If you're a musician, I think you should make a commitment to yourself that you will NEVER play for Free again.
- If you're a singer-songwriter, NEVER play for Free
- If you're a writer, NEVER write for Free
- If you're a consultant, NEVER give your advice away for Free
- If you're an engineer, NEVER record an artist for Free
The problem with the word "Free" is that a lot of us define the opposite of "Free" as "Money"
- I have a friend who let people download his latest album on his website without having to pay for it. All you had to do was sign up for his mailing list. I don't think he gave away his album away for Free.
- I know of a younger musician out of college that convinced a recording studio to let him clean up, wrap cables and make coffee for artists without the studio paying him. I don't think he was working for Free.
- I know a singer-songwriter who constantly gets asked to perform without being compensated. They don't want to spend money so they'll make up crap like "it's a great experience" or "It'll be good networking". They're not truly looking to add value to him, just take, and he rightfully turns them down every-time. A few months ago, He was offered a spot to play on "TheRockBoat" [a music filled cruise going out of New Orleans with amazing artists and bands performing on board during the trip]. Their roster was already fully booked with the other bands by that point so they couldn't pay him, but they extended an invite, would let him sell his own merch and bring his wife. He accepted and I don't think he performed for Free.
What I'm not saying, is that you should only do things if you're getting something out of it.
It's a mindset shift of how we view the world, opening our eyes to hidden opportunities and realizing there is value outside of financial compensation.
The artist that 'gave his album away for free' now has more people showing up to his shows in town than anyone else I know. The studio-musician friend now owns his own studio and is a sought after engineer. And the singer-songwriter that played the cruise made a ton of ACTUALLY beneficial connections, new relationships and new fans. (He was asked to play the same gig next year as a featured artist WITH financial compensation).
Extended Thoughts: Ever say a word in repetition so much that you start thinking it sounds funny? That's what my brain and eyes are doing from typing the word "free" a bajillion times. Free... is that even a word? did I misspell it? Also, I don't want to overlook the thought of maybe, if we're playing a gig for the pure enjoyment of the music and people, we get something back from it. Maybe, if we volunteer our time out of generosity or for a good cause... we get something out of it. Constantly looking at the world as "what do I get in return" puts me in a negative spot fast. I'm constantly looking for balance. Sometimes just the enjoyment of making fun music with quality people is the return we're getting out of it. Also: If you're someone in the position of hiring: NEVER ask someone to play for free again. NEVER. Honestly and selflessly look at the situation from their perspective and find a way to add value to their life.
As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts or experiences with this in the comments below. Is there an instance in your life where "Free" ended up paying in the long run?