Tuesday, October 27, 2015

5 Points that will help you and your band decide whether or not to do a Free Gig

Everyday independent bands and artists like you and me come across venue programmers and festival organizers that try to get you to do a free gig for them so they can “promote you”. 
What they actually mean by “We will promote you “ is  “We have no cash and we want you to play for free in exchange for a facebook event that we will create (to promote you of course!)”.
I know a lot of bands are eager to showcase their talent on any stage that they can get; but before you accept a free gig here are a five points to consider that will help you evaluate if a free gig’s worth doing. Read on..

1.  Evaluate if the target audience at the offered gig is a match to your bands music

Who is the target audience that will be present at the gig? Are they the kind of audiences that listen to or will be interested in listening to the genre of music your band is creating?
If you are asked to play a free gig slot at a prestigious music festival where the audience has come specifically to listen to and discover new music then maybe it might make sense to do the free gig if you’re a beginner band. However, if it’s the launch of a new Indian family restaurant and your band plays metal ..then maybe the audience and venue would not be a right fit.
Knowing the audience that will want to listen to and buy your music is a crucial pre-requisite.

2.  Clarify what the venue/organizer is offering in return for your performance

Most venues will say that they will “promote you” and bands often make the mistake of not clarifying what this “promotion” will entail. You need to ask the venue/organizer prior to the gig what exactly they will do in terms of promotion and insist on terms that both of you agree to.
Some venues have tie-ups with newspapers and you can get the band some newspaper coverage in lieu of the gig or you could strike a deal with the venue that you would do one free gig but if the patrons enjoy it then the next one needs to be paid for.
Check with the venue how they are promoting the show on radio ,social media and whether they are submitting it to gig listings in the city .

3.  Identify what is the goal of the gig

What do you want to achieve at the end of the performance? Some of the goals could be:
·      Introducing new audiences to our music
·      Getting noticed by the venue/potential venues for future gigs
·      Making money
·      Making a live band video
 For example, if your goal is to make a decent live video for your band’s you-tube channel(which currently has no live videos of the band) then maybe your priority would be to accept to the free gig . If your band is more seasoned , then ask your band if there are any other goals that can be met by doing this free gig (e.g. the possibility of being heard by a festival organizer or other specific promoters that might create more gig opportunities) and whether it’s worth your effort and time.

4.  Check the venues policy for other music acts

There are venues that try to take younger bands for a ride by telling them they don’t pay any bands that play there because they are the hip new place in town and bands are lucky to be given a chance to play there. Before you get blown away by their generosity(!), check with your other friends and contacts on the music circuit about whether they pay other acts and what the venue policy for bands is.If you find a discrepancy you need to talk to the venue about the same. Stand your ground.

5.  Is the gig for a cause you feel passionately about?

Sometimes there are fund-raisers for causes that are close to your heart. For example, when there were floods in Kashmir  last year , the band Parikrama organized a fund-raising concert where they invited me and many artists(Rabbi, Indian Ocean, Advaita etc) that played free of cost to raise money for flood victims and their families. Sometimes you want to just play for the greater good and money comes secondary. Remember though, that the rest of your band might not feel so passionately about causes that resonate with you. Checking with your band members before accepting a free gig of this nature is very important.

Remember to ask the venue to provide the band and the band members F&B post your performance. That’s the least they can do.
I hope this article helped clear a few dilemmas surrounding whether it’s worth your time doing a free gig!:)

What are some of your bands reasons for doing/not doing a free gig? Write them in the comments below.