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Last week, we talked about what reasons are legitimate enough to accept a free gig but there will be times when a no is a much better answer. Here’s why:

1). Lack Of Exposure

I know I said this last week but hear me out. Exposure is not measurable and is often too vague a reason to consider not getting paid. What if Quincy Jones’ cousin never shows up? (true story <insert raised eyebrow>). What if that angel investor has to take a call just as you are called to the stage? The truth is, you will never know and if that’s the only reason you’re taking the gig… it may be advisable to find a better one (a better reason that is). There are always exceptions to this rule. If you’re called to perform on Oprah… it’s a no-brainer.

Summary tip: Exposure is immeasurable and if it’s the only reason you’re taking the gig… it may be advisable to find a better one.

2). Making A Huge Loss

You must always be aware of how much you are going to spend for a gig and these costs change over time. Know what you can do without so that when you have to do a free gig, you spend money only on the bare necessities. However, if accepting a free gig puts you at a huge loss where you’re spending money on plane tickets, accommodation or equipment hire then it might make sense to turn it down. As a creative, finances are always a major setback in the early stages but I’ve learned that the wisest investments are what will propel you to getting more money in the long-run.

Summary tip: Don’t do something that makes you spend money you would’ve invested in something more important.

3). You Might Create The Wrong Impression

If you form the habit of doing free gigs, word can get around. If people feel they can negotiate a cheap deal or a free one, it may start to become a vicious cycle among venue owners and event planners that work closely. Performing costs money and one hopes that your costs will grow as you become more well-known. So think about the longterm and be picky about the gigs you do choose to do for free before it starts to devalue you.

Summary tip: Be careful not to label yourself as the cheapest option.

4). Wrong Performance Time

I’ve always wondered why a lot of event planners feel the need to place my performance time smack bang in the middle of dinner. It’s always hard to get people to concentrate on anything when you’ve placed food in front of them. It has taught me to always be aware of the program of events for any gig. With that said, if you don’t mind being background music for a few minutes, then it wouldn’t be too bad.

Summary Tip: If a gig isn’t going to give you compensation, at least be aware of what will be happening while you’re performing and if people will actually be listening.

5). Bad Brand Association

This may sound pretentious but the truth is that once you understand your brand, your message and what it is you want people to perceive about your brand, you have to be careful of what brands you choose to collaborate or associate with. Most times, you can’t always do the adequate research to figure out what would make a brand a great match (ideally their marketing efforts should convince you immediately) but certain associations can affect how a certain demographic or target audience may see you. Be wise.

Summary Tip: Your brand comes first and how it’s perceived should be a priority. Don’t let anything jeopardize that.

6). Disorganization

Even after you’ve accepted a gig, the way the event is organized can be a turn off. You may have gone through a lot to sort out your own accommodation and get all your equipment to the venue but the way the event is set up may end up not being desirable. I’ve had various situations like being refused a soundcheck to being asked to perform while the audience backs me (again, true story!). If there’s a way to turn things around in your favor, by all means go for it but if it will end up doing nothing but waste your time and especially if no one will notice whether you’re there or not, it might be a better decision to pull out.

Summary Tip: Don’t get roped into a gig that will pay you nothing and cause you more stress than is worth it.

So those are the ones I could come up with.

For what other reasons would you say no to a free gig?

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