Musicians coming home after gig paid in exposure

hsosdrum

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When I was on the road with my band we were members of AF of M and every one of the 1,200 gigs we did those years was a union-contract gig. The minimum we played for was $400 a night (almost always playing 4 sets between 9pm and 1am). This was between 1972 and 1977, so if you apply an inflation calculator to that $400, to keep pace with inflation a band today should be earning between $1,750 and $2,530 a night. If you reverse the inflation calculation, today's $400 was worth between $63.00 in 1972 and $92.00 in 1977. No band on the circuit my band worked would have played for that little money back then — not one of them.
 
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fun2drum

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There's only one bar where our band will play for free (tip jar), and it's a local friend who's had an extra tough time of it the past couple of years. He gave us our first gig and helped us get started. He's since had family illness as well as keeping it all together while being closed for a year. THAT's not exposure - it's helping a good friend who we feel pretty confident would do the same for us.

My feeling is that unless it's a brand new band getting off the ground, there's no bar that qualifies for "exposure" playing. Playing for 20-30 drunk people for free? Not even close to worth it. We're providing something of value at a high cost to us, so they've got to at least cover our costs and time. We're worth at least that, and then some.

Downtown festivals and benefit events with 1,000+ in attendance - now that's exposure. Even better than that - some of the benefit events out there are for very good causes that make us feel good that we could help, which is a greater good than money and exposure combined. I believe giving to that kind of thing comes back to you eventually.

That said, bands have got to be honest with themselves. Like any business, there's got to be value in what they bring to the table, and some bands unfortunately just don't bring it. I don't fault any bar for not wanting to pay a band that doesn't provide any value whatsoever. The band first has the job of convincing the bar they provide that value, and then they've got to prove it on stage if they want to be allowed back. It's business, and bands have got to follow the same rules that any other vendor the bar pays for their products/services. I know - those are tough words, but they're true.
 

varatrodder

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Been decades since my last gig and I've been meaning to ask this question and I know it varies widely on a number of different variables but what does an average non dive bar gig (decent venue) run nowadays?
Depends on the gig, but the last band I was in would charge $100-150 per band member. We would also get tips.
 

MusicianMagic

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Guess nobody here is from or worked in Los Angeles? How about Pay To Play.

The band pays the club upfront, then try to get enough people to show up & pay to enter to cover what you paid the club, which few do. There is no shortage of bands willing to. It is exposure. Especially to say you've played the Whiskey. Although I doubt it actually helps your career but maybe your ego.
Been going on since the 1980's.
 

Tornado

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Guess nobody here is from or worked in Los Angeles? How about Pay To Play.

The band pays the club upfront, then try to get enough people to show up & pay to enter to cover what you paid the club, which few do. There is no shortage of bands willing to. It is exposure. Especially to say you've played the Whiskey. Although I doubt it actually helps your career but maybe your ego.
Been going on since the 1980's.
Well, that's original acts. Happens all over, which is only slightly worse than getting nothing. Most original bands can't even get their friends to come out for more than one gig, so I get it. Most people here have moved on from their rock-n-roll dreams, and are playing 4 hour cover/tribute gigs. Which SHOULD pay money because you're making the bar/club money by playing songs the clientele know and love, so they stick around and spend more money. And presumably the bar makes more money by having you there than not there, which is the only reason they'd pay for entertainment in the first place.
 

bellbrass

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There is a big difference between playing free gigs for legitimate charity organizations and playing for "exposure" at a bar, which is free labor. I remember playing a Toys for Tots gig years ago; that was really cool. But many years ago, playing in an original band, we continually got offers to play gigs for exposure, and did a few free "exposure gigs" opening for major acts. Nothing at all ever came from them. We would even call the same club the following week, saying, "Remember us?", only to be turned down categorically for any kind of paying gig there.
 

CherryClassic

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I was offered to bring our band to a place to practice. I was very nice about it BUT what I wanted to say was: Hey these guys are all seasoned musicians and I not going to ask them to play here for a practice.

sherm
 

BennyK

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It sounds like the old Amway deal where, after all your friends and relatives each buy some of your products, you're still left with a basementful of unsold .
 

Skinsmannn

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Playing for exposure.........
What kind of worthwhile exposure could be gained at a bar?
An intentional showcase is one thing. Most bar owners I ever met where sleazebags to begin with.
Don’t be stupid or desperate to play to give away your art.
 

backtodrum

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I've always replied with the request to play for free with the reply, "Sure I'd be glad to play for free, but we charge a set up, and equipment rental fee." when asked how much I tell them the exact amount we would charge anyway... It subtly gets the point across there is so much more to the cost of hiring a band than just sharing your talent for no cost. Frankly it's insulting! I also say that you get what you pay for when a band is willing to play for free for exposure...
 

premierplayer

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I/we (several intermingled groups of musicians) have played quite a few community events for free, we all (group members) believe in giving back to the community. Good things have come from it, always a paying party or private event or two. I've also gotten the call for backline PA and drum set rental from a neighboring large community for about 10 years now, real easy money, we played the event once for free as a give back/pay it forward.
I play a local venue a couple of times a year as a sit in with Pro's for free when their regular drummer will be late or double booked. No money for this one, but they always feed and water myself +3, with a table up front. We're frequent flyer's at the venue.
Pretty much the guy's and gal's I play with have done the bar scene, and we're not gona do it for free.
I've been exposed too long, that's what my dermatologist tells me.
 

musiqman

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Funnily enough,the band I'm currently in have agreed to do a couple of gigs for free at local places we've all played many times before.
The reasoning behind it is that they have had a tough time throughout the Covid lockdowns and it's just a little thing we can do to support them.
I'm sure they'll sort us out on the hospitality front,but either way it just seems the right thing to do.
Thats a new bull crap reason for them to not pay musicians the coming years again.
 

Jml

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I don’t play for free, but I will play for food and booze, and bring a tip jar to land some $ in our pockets.
 

langmick

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There is no worse feeling, well maybe some, than busting your butt all day and night and coming away with $0.00 or worse, a loss. That's what the vaule of your time and effort was. Been there, don't care for it any longer, that feeling stays with you.

I have seen band member literally bargain down...and that elicited a bit of anger from me. No, in a tribute, in no circumstances do you play for free. Perhaps if there's some utlity in it, and playing a bigger gig to get experience...that just leads to animosity and a weird vibe.

I literally lost money putting on gigs, while having a few money makers to offset them. I accepted that because it was fun and we were building something playing good venues. When I left, they played a decaying venue in Grand Rapids and didn't draw flies, which led to some serious issues. Some musicians depend on that income, which I find a bit precarious. Always have a backup...grow weed, whatever, have multiple sources.
 

Rock Salad

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I don't play for exposure, can't speak for the other guys. We play for people, and enjoy doing it whether it pays or not.

I liked that the op did not put down those who play for free. I wish the really excellent pro players around my town were paid better too. And I am as offended as they that anyone would ask them to play for free in order to make $ off it.

p.s I try really hard to make our band as good as it can be and not ruin the reputation of the scene we on the fringes of
 
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studrum

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Guess nobody here is from or worked in Los Angeles? How about Pay To Play.

The band pays the club upfront, then try to get enough people to show up & pay to enter to cover what you paid the club, which few do. There is no shortage of bands willing to. It is exposure. Especially to say you've played the Whiskey. Although I doubt it actually helps your career but maybe your ego.
Been going on since the 1980's.
All right, time to make the usual distinction that has to be made in this recurring topic: bands playing original music or bands playing covers?
Edit: I see that tornado has addressed this.
 

TheElectricCompany

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There is no worse feeling, well maybe some, than busting your butt all day and night and coming away with $0.00 or worse, a loss. That's what the vaule of your time and effort was. Been there, don't care for it any longer, that feeling stays with you.

I have seen band member literally bargain down...and that elicited a bit of anger from me. No, in a tribute, in no circumstances do you play for free. Perhaps if there's some utlity in it, and playing a bigger gig to get experience...that just leads to animosity and a weird vibe.

I literally lost money putting on gigs, while having a few money makers to offset them. I accepted that because it was fun and we were building something playing good venues. When I left, they played a decaying venue in Grand Rapids and didn't draw flies, which led to some serious issues. Some musicians depend on that income, which I find a bit precarious. Always have a backup...grow weed, whatever, have multiple sources.
I was in a Zeppelin tribute band for the past 4+ years that fell apart for this reason. Our guitar player was so desperate for people to like him he would try and get us as little pay as possible every gig. He thought it built good-will with bookers, as if it did anything but cause people to lose respect for us.
 


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