Would You Play This Unpaid Gig In Front of 1,000+ People?

We recently caught this gig posting on Craigslist. Would you play it?

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31 Responses

  1. Zac Shaw

    Yes. A chance to be heard is a chance to be paid. That’s why free access to music is good for musicians.

  2. Guess what

    “If you’re signed, sponsored or part of a serious festival tour,” you are going to have an agent or manager telling you and your big time hollywood party to pay up OR give Amanda Palmer a call and then go screw yourself.

    • Shane Basye

      Funny, but thats not always the case. I know of many signed bands and indie labels that would say “Sure, go for it!”

  3. Minneapolis Musician

    You have to ask yourself: “Will playing this gig really help me get more gigs? Better gigs?”
    It’s going to depend on who is at the party, and whether their are significant numbers of people in that audience that will be moved by your type of music enough to influence getting you a really good gig somewhere else.
    It’s a restaurant opening. That’s pretty much a generic audience.
    What’s the demographic? Age? Any way to find out?
    If they have no pull to help you, then 1,000 times zero is still 0.

  4. Shane Basye

    Of coarse. No upcoming band should ever think of money before exposure. That is backwards thinking. This for many bands/artists is an open invite for a great opportunity. If any band finds this a waste of time then, oh well. Too bad.

  5. GGG

    If you don’t have anything else going on that night, why not?

  6. David

    Sure, I think a band should play. And then, after a few numbers, announce from stage: ‘We would like you to know that the owners of this establishment are not paying us, and have specifically told us not to ask for tips. But there’s a hat in front of the stage.”
    How’s that for ‘exposure’?

  7. JS

    Dear restaurant owner,
    I’m going to have a big-time party on my backyard and I’m looking for a talented chef to take care of bbq and serving. I’m expecting more than 10 people, my friends mostly, but there’s a slight change some celebrities will appear as well.
    You’ll have to bring your own equipment and raw materials, but I have a modest bbq-set and a massive tank of propane. During the breaks you’re welcome to mingle the guests and get a word out.
    The gig will not be paid but this will be a good amount of exposure for any kind of restaurant. Parking will be included and a couple of beers as well.
    I’m looking forward to hear from you!

  8. Stephen Bolles

    I try to consider these three factors when evaluating what opportunities to take:
    1) Will this help my career move forward?
    2) Will this (immediately) benefit me financially?
    3) Will this be something I enjoy doing?
    Usually if the opportunity meets a solid two out of the three criteria, I feel like it’s worth doing.
    In this case, it’s a clear ‘no’ to #2, and without more information, difficult to determine for #1 & #3. In my experience, these kinds of things ususally aren’t super high on the fun scale (compared with other low/no pay gigs, say, playing a group show with other artists I respect, an art opening, a private show, etc.), and without a specific indication that this crowd would be particularly receptive to my music, or likely to provide me with valuable connections, this is looking like a one out of three or less, and would thus probably be a ‘no.’

  9. Saumon Sauvage

    What a scam. Who exactly will be there and what if they don’t show up? So everyone gets paid, including the dishwashers, but not the performers. Hogwash!
    And once everyone knows you’ve done it for free, you are known as an easy lay and everyone will do you for nothing.
    Where are the organizers and activists? How about sending the poster an email musicians of Santa Monica will show up and protest with big fat signs — and notifying the media — that read MUSICIANS MUST BE PAID. HONEST WAGES FOR HONEST WORK?

  10. JR

    Any body who answered this, “yes” has very little experience as a professional musician. I’m Grammy nominated and have been a professional for over 40 years and can tell you that musicians are among the very few who routinely allow themselves to be taken advantage for “great exposure.” I can tell you that 99.9999% of the time, nothing comes from it except bad feelings.

    • Adam Smith

      Agreed! In fact, I’ve made it understood for years: the party isn’t being charged for the music; that is the gravy. They are being charged for “entertainment (i.e., real people playing instruments and acting like fools), equipment moving and setup-teardown costs, and the TIME.” Once they realize “geez, you really are working your ass off to do a gig”, they find a garage band or dj, or write me a 50% check, balance due at gig’s end. Those free gigs have never, ever, NOT EVEN ONCE!… turned out the way the promised. Stopped doing them longgggg ago.

    • DAVE

      I agree and I would have to say to the individuals that do this are total morons.

    • Bandit

      I say play the gig and let them get what they pay for. That way the owners of the hipster restaurant get pissed at party planner/promoter and refuse payment. Now that would be funny

  11. Visitor

    ahh the old exposure trick. The problem is you get what you pay for. Anybody falling for this hasn’t been doing it very long, which tells you that they probably suck. But the restaurant owner doesn’t care. Until their celebrities all start to complain of course.

  12. jabney

    A restaurant, but no mention of free food for the band? Could be a bar that serves pickled eggs from a jar as the side and SlimJims as the entree.

  13. David

    Apologies if I’ve fingered the wrong perp (yes, I watch too many cop shows!), but could this be the restaurant in question?
    [I find I can’t post a link, but it’s the 3 Square Cafe launching in September in West LA (junction of Wilshire and Barrington). Not sure if it strictly counts as Santa Monica, but otherwise it fits the description pretty well.]

  14. TK

    It’s really lame to pay only in booze for an event like this. If it’s a Tuesday night and you’re an unknown, then I get it. But for a supposed big event like this? I like free beer at a gig as much as the next guy, but at the very least the establishment could give a percentage of the bar. Then the band has a reason to encourage to the patrons to get drinks. The bar sells more booze, and the band’s pay goes up. My groups have played a lot of free gigs in my time, but sometimes things just smell fishy.

  15. Mario van Reeuwijk

    Those are the best gigs!
    Play your ass off
    Bring your friends
    Have a lot of fun

    • Bandit

      Your friends aren’t invited.
      and you will be “playing your ass off” for a bunch of doughebags…pardon my french

  16. Chris

    Most musicians I know would drink so much free beer that it would make them ‘earn’ enough to do this gig without being paid.The fact that they aren’t even able to ask for tips is a bit crappy though.

    • Bandit

      The musicians I know who would drink their pay in beer, get so wasted that the gig becomes a comical farce.
      Of course, if that is your goal, I say go ahead, drink a couple gallons of beer and puke all over the host and their special celebrity guests. Now that would be a performance worthy of posting on youtube

  17. Mark Nesser

    I’m the manager for the “Wild Girls of Rock” SHE’S NOT DEAD. They usually play shows for less than 500 people, so getting them exposure for 1000+ would be great. The problem is that I’ve heard this tactic used many times to get bands to play for free. The venues say that they’re expecting 1000+ people and then the bands end up playing for about 200 people.

  18. Griff

    Three lines from the bottom has the payoff for me. Free Beer! Yeah, I’d play. All other comments seem appropriate to me. It depends who you are. Me, I like beer and playing.