“Hey, you will get publicity and you’ll make more social media friends. We will even give each band member two free drinks with pizza. And you can sell your merch; it’ll be great exposure, great experience,” says the ego-inflated club owner or manager.  The only real thing a venue/festival cares about is making money, selling tickets or booze.  At the end of the night almost everyone gets money; the bar owner is making money off the patrons; the venue is making money off your musical performance and you; the band is getting screwed. You want to play for free or do you want paid? Do not be afraid to ask, especially if your family and friends attend the show. Your friends or family, when they purchase drinks, are paying the venue to hear your band play at your own expense. When your band makes and sends out those little flyers, posts information all over social media, your band has become a FREE MARKETING AGENCY for the venue, again at your expense. Track the data and use it as a bargaining chip to show the venue you care.

We are not talking about fundraisers or charitable shows to raise money for a cause. We are talking about venues, festival organizers; the venue, lights, vendors, liquor licenses, insurance, stage equipment, hired employees, they all get paid; but not the band when you play for free, over and over.

When Your Band Plays for Free - Your Band Pays to Play

No Compensation = Exploitation

With most legit business owners there is a line item, a budget for music or entertainment. Festivals often get big Corporate Sponsorships based off the live performing musical talent, bands very often do not get paid for playing their music. When a band stops the music—it alters the entire organization. Make the festival owners PAY. Know your PERFORMING RIGHTS!

Playing for FREE is expensive. The venue does not care how long you have practiced, how expensive the equipment or the cost of your overhead expenses.  In reality, the combined cost of your services, time, resources, talent and expenses means that you’ve paid to play.  The bar owner is making all the money. When a band gives a 30+ minute performance, the average bar sells 100 drinks, about $900.00 in general revenue. PROPRIETORS: SHOULD ALWAYS PAY THE BAND, and on top of that, offer the band comp drinks and comp food. If you are a band that has given four (4) free shows, on average, you made the venue $4,000.00 and you did it at the bands own expense. These figures equate to only 100 total drinks sold by the venue per show, on average. **

It is the Love of Music Magazine’s® goal to help initiate a dialogue of always getting paid for your talent.  Below are tips for dealing with the issues.

•  Boycott venues who ask and/or the bands that constantly play for free.

•  Gather like-minded musicians into a common goal - a network of getting paid for shows at all levels.  Constant FREE performances DEVALUE the entire music scene from top to bottom. Look around.

•  Local collective bargaining with venues that demand freeshows will help decide upon a scale for performing.

•  Some venues really are just scraping by but they are open for business and they need to PAY YOU. Venues DISRESPECT musicians by asking-demanding bands play for free.

•  Truly, if your band has nothing to sell, then go and play for free, for the art of playing, the emotional high. Let your payment - your currency - be the applause.

•  Your band get invitations to a big yearly festival,  celebration or concert series? Asked to perform FREE?  The entire enterprise, the “three-day festival” is making money off the performances. The manage-ment, festival owners, the festival board get paid. Some festivals get grants or government  funding and bands are performing FOR  FREE.  Keep this in mind while negotiating.

• Start a central bank on social media “Expose the Exploiters, We don’t play for FREE.” Boycott the Venues and Bands that demand a FREE performance or those who provide it.

•  Know your Performing Rights.

Even a modest payment from the venue keeps band members from spending their own hard-earned cash to just play out. At least get your gas money, your overnight stay, your food and drink paid for by the venue.  Venues are making money off your band’s performance and covering their expenses. At least cover yours.

Is your time worth nothing?  Is gas free? 
Are all those years of practice worth nothing to perform live?
Conversations with 20+ experienced St. Louis area musical acts.

Wayne Bell LOMM Reports

Sixty plus years of combined experience and your band plays for FREE?