Saturday, July 30, 2011

Donation Gigs 1

Fundraisers and Bands

Last year I had a bad experience with a band member at a gig we had volunteered for. I no longer play with that group but I still play with groups and those groups are still asked for volunteer gigs. I also work with groups that ask for volunteer gigs and try to help them think it through. Most musicians are willing to do some volunteer work and most not for profit ventures are still willing to ask for donation gigs – so I thought I’d write something up. Hopefully other musicians and organizations will throw in their two cents.


If you volunteer for a gig, you volunteered. Be nice to the people you volunteered for. Find out whatever you are concerned about ahead of time. The gig is not the time to interrogate people or ask for things. Agreements need to be made ahead of time. Find out about sound equipment – is there any or do you bring your own? How long are you going to play? Ask for as much time as is worth it to you. Hauling a sound system and instruments takes time.

If you really need some compensation to go through all of that, ask ahead of time! It is unfair to try and guilt people for beer, food or a small contribution after you are there. You should negotiate up front in an open and honest manner.

If sound is being provided for you, talk with the sound person before you get there. I was once told there was sound equipment and it was a small PA with two microphones. For this group, that was not sufficient. If there is a person in charge of sound find out if they are going to take care of everything or just have a system for you to use. The more detail you get ahead of time the better the gig – well I guess that’s true for all gigs!


If you are asking for a discount or volunteer gig it is good to think things through ahead of time as well.

Remember, many musicians play music for the money. How often do you volunteer what you do at your job for free? Musicians have to spend time learning songs, practicing, and then packing, traveling, unpacking, performing, packing, traveling, and unpacking… For each performance!

If you are broke and raising money, it is perfectly fine to ask for a donation gig. Even if you are not totally broke it is always fine to ask. Give information about why and be ready to answer questions.

Think about space. Often donation gigs end up in places without a stage. Where are you going to fit the band? A small room that only holds 28 people is not a good place for a loud rock band. A large stage may not be best for a single musician without amplification. If you are not sure, take someone from the group(s) to the location to look it over. Often, people will say “that’s not necessary.” At least you offered.

If there is any form of compensation that you can consider ahead of time, make that part of the offer. I know some people hold that off to negotiate with. That’s always up to you. Remember that live music is suffering from lack of support financially and otherwise.

Food, drinks, a passing of the hat are always good offers. If you are doing pictures, a free picture is always nice. If you have t-shirts or other things, those are often appreciated. Charging a performer for entrance to a gig they are donating is usually not appreciated. And some musicians will play for hugs! (Some are suckers for that) **If you do drinks, be clear on the limit ahead of time and work out if the number is per person or for the band. There is increasingly musicians who do not drink alcohol so “two beers” is not a good offer for them. And by limit is it 2 drinks per musician or 10 for the whole group. Bartenders are sometimes very strict on that. Some place offer unlimited drinks... that's at your own risk! Having water for on-stage is a nice gesture.

Keep in mind that they may be hauling around heavy equipment and driving long distances. Agree to the amount of time ahead of time. Sometimes 15 minutes is too short a time to make the travel and set up worth it. Get that agreed to ahead of time. If the situation is appropriate and you think your audience may want to ask for an encore beyond the time allotted let them know ahead of time. Some will be happy to and others may not.

Musicians may have other gigs either before or after, so try and keep your schedule as close to the agreed upon time as possible.

If things go off schedule be thoughtful. I have been dissed by a particular City and a particular neighborhood association because they lost power. They let the early bands start (2 hours late) and kept the later paid bands on schedule, and screwed over some of us volunteer musicians who had been waiting 2 hours in the sun with people who drove in from out of town to see the performances. Needless to say, I will NOT volunteer for either of these two groups again and will insist on being paid ahead of time for any work. (Maybe venting, but hey, It’s my blog!)

If the band is willing you may ask them for their song list ahead of time and request songs that you think will work for the event. If you can hear the band ahead of time that’s always better. If you trust the musicians without hearing them ahead of time you are taking a risk. If the musician(s) are part of your organization it may not be as bad – hopefully they are thoughtful in matching the event and the music. Some musicians though will put their band above the event. That’s a gut call, or something to learn through experience.

Make any rules about guests clear. This is important for the venue and if you are fundraising by serving food or collecting at the door – a big deal.

One last thing – when making fliers it is more respectful to put the name of the performers as much as possible instead of saying “free music.” A CD and a boom box is “free music.” This credit is important and helps to support live music.

Well, that’s all I can think of this morning. I will post more and look forward to any feedback.


Labels: ,

Your "donoation gig" rant is helpful not just for musicians, but anyone that donates their time. Musicians are just the lucky ones to be able to negotiate for beer.
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?