I read an article on CDBaby about a “Cultural Disdain for Musicians” and it reminded me of a situation I was in a few years back. Thought I'd share.
A local bar owner called me up and asked me if I would be interested in playing for a benefit. I asked for the details and then shot him a price.
After shooting him the price he says, “You did hear when I said it was a benefit right?” Ahhhh, yes. Yes I did.”
Basically he implied that I should play for free to which I replied, “Will drinks and food at your bar be provided for free during the benefit? And will your bartenders be working for free?” Not surprisingly he replied no to both questions.
Why should the band be expected to play for free? Sure we are helping the overall awareness of the cause – which in a majority of cases I am more than happy to do. BUT at the same time, we are providing a service that is helping to put money into the bar owners pockets.
It is kind of a shitty position to be in. On one hand I want to help out the cause but on the other hand I can't allow myself and my bandmates to get jacked by the venue either.
This is what I do now.
Understanding that every situation is different, basically the way I handle this now is, I charge a fee and once the gig is complete, and we are paid, I make a donation to the cause.
And for the record, this is not something that is specific to musicians and bands, I have friends and family in other businesses – like beer distributors and printing companies – who get A LOT more of the same requests every day.
What do you think? Did I do the right thing? If not how would you handle it?