In the music industry it’s common to be hired for no money. Sometimes it’s just part of trying to attract freelance work and other times it’s called an “internship”. It’s often touted as a way for you to gain experience, fatten your resumé, prove yourself before money is paid . . . if it ever is. But if you can get a job folding clothes or running a cash register at Wal-Mart for minimum wage, aren’t you worth at least minimum wage as a professional musician or producer/engineer?
“… people still believe artists live off subsidies. The truth is: artists subsidize our industry with below average wages.”
He’s speaking from the perspective of TV and film, but it’s no different in the music industry. While the artist (composer, singer/songwriter or band) can get subsidies, they’re hard to get. But for the musician (side man) or producer / engineer, subsidies are virtually non-existent . . . unless you count VISA or Mastercard. No, they must get their pay from gigs alone.
You’re an up-and-coming musician or producer/engineer, you’re searching for gigs and artists to work with, you’ve paid a lot for post-secondary education, you’ve put in and are putting in hours of practice and on-going learning, you have some experience, and your gear cost a big chunk of coin . . . oh, and then there’s rent, car, phone bill, etc.
One day while perusing the want ads for gigs or artists to work with you come across statements like this . . .
Pay can be decided later, but for the moment I am looking for fellow musicians/producers that want to expand their profile on a promising new artist. Recognition and reimbursement will follow depending on the material's success.
and . . .
Reimbursement debatable, but a great option to garner more exposure and full credit on disc.
and . . .
live gigs will be payed according to entire sum payed for performance. Great experience with the potential of exposure, as well as full credit given on disc for any recording as well as songwriting.
finally . . .
This could be a fun project, and is certainly a great opportunity to network and gain some experience.
So what do you? Call the ad? Well, if you want to live on ramen noodles for the rest of your career, go ahead. But I have some better ideas:
- Network - scope out the places where there are professional artists, musicians, studios, etc. Visit the studios, talk to other musicians at the rehearsal hall and music stores, skim the musician ads (look out for red flags), keep asking, searching, and knocking on the doors.
- Don’t Work for Free - this is the default. Find a way to get paid in some way: money or in some other tangible form. This is what creates value. You are valuable and can bring value to the person hiring you.
- Work for Free - no, this isn’t a contradiction, it’s the reality of this crazy industry! Work for free, but offer your services for a limited time. Consider a contract, make a deal, try and get something in the end.