Artists Working for Nothing

 Posted by on May 11, 2013  Add comments
May 112013

I was chatting with a musician friend last night, when the old would-you-be-interested question came up.

Oh, you don’t know what that is?

Well the WYBI question arises when a business person who wishes to increase his revenue asks a professional to work for nothing while at the same time thinking they’re doing that professional a favour.  But it only applies to certain kinds of professionals.

Maybe you’d like an example.  Very well.  Suppose, for the sake of argument, my musician friend occasionally puts together a Rolling Stones tribute band.  (He doesn’t).

The fantasy conversation goes like this.

Would you be interested in putting on a Stones show at our place on Saturday night?

I would, yeah.  Unlike normal people, I don’t have to eat.  I get all my vitamins from singing.  How much are you paying?

Oh, I just thought maybe you and the lads would enjoy doing the gig.  We might organise a few pints for you during the night.

Might you now?  So let me get this clear.  You’re asking me to get four other musicians, not including myself.  You want them to give up their night with the family.  You want them each to spend an hour loading their cars with gear and driving to your place.  You want them to spend at least another hour setting up and doing a sound check.  Then you want them to perform for maybe two hours, followed by a further two hours taking down the gear and driving home.  You want them to pay for and supply the equipment as well as the petrol.  That’s thirty man-hours and twenty grand’s worth of gear.  And you want them to do that for the price of two or three pints?

Well, I just thought it would be a bit of a laugh.

That would be you laughing as you ring up the money from the customers we attract.  Right?   Let me ask you something — how much do you pay a plumber?

I don’t know.

When did you last hire five plumbers?

I didn’t.

That’s right.  And when was the last time you suggested to your plumber that he might be interested in lying under your bath for a couple of hours fixing a leak, but you’ll make sure he’s all right for a pint?  What do you think he’d say to you?  Does your doctor work like that?  Your mechanic?  Your solicitor?  Your painter?  Your builder?


The real conversation is somewhat shorter.

Would you be interested in putting on a Stones show at our place on Saturday night?

How much are you paying?

Oh, I just thought maybe you and the lads would enjoy putting on a show.  We might organise a few pints for you during the night.

Fuck off.

It’s not just musicians who get this.  Anyone who works in an area that can be vaguely labelled as arts or entertainment hears this sort of shit all the time.  Photographers get it.  Actors get it.  Comedians get it.

It’s one thing if there’s a two-way exchange.  We all know business people who contribute much to society at large and who give back as much as they get, or even more, and nobody begrudges that relationship.  Every good turn deserves another.  But for every one of these, there are ten who care nothing for anything except the bottom line.

Contrast the conversation with what would happen if they were talking to a plumber.

I need you to fix a leak in my place.  How much will that be?

Seventy-five to turn up and fifty an hour till I’m finished.

Jesus, that’s a bit stiff

Take it or leave it.


Isn’t it about time that some workers started to think the same way as other workers?


Still not working for drink

Still not working for drink





Already, the bullshit patronising pitches are coming in from victims of this scam. Please send in your own favourites.

It will be good exposure for you. Fuck off.  I can’t eat exposure.
It will promote the town. Fuck off.  It will promote you.







  34 Responses to “Artists Working for Nothing”

Comments (34)

    I once prepared drawings for a large house extension. This took up many of my precious hours – the surveying, the designing, the planning, the ruminating. I spent many late nights on the project. The ‘client’, the bollocks, the fucker, the miserable shite, refused to cough up when ‘he’ decided not to go ahead with the job. In his own fucked up thinking he justified not paying by saying “ah sure that’s only a few lines on a bit of paper!”. Bastards, all of them.


    That appears to be a breach of contract. Why did you not sue the client in the District Court?


    Next time you are on a ryanair flight, spare a thought for your pilot who actually paid for his job in order to add the experience to his CV, – Not a Joke!


    Those pilots would need to think about the wisdom of doing that.


    Is this any worse than internships?


    Same idea, really, isn’t it? You work for us, we don’t pay you but you’ll get a reward some time in the future. Maybe.


    Indeed. I know of a few people who went for interviews for intern jobs, and were asked “if you got offered a job in 3 months time, would you leave us?” What kind of a question is that?
    Whatever about covers gigs, which in general can be good money for what you do. Try making money in the original music game?

    Most of the time, it’s an expensive hobby, you might get some money to cover fuel, but in general, you don’t get paid, or actually have to pay to book the venue. It’s worse in the UK from what I hear. You get asked to being a crowd etc.

    Making it in original music seems to be the preserve of those from wealthy backgrounds. (Mumford and Sons, Frank Turner etc). Not exclusively, but those guys don’t have to worry about not working in order to put time into trying to “make it”. I know you still have to be good, but I don’t think we’ll ever see a band like Oasis coming off the dole queue again. (irrespective of what you think of their music). It’s true the business model has changed since Oasis and the likes signed record deals, but it’s almost impossible to make money in original music these days.

    In general, at least covers bands get paid. There are some bands around Limerick getting paid serious money, as 2 piece bands with backing tracks etc. Not saying they don’t deserve it, but then some guy comes in on his own with backing tracks, and can charge less than a band. But you never get the same experience with this set up as you do with a band, but everyone is trying to save a buck I suppose in the pub trade.

    Personally, I detest backing tracks. There are a lot of chancers out there making a shiteload of money using backing tracks, and more power to them if they can get away with it.


    *bring a crowd


    Hey. Steady on there. Backing tracks? This post is about musicians, not some knobhead miming and pretending to play a guitar.


    …and then a DJ arrives and receives what a full band gets paid these days. The CD player player.



    As he unloads his gear. Could you help me with this USB stick?


    Bock, to answer your question. it was many years ago. No contract was drawn up as I got the job through an acquaintance and trusted that the guy would pay as he seemed like a decent old man. I had just qualified, was very young and naive and would have lacked the confidence to sue. Stupidly perhaps I decided to cut my losses and move on as I felt at the time that it would have been an enormous inconvenience to me.


    Yeah. That’s the problem with being young and innocent. But of course, a contract doesn’t need a written agreement. I’ve successfully sued people myself without so much as a scribble on the back of an envelope.


    Well, not mentioning any names, there are a few bands around the town using backing tracks, making VERY money. One of them “backs” the backing tracks, instead of the other way around!
    I’d rather draw the dole than use backing tracks…


    Gah! Not again! * VERY good money.


    Techies get this as well.
    Will you come round after work or on Sunday to fix my PC?

    Every time I visit relatives I’m sorting out PC problems…!


    When you do it for friends, it’s a bit different. You’re not making money for anyone.


    Dunno Bock, I’ve have been at the odd party where when on a beer break you get variations of “will you get back in there and start playing”.


    Yeah. I came across something like that recently.


    I don’t believe in beer breaks while playing gigs… :/
    Looks unprofessional…


    Good Man Barry… Beer breaks indeed. The cheek of them.
    You’d never tell that to The O Malleys would you? Lazy unprofessional bastards!


    Each to their own. I just don’t do it. Ever since I got langersed years ago, and broke a few strings on a guitar with a Floyd Rose locking bridge. Only one guitar. So, you can imagine how long it took me to change the 2 strings I broke while I was drunk! Serves me right for having a guitar with a floating bridge.
    I’m not able to play langersed, and just developed a habit (good or bad) of never taking beer breaks. Would usually just do the gig straight through, or have a coca cola break. :(


    Jägermeister breaks?


    Jagermeister breaks? Now that sounds very civilized, almost professional in fact.


    They are quicker than a beer break to be fair

    And there is less in the glass


    Still though, if the request to do the gig (original or covers) was accompanied with ” Shur we’ll throw in a few Jargers for the craic!
    The answer would still be Fuck off!
    The new one of course is will ye do an auld session for us lads?
    Apparently sessions are not gigs and don’t require any payment.


    Welcome to modern sales job. “Challenging position for active go-getter, must have own car, be willing to work flexible hours. Generous commission plus bonuses.
    Translation: Highly priced badly made products need shifting out of our warehouse. Idiot who doesn’t know about the cost of motoring needed to call door-to-door in anti-social area and if you do the impossible, and actually shift some of this shit, we”ll probably pay you a tiny percentage of what we tell you was the gross margin on our shit, but then only 6 – 8 months after the fact.By the time you sue up for any bonus you thought you’d get, we’ll have wound up the lot, given away the shit and moved on.


    Beer breaks? Why take a break? Just drink throughout the gig. Makes more sense. Besides, Barry, you should’ve brought 2 guitars. Bringing one is very unprofessional. Especially if you plan on drinking your weight in beer.
    As to the thread, yep, I’ve done my fair share of free gigs for one charity or another. Some publicans kick in a share of the profits, which is good. Others don’t bother, offering the excuse that their outlay on advertising needed to be covered – (seven A4 posters and a facebook post) . I tend not to say yes to these things as willingly as I once did. If it’s more than one band involved, you can be pretty sure that at least one of those bands is going to go on stage tanked up and annoy the crowd.
    The one thing that really irks me though is when a “friend” invites you to a 21st or a 40th or some other stupid party, more than likely held in some crusty venue with horrible finger food. They lead with the line, “oh it would mean so much to us if you could make it to little Knobby’s bar mitzvah”. You know it’s bullshit but you play along, while trying to think of a plausible excuse not to go. They then follow it up with, “oh and could you bring along a guitar and we could have a bit of a sing song”. What they really mean is, “my cousin broke is CD-putting-in finger and can’t make it. Could you entertain us for free”. Yeah, they’re not making a profit either but it’s a fucking cheek.


    Will I Ain’t, this is what the beer break is for, so I too can socialise around the room. I’m not under any obligation to stay stuck to the seat and if I want to stop playing for 10, 20 or 30 minutes then that’s my entitlement.

    The other thing that annoys me is the loud mouthed ignoramus shouting out “play something we all know” or “ah come on, something lively”. Stop the song sharpish and ask them for suggestions and to sing it. Utlimately, I find the best way to put manners on these cnuts is to literally pack it away. . Coughs get much softened quite sharpish.


    I get this all the time: “sure it’s only research”, “can you give a 2 hour lecture”, “could you find out for me”


    Spot on Bock. A bone of contention with me too. I was offered a gig recently, with a price attached to that offer. A few seconds of mental arithmetic told me I’d be working for 7.50 per hour. I declined the offer. Not, I hasten to add, because I have the greed for gold. I don’t. It’s simply that I’m too old and grumpy to stand for having the piss taken that way, for all the reasons you outline above.


    We had a family do in December,
    The one man band was €1250.00 for 5 hours
    In fact when I was paying him I rounded it up to €1300.00.
    he had the place hopping from the get go, I dont know or care if he was using backing tracks, I suspect he was, he was brillant.


    You should care Mark, you were ripped off.


    Mark — You paid a party singer €250 an hour?

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