Why You Should Stop Playing for Free...Maybe?

As an artist your value is everything.  With more and more limitations on ways to generate income these days for artists (I won’t bore you with rhetoric on digital album sales and stream income), we have to hold a value for our art and craft which we have spent a lifetime cultivating.  

The primary reason you should stop playing for free is that you are devaluing yourself and your art form, in this case music, not just for you but for everyone else.  We all have to hold the line.

Difference between Artists (DJs vs Bands): I hear a lot of bands complain that DJs are taking away from the pot of limited resources available.  And anyway, who would want to hire a band with all the equipment, set up, transition times, inconsistency in sound, hire a live sound engineer, giving 4-5 people drink tab, and feeding 4-5 people on occasion, when I can just do that for one DJ, for less, with a consistent sound, etc. etc.  Let me just stop you there.  It’s not ever DJs vs Bands.  The stage can accommodate all, and its bad form to hold grudges against anyone.  People go out to see live music for many reasons.  This article is not about DJs vs Bands, because in my opinion they both are awesome. I love seeing a great band perform live, it’s a true highlight of life for me.  I also love seeing really great DJs who are artists themselves and bring something new to the show.  

But back on course, why you should stop playing for free.  Well, the DJ mentioned earlier doesn’t usually play for free, they hold value for themselves as should you as an artist, whether that’s solo artist, band, electronic musician, some kind of hybrid, or even some virtual band.  It is paramount that you hold this value for yourself and we together start holding this value.  

Do you ever ask yourself why classical musicians seem to be healthy and never out of work, what about jazz musicians, or even cover bands and wedding bands?  They don’t have to send emails out and spam their friends and family to come to their concert and they typically always make more money and have less stress than the starting out or even mid-career musician. It works this way because they value themselves, their craft and their music, therefore other people value their music, their craft and their contribution.  

Now ask yourself, what is it about your favorite highly celebrated artist that you most admire and value?  It’s that they value their work, and because of this, other people value their work.  Yes there are many artists out there and everyone is racing, like a stampede of sperm toward the egg, to “make it.” 

But what about tickets you say? The whole industry is set up on a band playing a venue and selling tickets?  The band is in effect the promotional tool for the venue.  There’s a whole other thought I’d like to share with you on this, but for now, we’ll stay focussed.  You have to change you thinking.  Instead of thinking of ways to create value so that your fans want to see you.  Create value in your art, your craft, your music, your persona.  How is that done?  That’s exactly one of the many points we go into detail here at The Artist Roadmap.  It’s our goal to elevate you as an artist, to get you earning money and becoming a sustainable artist - and in today’s music business ecology, we believe this is the most important thing you can do for your career ever. 

Bottom line, when you de-value yourself as an artist, you de-value the music. This is the music that you hold in such high esteem, that you yourself value.  You are unknowingly thwarting your own efforts to become a successful musician.  Ultimately the decision rests on your shoulders and you have to evaluate your opportunities.  We believe music has great value - the ability to move people, the ability to connect us on another level, the ability to express what can’t be said or written and the ability to bring us all together.  We wish you well on your continued musical journey and are always here to help you grow. 

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