My wife and I play in a woodwind quintet that we founded and that has been in existence for 12 years. The members are all musicians of exceptional talent and abilities. Here in Pig's Rectum USA demand for live chamber music is limited, but we do eke out a few paying gigs each year and visit nursing homes and hospices gratis. Our repertoire is large enough that we can play for four hours without repetition (add an additional two hours for Christmas specific music). Our quality is such that during the Christmas season one large upscale national department store hires us year after year as the ONLY group that they pay to provide atmosphere. Our training and experience is collectively in excess of 200 years.
Nevertheless, we constantly receive requests to play for free. I think that I have mentioned elsewhere that one of my wise teachers advised me “never play for free, people will think that is what you are worth”. These requests always mention that this would be “good exposure for the group”. At my age I have had decades of exposure! When does it start to pay off? Would anyone have the gall to call up a plumber and say “Our pipes are clogged up and we need your services. We can’t pay you but it will be good exposure.”? The very concept is ludicrous. Yet people who make these requests can get very bent out of shape when you refuse to provide free entertainment.
The worst part is that most of these requests come from large non-profit organizations who are throwing a huge fund raising banquet or similar bash. The money expended on venue, food, decorations speakers fees, etc. etc. etc. must run into many thousands of dollars, yet $250 for live music? Can’t be done. It would be a different matter if the organization in question had previously established some kind of relationship with the group they approach, but it is as if they pull names out of a hat. “Hey this is Jenny with Millionaires for Muskrats and we’re throwing a gala. We’d like for you to provide about an hour of background music during the banquet. You’d be expected to donate your services of course.” Of course? Why of course? Is it so universal that musicians are considered to be all but orgasming over the possibility of an hour of unfunded labor that it is just assumed that requests for free services are taken for granted? I’ll have to try this at the local bar. “Hey I’m Rich with Donuts for Dachshunds, I’d like for you to provide me with a keg of Heineken’s finest. You’ll be expected to donate this item of course.” I doubt if I’d even have time to see the bouncer coming.