Later today I’ll be heading to Las Vegas with Phoenix Chamber Brass to perform at the Western U.S. Horn Symposium at the University of Nevada–Las Vegas. While spending a couple days (and probably more than a few dollars) in Vegas will be fun, it got me thinking about a regular topic for our group (and probably most others). Like most instrument conferences (both regional and international), this one doesn’t pay. We chose to do this gig for the exposure.
There are lots of performance opportunities out there for all musicians that don’t pay. The rock club that wants the band to play for free or the chamber music series that is just starting up. Some gigs are worth it, some aren’t. Sometimes it’s hard to judge, and you just have to take a chance and count the cost later: Was it worth it? Or was it a learning experience?
Sometimes we choose to do a gig for humanitarian reasons—playing a benefit concert or performing for the elderly. These pay us in the karmic sense. And sometimes we do gigs for free that provide us with much-needed exposure. At the beginning of every musical group’s life the need to be seen and heard is strong. But evaluate carefully the gigs that come along. Value your time and make sure the non-monetary benefits justify whatever expenses you may incur.
Not all gigs have to pay money, but they should all pay in some way or another.