Playing "For Exposure"

JustJames

Platinum Member
This article showed up recently.

Situation handled fantastically by the band concerned.

Given that writing is also a creative pursuit, I can't help wondering how the author would react to being asked to write for free.
 

MikeM

Platinum Member
This article showed up recently.

Situation handled fantastically by the band concerned.

Given that writing is also a creative pursuit, I can't help wondering how the author would react to being asked to write for free.
I wonder if the bands playing the late night talk shows or SNL get paid. I honestly don't know, but that's a lot of exposure and worth a lot just by itself. I've read bands who've played Ozfest did so for exposure, and actually paid for the opportunity. Again, that's a lot of exposure.

I can see smaller scale forces at work for locals doing food festivals and whatnot. Advertising isn't free and you'd be paying to run an ad in some local rag or on tv.
 

Odd-Arne Oseberg

Platinum Member
There should be a rule that says if there are more than 1000 people in the audience we've hit the magical number of satisfactory exposure and all tickets should be refunded.

I feel exposed just thinking about it.
 

JustJames

Platinum Member
The truth is that there can be value to exposure.

But in this case the band is sufficiently known (exposed) to be booking paid gigs, and when a band is regularly booking paid gigs, it had better be a DAMN impressive gig to take it instead of a paid gig.
 

Andy

Administrator
Staff member
Being offered "an advertising opportunity" is one thing, being "taken advantage of" is another.

Playing for exposure is a legitimate deal that's been around for decades, but it's a two way deal where you examine the promotional benefit to the upcoming act vs. expenditure / effort, & applies mostly to events with proven draw / kudos.

Being ripped off by those who grossly exaggerate the potential exposure just to evade reasonable artist remuneration, or worse, promise payment and not deliver, is a scar on our industry that should be resisted by all.
 
M

Matt Bo Eder

Guest
This article showed up recently.

Situation handled fantastically by the band concerned.

Given that writing is also a creative pursuit, I can't help wondering how the author would react to being asked to write for free.
What an idiotic article.

It's quite arrogant for someone to ask someone to play for free "for exposure" when obviously everyone else around them is getting paid. In this article, talking about this noodle festival thingy, were the foods people giving away meals for free? All the servers and bartenders I'm sure were paid. To assume that entertainers in general will do anything for exposure is insane. On the one hand, you want to get your art out there. On the other hand, you gotta eat too. You have a car to drive, rent to pay, bills to be on time with, just like everybody else.

This is why unions were created - so an actual living wage could be earned for what you do. And yes, everything you see on TV is paid for, musicians, stage hands, assistants. Especially when you're working on a show like SNL - where you spend six days preparing the 90 minute show that airs live on Saturday night. Nobody sees all that work that goes into putting on that show. The Musicians' Union weighs heavily on big shows like this. Even at Disney, the musicians are covered by the Union, as well as the Stagehands (which I'm a part of both). You don't have a show without us.

It irks me a bit when people get mad at musicians who won't do things for exposure. The basics of contract law are being thrown out the window in every instance. For example, someone asks you for something, and for consideration you get something. That's a contract. If you ask me for something, but don't give me any form of consideration other than "tons of people will see you", then I don't have to guarantee that what you see is any good. If you get to see anything at all.

If you want to keep it professional, then pay the talent coming to play. Just like if you want your car fixed correctly, you will pay the mechanic what he's worth.

I'm not surprised this still happens because musicians from all walks of life have been brainwashed into thinking they must do things for free to get started, and sometimes you do that, because you choose to. If someone is going to rope me into a set time and place to expose myself and entertain people on cue, then there's going to be some negotiation for payment. My drumsets, alone, didn't just come with my house, you know?
 

Woolwich

Silver Member
Since I started playing in pubs this argument has reared its head regularly and it still annoys me as much now as it did then.
The "problem" is that any creative endeavours are "fun" and therefore creative people get their enjoyment from having fun. The thing is though, creative endeavours are like swans, graceful from the surface of the lake upover, going like the clappers beneath the surface where no one can see what's happening. Add to that people either deliberately or unwittingly undervaluing what they do and the seeds are sown. I don't think it's any coincidence that gigs I've done in the past for free/to help someone out/for exposure, have tended to be the ones with a sour taste attached to them afterwards.
There's also the people who are at the risk of sounding rude, wannabes. They genuinely get their kicks from pretending they're Rock Stars and hold "after parties" when they've done a pub gig to two dozen people, yes I know people like that. I've learned to try to see things from other people's points of view and by doing that I know that my idea of being paid for what I do is as alien to them as their idea of playing for free is to me, that doesn't help but it keeps my blood pressure in check.
We all start playing for the enjoyment of it but as Matt said, his drum kits didn't come for free. I remember one local musician who always used to slag everyone else off for "doing it just for the money" (his words) and then a few weeks later you'd see him asking for people to drive him and his gear and his band to gigs preferably for free. He still bangs on about the great gigs he did when he was a kid and has created a myth around them and the home recordings he made 20 years ago, but to the best of my knowledge he hasn't been in a band for years now and was always struggling to hold a line up together when he was. Coincidence? I think not.

Would I play for exposure? If it genuinely WAS great exposure, if the organiser knew that we would add something to the event that other bands couldn't and wasn't simply working his way down a list waiting for someone to say yes, if the event had structure and was organised, if we were treated well and "paid in kind" e.g. given good parking spaces, helped with the load in, our other halves were offered drinks etc, then yes I might.

This has turned into a longer reply than I thought and there's still stuff I could mention but I'll finish with two things.
Support bands, I rarely go in to watch them when I've paid to see the headliner and I don't think I'm alone in doing this.
I'm in the process of building up a new band and we're aiming to gig once a month. We've contacted the pubs that we've played in the past in other bands and pubs that we know pay well, and we're asking and getting higher pay than we've ever done in the past. With limited gig slots we're not searching for last minute gigs and we're not taking anything that's offered simply to fill our diary because our diary only has 12 slots. Why would we possibly give one or more of those slots over for nothing?
 

Andy

Administrator
Staff member
My covers band plays for free maybe once a year - this year, not at all. The play for free gig has an audience of circa 6,000, & we're treated well, plus it's a charity raiser. Additionally, we get multiple good paying gig offers from it, so it's worth the effort on all levels.

We only play one other gig / year for a reduced fee, & that's simply because it's a very small venue, Sunday afternoon slot, & a very enjoyable experience for us in "stripped down" mode. The venue size dictates the economics - we recognise that, & it's our choice to play or not. All other venues pay on our sliding scale of venue size. If they don't want to pay our rate, then it's end of discussion - no exceptions.

Starting up with an originals act is a whole 'nuther deal, I recognise that, & have been there multiple times back in the day. Even though that scene is tough, there's still standards to uphold, & still choices to be made. Put simply, if you're good enough, it'll come good.
 

Woolwich

Silver Member
My covers band plays for free maybe once a year - this year, not at all. The play for free gig has an audience of circa 6,000, & we're treated well, plus it's a charity raiser. Additionally, we get multiple good paying gig offers from it, so it's worth the effort on all levels.

We only play one other gig / year for a reduced fee, & that's simply because it's a very small venue, Sunday afternoon slot, & a very enjoyable experience for us in "stripped down" mode. The venue size dictates the economics - we recognise that, & it's our choice to play or not. All other venues pay on our sliding scale of venue size. If they don't want to pay our rate, then it's end of discussion - no exceptions.

Starting up with an originals act is a whole 'nuther deal, I recognise that, & have been there multiple times back in the day. Even though that scene is tough, there's still standards to uphold, & still choices to be made. Put simply, if you're good enough, it'll come good.
Exactly.

I think of being in an originals band as being a journey and not a destination. Very few originals bands get to their chosen destination (fame, success, a career) so a good approach is to enjoy the journey and get what you can/want out of it. That may or may not involve money and there's a multitude of great stories out there that don't involve getting paid as the punchline, but I can look back at the ineffective dabble I had on the originals scene and know that no one took advantage of me and I always came away with a couple of quid in my pocket.
 
J

JohnoWorld

Guest
Since I exited the regular gig scene about 10 years ago, I often consider this, yet my opinion is always the same:

I have never been paid for any gig that i have done, large or small, crap or brilliant, I grew up in an age where it was accepted that you didn't get paid. All the money went to either the promoter or the venue. If you didn't have someone to beat the shit out of them, or did it yourself, you stood no chance of getting paid. Then you find out that the venue you regularly play at was being fleeced by the owner, who then did a runner, and it still on the run now.

These days, people use the "charity" label to try and con you out of your wages. It's the same with comedians, why should they work for free when everyone else at the venue isn't? If they are the reason people go to these venues then they should be paid for it.

However, these days, the issue is that you have to be a politically correct band. You have to be on social networks, not take drugs,, love your mother, love children, give to charity, have to have an online presence, connect with your fans and all that bullshit.

So it's basically a schmoozing exercise to be successful, which is so many shades of wrong it's like working in a corporate, the very antithesis of what a rock band should be.
 

TheElectricCompany

Senior Member
This author is an idiot and her opinion is terrible. She believes people who go to school or who work in the trade industry are making a "real" sacrifice because they're paying for their education or work, but does she not have the brain to realize being a musician isn't free? Lessons, your instrument and its upkeep, transportation, rehearsal space, studio time, marketing, time and more time devoted to your craft. A band doesn't just show up to a gig with a list of songs they learned in their spare time and then give it a whirl. What a fucking idiot.
 
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TheElectricCompany

Senior Member
And let's say a band performs regularly for free and they build up a significant following while doing so. At what point does someone say they've earned the right to be paid? Maybe they've played at a venue that holds 500 people multiple times and it's sold out every time. When a venue comes along that seats 1,000 people, what's to stop them from saying that because their venue is so much larger, the band should play for free in recognition of the wonderful opportunity? See how stupid that is?
 

Woolwich

Silver Member
This author is an idiot and her opinion is terrible. She believe people who go to school or who work in the trade industry are making a "real" sacrifice because they're paying for their education or work, but does she not have the brain to realize being a musician isn't free? Lessons, your instrument and its upkeep, transportation, rehearsal space, studio time, marketing, time and more time devoted to your craft. A band doesn't just show up to a gig with a list of songs they learned in their spare time and then give it a whirl. What a fucking idiot.
It puts me in mind of an occasion a couple of years back when I got so annoyed at a discussion unrolling on Facebook that I sat down with a calculator and did some maths. I didn't take any past costs, equipment costs or time into account, all I did was work out on a snapshot basis how much I was spending in terms of gigging and rehearsing monthly on fuel, road tolls, drum sticks, rehearsal space and poster printing. After subtracting it from my average monthly gig money it turned out that I was working for something like £8 a gig. Oh yes, really in it for the money. In fact what it shows is that when a band plays for free they actually are losing money. In fact it showed that if I broke a couple of pairs of sticks in a month I was losing money!!!
 

Woolwich

Silver Member
Out of devilment I just clicked to vote within the story.
It seems that 93.9% of the readers who've voted entirely disagree with the author's point of view and think that bands should NOT play for free at gigs where they are promised exposure. And this doesn't even take into account that no one can ever "guarantee" exposure or anything else, or how good the promised exposure is. I was on holiday in the summer and there was a band playing to thousands of people from a bandstand in the middle of a weekly nigh time market. It's just a shame that none of us were paying any attention.
 

KamaK

Platinum Member
I wonder if the bands playing the late night talk shows or SNL get paid.
My guess,

The band is paid by their label via contract, which goes directly into paying their multi million dollar debt to the label. If the label is owned by the same multinational media conglomerate as the show, the corp will take some money out of one pocket and put it in another. The only person who ever really seems to make money playing SNL/LateShow is Kenny Aronoff.
 
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octatonic

Senior Member
I have made it known to various people the the only time I 'play for exposure' is when I can do the gig naked from the waist down.

You want exposure- you are getting exposure.
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
The "exposure card" can be very valuable, every situation and player is of course different. The problem is that the people doing the hiring often over-estimate/represent the value of the exposure. It may be due to an unrealistic assessment of the gig and its audience, but all too often it's a deliberate tactic.

Ultimately, it's up to the band/musician to decide if the exposure potential has any value, and that's a tough call sometimes. A couple of my bands have done some exposure gigs, although my arrangement is that I am paid for my services, so I'm personally not affected, at least not immediately. For example, if the band does so many exposure gigs that my fee becomes too much money out of pocket, they may seek another drummer... and then I get nothing.

On the other hand, I would absolutely work for free in certain situations, because the exposure would be extremely valuable. For example, if asked, I would tour with McCartney for free, because that would lead to other high-profile, well-paying tours (as long as Paul keeps his mouth shut about me playing for free!)

Frank Zappa was notorious for crying "exposure" with his players salaries, although at least he did pay them. Would we really know about Vinnie, Terry, and Steve Vai had they not passed through Zappa's camp? Then again, there are MANY of his players who disappeared into obscurity, it really depends on the individual and how well they were able to capitalize on their tenure.

Each situation and player is different.

Bermuda
 
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