth. The more musicians that say "no" and politely educate the "free exposure offerer" the better off we are.

In 2022, spend that 2-3hrs making a video for You Tube/Insta/Tik Tok and then we will talk about "exposure".......can that dude with the local venue promise you 10K-1M sets of eyes like those channels? lol
 

Andy

Administrator
Staff member
the guy is a multimillionaire.
Probably why he’s a multi millionaire :confused:

My band has a strict 2 charity gigs / year policy, & even then, we charge $500 running expenses + travelling if over 25 miles. Free / no charge is effectively pay to play, & there’s no way we’ll do that.

Very very occasionally we offer a reduced first gig rate if we believe there’s provable further work potential at our usual rates.
 

mikyok

Platinum Member
I always ask if they've ever offered to pay a tradesman in exposure for working unsociable hours. You pay nothing and you'll get mediocre musicians. The race to the bottom has no shortage of takers when it comes to desperate bands.

As for charity gigs, I definitely don't do them for nothing. I've seen how charity fundraisers work, just a big tax dodge for rich folk. We get paid in full when we play them.

I played New Years Eve just gone for free it was a great laugh. My mate runs the pub and is a classical pianist so we all had a big jam night. Big difference is I choose when I give my time for free not others.
 

Mediocrefunkybeat

Platinum Member
I used to work for a mental health charity and they were great. Definitely not money-pinching idiots and it was demonstrable how much went back to the services we provided. Quite lean too and we represented excellent value for money. Everyone assumes they're a national charity but they're actually a network of small, independently-run local charities with a central office that provides oversight.

Unfortunately the local commissioner knew somebody that wanted to run competing services. So they cut our budget, despite us getting 200% of most of our performance targets as an organisation.

Most larger charities are structurally inefficient and are essentially businesses like everything else. The only large charity I openly support are the RNLI. So really, that means I'd only realistically 'play for free' for two charities. And even then, I wouldn't pay anything out of pocket.
 

BobC

Member
We've all heard that: "It's great exposure." Shove it up your ass. We get paid, like any other professional you might hire.

I use the plumber explanation: "If you had leaky pipes, you'd hire a master plumber. Do you pay him? Well, we're master musicians who have worked at our craft all our lives. You have to pay us too."

I'll never forget this idiot who opened a restaurant/bar on Route 206 in Sandyston, NJ around 1985. Our new band was just starting out and we needed gigs, so I approached the owner, a clueless cop from Sparta, NJ named Jim Geff.... He wanted us to come in one weeknight for an "audition." I told him we didn't do auditions and gave him a live tape of the band. He still wanted us to come in. I gave him a videotape. He still wanted us to come in and play for free. I told him no thanks and goodbye.

His place was called, "JImmy G's, The Happening 'In' Place To Be." He installed awful, outdated disco lighting. He was out of business within six months. I laughed.

What goes around, comes around.
 
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Woolwich

Silver Member
In my experience, and yours may be different, people who organise charity gigs no matter how well intentioned they are often don't have a clue about how to organise a gig. Obvious things we've learned as band members such as arrival time, power sockets, required space etc aren't on their radar and most charity gigs I've performed have been more "challenging" than normal pub gigs.
I learned after one particularly unsavoury event many years ago in which a local theatre basically ripped off a charity that if I genuinely care about a cause I'd get more pleasure and raise more money by simply donating the fee from a standard gig rather than have the headache of organising a standalone event.
As for exposure I'd ask myself if my diary is healthy looking or full of gaps. If the former then will that promise of exposure actually change anything, if the latter....will that promise of exposure actually change anything!!
 

BruceW

Senior Member
The charity stuff we do (and we used to it a few times a year before Covid) are small scale, local benefits for some specific person or family, usually hit by serious illness. We will typically know someone involved in putting it on, it's a Sunday afternoon (so we don't lose paying gig time), someone backlines it, so no set up or tear down. Do one set, help some people out. Makes a big impact for some people in a really tough spot.

We also get to rub elbows with other area musicians, who we usually know and are friends with. It's really a community effort. Those sorts of benefits are worthy uses of my time.

Exposure gigs? Heh heh. Yeah, that's...comical...sort of. No thanks.
 

A J

Active Member
My band is scheduled to play an upcoming charity gig. Frankly, I'm not looking forward to it. We will be outside, in the sun, on an uncovered stage for 4 hours.

Frankly, I actually miss my days of playing bars. Yeah, they were dirty, unsafe and rowdy but we always got paid, it was always fun, and the venue would always ensure the band got unlimited drinks (mostly diet pepsi with the occasional shot of bourbon).
 

A J

Active Member
We've all heard that: "It's great exposure." Shove it up your ass. We get paid, like any other professional you might hire.

I use the plumber ploy: "If you had leaky pipes, you'd hire a master plumber. Do you pay him? Well, we're master musicians who have worked at our craft all our lives. You have to pay us too."

I'll never forget this idiot who opened a restaurant/bar on Route 206 in Sandyston, NJ around 1985. Our new band was just starting out and we needed gigs, so I approached the owner, a clueless cop from Sparta, NJ named Jim Geffken. He wanted us to come in one weeknight for an "audition." I told him we didn't do auditions and gave him a live tape of the band. He still wanted us to come in. I gave him a videotape. He still wanted us to come in and play for free. I told him no thanks and goodbye.

His place was called, "JImmy G's, The Happening 'In' Place To Be." He installed disco lighting. He was out of business within six months. I laughed.
What goes around, comes around.

Yep. I've seen that sort of thing before many times. "We're the best venue in town. You better accept what we give you or you'll never play in this town again." Two clubs who used that line on us were out of business within 6 months as well.
 

No Way Jose

Silver Member
I might occasionally play for free if I'm in the mood. That's only for a few songs though.
 
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someguy01

Platinum Member
I'm a hobbyist so this isn't an issue in regards to drumming, but everyone seems to think that mechanics will happily dole out free advice anytime and maybe fix something for free "because we're friends".
Not a chance.
You pay musicians for their skills, you pay technicians for our expertise and knowledge. I've never seen someone ask a doctor for free medical advice "because we're friends" nope, they happily pay for that expert knowledge.
Vehicles and equipment are as complex as some avant garde jazz, it takes skills that most people don't have to perform these things. Stop thinking it'll be free "because we're friends" or "I'll plug your business/band" i.e the aforementioned exposure.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry" - Administrator
Staff member
The only reason playing for exposure is a thing...is because we set it up that way by virtue of non resistance to the offers. We totally brought this on ourselves, as a whole. The only way to reverse that is to stop playing free. It's never too late to reverse that course.

One small step for a band, (playing free), one giant leap backwards for band-kind.
 

JimmyM

Gold Member
Exposure…like playing some cheap bar or some city arts festival at 9 in the morning is the kickstart your band needs…lol!
 

Mediocrefunkybeat

Platinum Member
I'm a hobbyist so this isn't an issue in regards to drumming, but everyone seems to think that mechanics will happily dole out free advice anytime and maybe fix something for free "because we're friends".
Not a chance.
You pay musicians for their skills, you pay technicians for our expertise and knowledge. I've never seen someone ask a doctor for free medical advice "because we're friends" nope, they happily pay for that expert knowledge.
Vehicles and equipment are as complex as some avant garde jazz, it takes skills that most people don't have to perform these things. Stop thinking it'll be free "because we're friends" or "I'll plug your business/band" i.e the aforementioned exposure.

On that note, I generally only fix computers for immediate family members. I'm not fixing my mate's computer because nothing good will come of it and if I mess it up, it's even worse. I get paid to do it for 40+ hours a week, it's not something I really want to be doing in my free time. Unless it's something profoundly interesting like a BBC Micro (thinking about the Model B I have in the loft now).
 
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