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Sidelight on charity gigs


Aidan

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I was going to put this into the "Play for nothing?" conversation but thought it deserved its own thread.

 

Andy Derrick, the former MU organiser for the Midlands region of the UK, has posted some thoughts about charity gigs on his blog. This particularly resonated for me:

 

Secondly is the issue of double standards. At a charitable event ... in Birmingham, the rental of the hall, catering, staff, sound and lighting were all paid. Why expect the band to do it for free? Professional musicians are service providers as much as chefs, waiters and security guards are. You wouldnt expect the waiter to donate their wages for the evening at a charitable dinner would you? What would the service be like? Inconvenient Truth: charities are quite prepared to overlook gross iniquity on their own doorstep.

 

I think as musicians, we're quite entitled to ask some very hard questions when we get approached for charity gigs. Too often, "it's for charidee" is used as a smokescreen for a load of bull.

 

Only recently, I was asked if I'd play at some Scouts function in Swansea (a drive of about three hours each way). I named a fee. "Oh, but we're a charity..."

 

"Great," I said. "I'm not - goodbye."

 

You can read Andy's full post here.

 

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I always say, just because it's a benefit gig doesn't mean the band can't benefit as well. I totally agree, it's not fair for everyone but the band to get paid. I don't have a problem playing for a reduced rate to help the cause, but not for free if I know every person involved in the production is getting paid.

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I don't have a problem playing for a reduced rate to help the cause, but not for free if I know every person involved in the production is getting paid.

 

I've been in bands that were tapped on the shoulder to play fund-raising gigs. We always got a free dinner out of it--never really bothered me.

 

Several years ago the band I was in did a worship gig for free. I later found out the lead singer had been paid, but the money was never shared with the rest of the band. That didn't set well with the bass player and me when we found out.

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My old band did a charity gig once, but no one got paid either. If it had been any other way, we would have looked twice before doing it.

"I'm so crazy, I don't know this is impossible! Hoo hoo!" - Daffy Duck

 

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For the 2nd year in a row, I'll be playing the synth chair in the orchestra for the Jerry Lewis Telethon. I also recently played in the band for "Golden Rainbow", which is an annual concert put on by performers from all of the shows on the Vegas strip to benefit persons suffering from AIDS.

 

Both positions are paid - the telethon pays union/TV/recording scale. With the telethon last year, I remember doing all the rehearsals and recording - it was really just like a gig. But when I saw the victims of MD come on the show and discuss their disease, I realized then that the larger picture of the telethon is that these folks are fighting for their lives. It put things in perspective for me.

 

At the Golden Rainbow gig, the cast of each show puts on a single number, and the band backs everyone up. There was lots of controversy that the band was being paid - - but ultimately people realized what was said above here: "professional musicians are service providers. ..".

 

I certainly hope that most name performers/bands/singers etc. do these charity events to sincerely support the causes. But let's face it - - MANY of the name bands and performers do the charity gigs for "free" - - but also for the publicity, and the chance to make themselves look good.

 

As a "no-name" professional musician - I have no access, need, or reason to seek any such publicity. My spirit, heart, and prayers go out to these causes, and I give my all when performing at these endeavors. But I need to be paid, and it is entirely appropriate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Depends on the charity. Things like Ronald McDonald's House, and other corporate sponsored events, yes, "Make the check out to....".

 

When it's things like a local resident who has been stricken with the sudden onset of MS and is incapicated, or the 6 year old girl who has been fighting a rare form of leukemia her entire life and the insurance isn't coming close to taking care of her needs, or the Joliet Hospice organization, I will donate my time: those are worthy causes, and every penny that can be kept in the jar as it were for the cause is important.

 

That said, I limit the amount of free charities I do every year. Joliet Hospice is one I work every year; if you've ever needed hospice help, then you know how valuable that service is, and want to make sure those people are around to help families that need it.

 

When I got back from Iraq, my father in law had declined very very quickly, and was living in Lansing, MI (I live in the Chicago area), so every three days, I was driving back home, or to Michigan to help his family take care of him. If it weren't for hospice, I couldn't have done it. I'll be eternally grateful for what those people did for him (and his family), and am honored to give back to them in any way I can, even if it's to another hospice organization.

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I have donated time and money to charity by choice as muso and citizen.

 

Still, I do not think it should be common practice and/or expected that musos play for free.

 

If a muso decides to donate their pay to the cause, it should be of their own will. :cool:

PD

 

"The greatest thing you'll ever learn, is just to love and be loved in return."--E. Ahbez "Nature Boy"

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I've done my share of good deeds and church related gigs for the service of it.

 

But one of the more strategic things I tried once was to "donate my services" as a pianist to the election and reelection of a mayor of a fairly major city. It was a lark - I just called up the campaign office and said I was available. I was nobody in town, but after the mayor asked me to play a few healthy fundraisers I quickly made friends with wealthy and well-connected people and I was seen and heard at all the right places. I was invited to more and more events which panned out into terrific opportunities, plus I became good friends with the mayor too. Definitely a win-win-win etc.

 

Yes, we all need to support worthy causes with our musical gifts and do the right thing whenever we can. But now and then, those little deeds of service can benefit us too.

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Yes, we all need to support worthy causes with our musical gifts and do the right thing whenever we can. But now and then, those little deeds of service can benefit us too.

Most definitely. :thu:

 

Excelllent example of showing how a benefit leads to bigger and better things.

 

At some point, a muso should know the difference between a worthy cause or high potential function and a BBQ tofu sandwich. :laugh:

 

Yet, it never ceases to amaze me that some musos get stuck in the exposure trap. :cool:

PD

 

"The greatest thing you'll ever learn, is just to love and be loved in return."--E. Ahbez "Nature Boy"

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I've done my share of good deeds and church related gigs for the service of it.

 

But one of the more strategic things I tried once was to "donate my services" as a pianist to the election and reelection of a mayor of a fairly major city. It was a lark - I just called up the campaign office and said I was available. I was nobody in town, but after the mayor asked me to play a few healthy fundraisers I quickly made friends with wealthy and well-connected people and I was seen and heard at all the right places. I was invited to more and more events which panned out into terrific opportunities, plus I became good friends with the mayor too. Definitely a win-win-win etc.

 

Brilliant.

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I've done my share of good deeds and church related gigs for the service of it.

 

But one of the more strategic things I tried once was to "donate my services" as a pianist to the election and reelection of a mayor of a fairly major city. It was a lark - I just called up the campaign office and said I was available. I was nobody in town, but after the mayor asked me to play a few healthy fundraisers I quickly made friends with wealthy and well-connected people and I was seen and heard at all the right places. I was invited to more and more events which panned out into terrific opportunities, plus I became good friends with the mayor too. Definitely a win-win-win etc.

 

Brilliant.

 

INDEED!

"Music should never be harmless."

 

Robbie Robertson

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We have to be careful of "Charities" and "Non-Profit" Events. Everybody and his brother has a pet charity, and may even donate some of their time to help a "Charity" out by volunteering. However, showing up in person and lending a hand to a Charity of YOUR choice is much different than packing up all your equipment (which for me takes quite a bit of time) loading in-out and back into my house, and then setting up again) and playing for free is quite another. And, if you play for one "Charity" Event, your phone will be ringing off the hook with calls from other charities that want free entertainment too. No thanks.

 

I serve as the Post Service Officer for my local American Legion, and part of my duties are to visit Veteran US Soldiers in the VA Hospital and in the VA Home. That's MY pet charity, I enjoy doing something for Vets, and they appreciate it. So that's how I donate my time.

 

There may be a lot of Charities that are honorable, but there are also people that will just take advantage of you if you're dumb enough to fall for their line of crap about their pet charity.

 

 

Mike T.

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I'm not much of a fan of charity gigs, myself.

 

I've done a few over the years, and I've always ended up feeling a bit cheated. As others have pointed out, the waiters are always getting a check, and the people running the event don't seem to treat the band any differently than the waiters.

 

On a personal level, I give significant amounts of my time and energy to charity work that is important to me. Playing in someone's fundraiser takes away time that I could be giving elsewhere.

 

Now, if someone approached me about a fundraiser for a truly worthy cause where the caterers and the hall were donated their services, I would seriously consider it. And if the leader of my tribute band decided to do a freebie, I would probably go along with it. But he's pretty much in the same place as I am about such gigs, so if he does agree to one, it's probably been fairly well vetted.

 

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Every year we do a charity gig for the Alzheimer's Assn. The thought of taking money never enters our head. Then again, the entire event is 100% volunteer and they always give us a nominal gift for our efforts.

 

On the other hand, we annually play a certain "benefit" gig that we are paid for. While a good cause, in light of the fact that the caterers, etc. are getting paid and money is still being raised for the benefit of the benefit, the acceptance of money appears justified.

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We get asked often to do charity gigs. We generally don't. Mainly because by the time they call, we're usually booked and would have to cancel a paying gig to do it. Plus, some band members rely on the money more than others - so I don't want to put pressure on the band members to give up money that they might need to pay the bills.

 

So one way I've approached it is to charge a price that's in line with what we typically would get, but suggest that each band member individually make an anonymous decision about donating some or all of it back to the charity. Can't guarantee the charity that they'll get it back, but it seems to be a decent compromise. And since we are getting paid and then donating it, it's a tax deduction for us... well, maybe not for much longer.

Dan

 

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Had to add this little story to the thread...

 

We played a community festival sponsored by two neighborhood associations couple weeks ago. It was in a park that we've played many times. Charity...of course, but there was supposed to be TV and an "probable" interview. I wasn't too happy about it being a non paying gig...but thought the TV thing might be good. Well, the media never showed, and the event wasn't real well attended, so it turned out it was all for nada.

 

But..the point of my story; we were approached during the one break we took by a woman on a bike with a guitar. She was a neighborhood "musician", and in the spirit of the event, she thought we should allow her to play a few tunes during our break. She looked close enough to street person and possibly deranged that the band leader told her that wasn't going to happen with our equipment, apologized, and sent her to the events coordinator. She hurrumphed, got on her bike, and proceeded to tear off like the wicked witch of the west...you could almost hear the music.

 

So today we see in our entertainment, events, social commentary weekly publication that she's written a letter to the editor, chastizing the event and calling us out by name multiple times as being loud and in it for the money and our egos. This rag is very well read. You'd have to live here, but it's a counterculture, social activist kind of publication, as well as the best source for finding out about entertainment and events. There's a good possibility that alot of people will read this. Great.

 

We're going to write a rebuttal, and I think I'm done with the charity gig thing.

 

 

 

"May you stay...forever young."

 

 

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I was chatting with our booking agent after my last post on this thread. I didn't realize how many calls he gets for charity gigs. He said almost every day or every other day, sometimes two in a day. I had no idea it was that many. He said most of the time he doesn't even bother telling us about them. He just tells them that if we played all the charity gigs people asked us to, we'd be playing year round for free. So he just knocks $500 off our normal price for a private party and offers it to them, take it or leave it.

Dan

 

Acoustic/Electric stringed instruments ranging from 4 to 230 strings, hammered, picked, fingered, slapped, and plucked. Analog and Digital Electronic instruments, reeds, and throat/mouth.

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Daddy's story is yet another demostration that there is nothing to be gained by doing "Charity" Events much less letting someone "Sit in". Getting bad publicity by a street person in print doesn't do much for Charities. There may be an occasional exception to do a Charity, but personally I haven't doen any in years. It looks like everyone else has had the same experiences that I had, all of which were BAD.

 

Charity begins at home, MY home.

 

 

Mike T.

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I just did a charity gig last Saturday. We played a club in rural Indiana (is there any other kind?) and at the end of the night the owner said she didn't have enough money to pays us. I think she eventually coughed up $300 (we charged $800....the same price as the previous time we played). She also threw in some gift certificates for the restaurant that's connected to the bar. Granted there may have only been 50-60 people in the bar, but it's a small joint and we kept everone drinking the entire night.

 

Back OT, I'm with brother Tony on the type of charity gigs I will consider playing. Most recently, my dad had to stay for a few weeks at a rehabilitation center after he experienced some serious medical problems, and the staff treated him really well. Shortly after he was released, I donated about 45 minutes of piano music for the residents. My dad even showed up and blew a couple of songs on his tenor sax with me. Very rewarding, feel-good experience.

"We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing."

- George Bernard Shaw

 

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Normally when it's a charity gig we charge a reduced fee. Enough to keep the band members satisfied; cheap enough so the organisers don't baulk at the fee.

We have been known to offer our services for free; But that's either family or a total charity event (every penny raised goes to charity; and we organise that one)!

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I play for free at some nursing homes, my church and at my daughter's school. All are enjoyable for me. However I would be very reluctant to play one of those of charity events held at fancy hotels for free. The purpose of having entertainment,food, drinks is to draw a crowd to the charity event. As pointed out the food/beverage staff would not be asked to work for free.
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For us, it's case by case. Our hearts are in charity work, but we won't let ourselves be taken advantage of either, and how low we can go depends on a number of factors, including what the charity is for, and how many levels removed we are (hopefully none) from the key people behind the event.

 

We have done two charity events so far this year. Both paid way less than the ones we did last year, but there's a bit of a twist in that they have all been fund-raising events and promising too much up front to the entertainers could leave the organisers in the red if they miscalculate donations. We kept that in mind and reached an amicable compromise in each case.

 

As a matter of principle, we won't take a low-ball offer where it's obvious that a "spare no expenses" approach was taken with other factors, as that is unfair and also could lead to gradual depreciation of offered amounts for other bands who actually do this full-time and depend on the income to feed their families vs. their G.A.S.

 

Not all charity events are fundraisers. Some are celebrations by charity organisations for their workers, or are paid for by a single benefactor (or a small group of benefactors) and are strictly public (or private invitation) events whose main purpose is to balance some serious presentations with fun and games. Those events tend to pay well and are similar to corporate events in every way.

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