Work for Free? But… You Already HAVE a Charity!

Friend of mine is a professional musician, here on the coast.

He’s a one-man band: high quality backing tracks, a mic, two guitars and three saxophones.

Apparently, he’s the best sax player on the coast.

His repertoire might not be the most exciting, but it pays the bills.

And his audiences love him to bits: he gets them dancing every single time.

Every now and then, one of the local charities asks him to come and play at an event, such as a fundraiser.

“Sure, happy to. My fee is $120”

“Oh but we can’t pay you – we’re a charity, you see?”

His answer is always the same: “I already have a charity. It’s called the Wright family”.

Which is actually true: he’s also a pastor and does a lot to help people, in his free time.

But even if he weren’t a pastor: why would he play for free?


If a charity hosts a fundraiser, shouldn’t they also be raising the funds to pay the guy who animates folks, who increases turnout, and who gives people a happy time which in turn increases donations?

Of course they should.

And besides: he’s got bills to pay.

It might look like $120 is a lot for a 2 hour gig, but it’s not.

Between petrol, instrument maintenance, marketing costs and what have you, his overhead is large.

And let’s not even mention all the unbillable hours he spends practicing his embouchure…

Who’s paying for that?

Nobody, if he plays for free.


Problem is, there are far too many would-be professionals in the music world.

People who play or sing incredibly well, but just don’t got their business head on straight.

Especially here on the coast.

Some half-crazed dude will walk into a restaurant with a rickety guitar on his back, and play a full night for just $30, a plate of paella and a couple of beers.

The owner laughs: costs him almost nothing, but man, look at the takings tonight!

That crap just destroys the industry: the restaurant owner gets more people in, sells more food, people stay longer, they get happier, and drink more drinks – and he pays a pittance in return for the extra earnings.

Next time someone like Mr. Wright is called up, and he asks for the $120 he deserves, they turn him down and call the coked-up bum who costs practically nothing.

At the least, Mr. Wright respects himself.

And that means that those hospitality owners who do understand the value live music brings are more than happy to pay his fee.

They do the numbers, they see the dancing, check the till, and know: “Yup, this dude’s worth his money.”


The moral of the story: Don’t compete on price. Ever.

Compete on value.

Be the best you can be at your music, your art, your writing, whatever you do.

Set your fee, and stick to your guns.

Never back down.

It’s your shop and you set the rules.

And rule #1 is this:

Never undercut yourself.

Want to learn the ins and outs of freelance pricing, the psychology of getting paid what you’re worth, and the things you should say to people in order to get them to pay what you’re worth?

Then get on board for the December issue of the LEAP Marketing Newsletter.

O’er yon –>



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