|2006-11-28 11:57 (UTC)
I don't think there's a scientific answer to this (and I remember you touching on this issue in one of your LiveJournal posts). Some people see invitations to play for free as disrespect toward musicians' craft, and a (false) assumption that musicians play for fun, and therefore will do anything to keep playing - money or not.
To some extent, and up to a certain age, that's true. However, what people often forget is that most active top-class musicians actually rely on music as their primary source of income AND they have families to feed, too. As one of the musicians in my band likes to say (the same one who puns on "exposure kills") - "when my kid has to go to the dentist, noone throws a benefit". In the US, at least, professional musicians are an underserved class - even those who have regular gigs and make OK money on the gigs, have no access to healthcare and other benefits people with "office jobs" can take for granted. So it's no surprize that offers to play for free are seen as an insult. After all, at a major high-flying benefit, noone thinks that the caterer should donate the food for free, or that waiters should work for free, or cab drivers that take people to the party...
On the other hand, for charities we truly support, music is one donation we can all make with relatively little pain, often much enjoyment, and yes, some exposure. It also helps if everyone working on the event is a volunteer and the money truly goes to the charity.
For example, every year, we play at Golden Fest, a huge festival of Balkan/eastern european music in New York. All the bands play for free, all the food is donated, all the organizers slave away countless hours on the festival (for free). To me, there's no suspicion that anyone's services are getting abused. All is done in the spirit of creating a great atmosphere, introducing tons of people to Balkan music and dancing, and fostering a sense of community among the musicians, dancers, and music lovers. Also a few thousands of dollars are donated to Balkan charities as a result. I have no problems donating my music to this festival, especially if we have no other (paying) commitment.
What we can do as a musician community is to set fair prices for our services when charities approach us, and if at all possible, insist on some fee, even if nominal. Somehow, if there's an exchange of money - even if minimal - there's a sense of obligation and seriousness on both sides.
But if anyone here would like to invite us to play on a major television show - our check is in the mail :)