Musicians dont do Free Gigs - Localturnon Blog

Musicians dont do Free Gigs

He was approached by this event company to do 3 shows at a prestigious club in Noida. They laid out it out well in terms of theme for the shows and the audience that would be there. Came along the benefit for publicity as the event would be mentioned on social media. The rider- it would have to be a Free Gig by the Musician. Thats where the dilemia started.  

I am a Musician myself and when I hear such stories it hits me. When there is a club where the audiences will be there why can’t they spend a few thousands to get the Artist? A thought that has always made me think there is someone making money on our behalf. When a club says they will offer transport reimbursement and food and beverage its the mimimum courtesy that you can give to an Artist. But when you put aside the emotions and think as an “Artist” in the true sense and by this I mean someone who is passionate about his art and music, his skills and wanting to make a mark with his talent thats when the traditional heart v/s mind battle starts. Am sure we all have gone through it at some point or the other. Not only free gigs it could also be when you think the fees offered are way less than what you deserve and you thinking of backing out of a show. 

Whats the ideal fees for an artist. Does it depend upon the years of experience or the skills or the genre – I don’t want to get into that discussion for this topic. I will stick to the free v/s paid gig for this one. And the answer I think lies somewhere within us all. Think of the time when we started out. We were like youngsters probably teenagers or just of college full of energy and dreams to make it big. The first of our performances may probably have been in college or with friends get togethers. They were all free. Were we thinking of fees and gig remuneration then- am sure no. As we started playing more we probably may have asked for the first time abiut fees and probably would have got our first paid break. Am sure like our first crush or first kiss remember the money handed over to us for our first paid gig and its the sweetest memory till date for many of us. But did we miss the point here. The paid gig did not come to us immediately or fall in our lap. We had a considerable runway behind us before we took off, didn’t we ?

Okay, So I am not debating when the transition happened but the stress is on the fact that its a process. Yes, for established artists to think of free gigs means lowering their value, what will other event organizers think. What if this comes to haunt us back in the form of no paid gigs. Will it become a precedence for the forth coming events? Questions will remain and I cannot answer for all. To each artist their own choice and its respected. But Like I said its a process. And for the record I myself do free gigs. Its not because of any favours or because I have nothing on my plate. There are reasons.

Firstly, there will be always be lean and peak seasons in our business. Weddings, Festivals and cultural activities are pre-dominantly towards the early part of the year or the last quarter. Its the business season for a Musician. But what about the interim. Say a May or a June. Holidays in schools, some sporting event takes over like the FIFA World Cup 2018 in Russia this time. Cricket will come and go but thats fine. With time on hands an Artist can always be in synch with live performances even if its free. An Artist remains in circulation as we say.

Secondly, We all love experimenting and finding our groove and what better way than to test this with audiences through a free gig. Am not saying you release a mega cover or a original track in one go in some non relevant stage set up but then it gives a musician a platform to see the audience reaction. Also to make your style a little perfect before we hit the commercial stage.

Thirdly if there is a publicity or coverage by the organizers it helps in two ways viz. You are covered well so that you remain in the limelight. It also helps you get new connects and there will also be someone new who notices you. Good chances that you may get new business leads. It has happened to me. Visiting cards were exchanged in one of the free gigs I did and it turned out to be very lucrative in the long run. Am not disclosing details here..winking

Fourthly it gives us a platform to try experimenting with other artists. I mean jamming in a studio is one thing but on stage to do a live event thats where the verdict comes. But yes I have identified some fellow musicians and have invited to come and join me on stage together jsut to see how it goes. Some of these associations continue till date.

Lastly for young budding musicians, yes the ones just out of colleges and starting out what better way to build your portfolios. Get up there, sing, dance, play enjoy. Its all going to be your runway for the future. Its where I call the rubber meets the mettle. Some burnout some continue chugging along.

A good Musician friend and colleague whom I respect told me once. An Artist should spend 70% of his performance time on paid gigs or events. 20% of the time in free gigs as some of these translate into paid gigs in the long run. Remaining 10% is when you can do things that bring you closer to your Art – be a judge in some local contest, go to a Music Dance Centre and offer your sessions, attend other musician’s events. This combined 30% is called giving back to the Art that you come from.

Reasons enough as to why I do free gigs. But like I said its an individual choice. But its important to identify the right venue and platform even if its free. A prominent place, a Mall, a Club with repute is fine. College gigs or small residential RWA sessions is not exactly my recommendation. Also get something out of the whole effort. if you putting in free time then extracting mileage , connects, building your portfolio are justified. Getting Video recorded and visibility doesnt harm anyone does it? And if these organizers are likely to have more events in the future you can always strike a deal for paid gigs in the long run. Trust once built pays off. 

I think in an ever increasingly commercialized world its difficult to make the choice for a free gig but then it has its advantages if played well. Somewhere we all tend to forget what we started out with i.e to pursue our passion and to be true to our art. If thats a preamble to abide by the focus needs to be on inventing and reinventing our skills and domain expertise. The moment where we start thinking about our fees, money thats where the Businessmen in us takes over the Artist in us. The choice remains with us what we want to be but yes for a fact a businessmen has never been known for his Artistic side but a true Artist has always made money.


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