There are always going to be conversations that revolve around artists and performing free. Just the thought of it makes me cringe. If I ask you this question, “ Are you a professional musician?” and your answer is yes, why would you ever consider working free? Here’s an even tougher question. Truthfully look at your abilities and skill level then ask yourself, “Do you believe what you do is worth paying for?”
I made my sole living for 20 years as a full time professional vocalist. I know first hand that FREE will get you nowhere or worse, it will get you more “free” work. In all my years of performing, I watched countless other artists “performing free” or working for “exposure”. They never did change jobs from office clerk, accountant and whatever other “day gig” they held down. They never made the leap to professional musician.
Working and being paid for your talent is a mind set. You either believe in yourself and ignore what others say, or follow the advice of someone that has traveled the path before you. I followed the advice of the many musicians that built success before I began my own journey. They showed me the way. Now I choose to pay it forward.
The entire idea of working free is ludicrous. Now, if you are doing this for fun and or a hobby then do whatever you want with your free time. However, once you make the declaration that you are a professional then all bets are off. That is the day you set forth to be paid and respected for the service you are providing.
Try walking into a tax accountants office and ask them to do your tax return FREE for the exposure it will bring. After all, you meet hundreds of people on your gigs and can hand out their business cards every where you go. The potential for new clients is endless. See how far that will get you.
While we are discussing the notion of free, let’s look at giving your talent away for “the exposure.” I’m not sure if there is a phrase I despise more. If someone is telling you this is a good idea then run and run quickly in the opposite direction. I guarantee if you ask them to provide their services FREE for the “exposure”, they would never consider it and probably be baffled by concept. They are preying on your desperation, your dreams and hoping that you’ll buy into their sales pitch.
Trust me, the last I heard the mortgage company and the local Publix store are not accepting performances in exchange for payment. Our economy is based on fee-for-service. When your only income is music people should pay you for your skill and expertise. If they are not willing to pay for your services you definitely do not want to do business with them. Walk away no hard feelings and move on to greener pastures.
Lisa A. Leitl , Musician, Mentor and Songwriter
Create and Live Life Out loud!