Two of my bandmates hold day jobs in the same company that I won’t name. Everyone there knows they play in a band, quite naturally, since it’s not that big an organization. One time recently, their officers decided to organize a company party of sorts to celebrate a coming holiday. As part of the planned program, I imagine someone must have suggested putting up some entertainment. As it happened, everyone in their workforce that played in a band or some act was requested to ‘contribute their talent’. Nothing wrong with that except that the way the request was relayed was like it was expected of them, them being employees.
Now I have nothing against playing for free. We once played as the wedding band for a friend as our ‘wedding gift’, and we’ve done countless gigs in gratis if we felt like the exposure and the opportunity was worth it. But to play in a company-sponsored party just because half our band was under their employ seemed really comical in its warped logic except to me it wasn’t at all funny.
Some people just don’t appreciate that playing in a band is not about showing off on stage in front of a crowd. We don’t jump at the opportunity every chance we get. Well for some, maybe. But for most, it is a passion, and a job. In our band, such is definitely the case. We all share a passion for making music and to sustain that passion we have to make money on the side.
Like all professions, playing in a band requires very real investment in terms of money, time, and talent. There are the hours and hours of rehearsals, late night recording sessions, instrument upkeep and countless more details that most people don’t get to see at all. You don’t just show up for a gig, slap on your guitars, do the count and play songs.
This pervasive lack of appreciation of the actual work that goes behind every band performance is not unique to corporate officers. It’s as common as the flu only worse since unlike the malady, it is not seasonal.
At parties, I always dread being introduced as a vocalist for a band. Someone almost always has the audacity to demand that I sample him or her my singing voice. If I obliged them, I’d feel like a “show-off”, and if I didn’t, I’d be labeled an “arrogant prick”. You can never win in these situations.
Other times, I’m always amazed at how easy it is for some people to ask for a free CD sample. Worse, some people even have the temerity to ask if they can borrow a CD so they can burn for themselves a copy. Talk about someone asking permission to steal your stuff. That’s almost as bad as a burglar asking you to hold the door open while he carts away your home entertainment system.
Or how about people who shamelessly ask for free tickets to gigs. If they don’t value enough our band’s music to want to pay for it, why would I want to give them a free pass? I’ve done that before many times, and often, they still don’t show up.
So on the scale of playing for a large audience, like the corporate party I mentioned at the start, why do it for free if the organizers don’t value enough our band and our music to even acknowledge that we should be paid for our time if not our talent. I’d rather be somewhere else where my presence is infinitely more appreciated, like with my family. I couldn’t care less if that makes me an “arrogant prick”.