“In my 5 years as a DJ, I have been asked a lot of questions and a lot of (song) requests. But, more importantly, I have been asked to play for a crowd, for free.” – says Anshuman , DJ’ing since 2014
In this blog, we will talk about the very thing called “free performances”, and this is something that applies to all. Not just DJs.
For every artist, be it a painter, a singer, an anchor, a dancer, a musician or a band, or a DJ, there comes a time when you are asked to perform your art for free. This “phase” usually comes at the very beginning of your artistic career. Many think there’s no harm in doing something for free, especially for family and friends. That’s most of us, actually. And, to a certain degree, that is not the wrong thing to do.
Friends and family are your first “audience” ever.
They give you the opportunity to reflect on your skills and improve on. They also act as a place for you to test your readiness to perform your skills live. But, should you perform for your family and friends for free all the time? Should you perform for free ever?
Now, I have done gigs for free but purely because I know the potential of me getting more gigs from the free ones. And more the gigs I get, more chances to make money. You must stay loyal to the ones who are willing to risk everything and let you have a go without you having much of a name (when you start off).
But, for others, there’s always a price. I don’t feel bad when someone turns me down for gigs when I tell them how much I charge. Mainly because the one person who knows your true value is yourself. Value yourself so that others start valuing you too. But, take gigs that offer other opportunities that aren’t purely monetary. “
These gigs give you exposure. And, when more people watch you do what you do, the more they want to see you, the more bookings you get, and the more money you stand to make. Consider the free gigs as free publicity that you are getting.
For family, you can make an exception.
Remember, it is their support that has got you where you are. But, anyone else must be considered as a client and should have monetary returns for your performance.
So, how do we handle these situations?
For family: blood relatives, in-laws
Just do it. At least once. And help them understand your value on how you make a living off of this so that next time they won’t ask for a free anything.
For friends: people you are close to
Tell them how much you charge on a normal basis and tell them that you are willing to give a discount but at the end of the day you are making a living from this and can’t afford to give anything for free. You could make exceptions for your closest friends. That’s still fine as it’ll be a one-off case and has the potential of being good publicity for your work. But, in general, you must be very clear to explain how you make a living off your talent. Why do you have to charge something?
For strangers: everyone else
Straight-up give them your rates. Of course, ask them all their requirements and give them a detailed breakup of why you are worth what you ask. If they decline, say sorry that you couldn’t reach an agreement but don’t succumb to giving any of your work for free. Like I said, value yourself so that others value you. Remember, what you have to offer is unique. No one else will be able to replicate how and what you do. And that has a price. And you are well within your rights to ask for the right amount for what you are offering in return.
I hope this post has been helpful. Best of luck in following your dreams. Make it big!