I got lucky early in my career as a marketing/business development consultant.
On my second interview with a potential client I was introduced to the concept of playing for tips. The experience changed the way I looked at the art and science of creativity forever.
The client was in the household goods marketplace. My interview was with the Chief Executive Officer. He wanted guidance on exploring new markets for their products. He was fully engaged in the conversation.
And then we came to the part about my fee.
He suggested that I provide my services for free for six months and if he “liked what he saw” he’d “pay me a certain amount.”
I was taken aback – and yet – somehow I mustered a reply.
I suggested his company could send a semi-trailer full of their products over to our street. Everyone could try their products for six months and if they like what they saw, they could pay the company a certain amount.
The conversation had definitely taken a turn.
He barked at me, “That’s patently absurd.”
With the proviso that I don’t know anything more about the music business than what I have learned in the past 18 months as a house concert host, I have a very difficult time understanding why anyone with a venue thinks it’s appropriate to ask an artist to play for tips.
Musicians are artists and there’s a price to be paid for their creativity. When we invite artists to perform in our home it is because we enjoy the sound – the tunes – the sweet grooves they are crafting.
We instituted a guaranteed minimum fee because our house is out in the country and there’s always a chance the crowd will be on the sparse side. A share of the gate can be pretty tough sledding when there are only a dozen folks who braved the cold to gather in the livingroom.
There’s a cost for an artist to take a chance on us and travel out to our part of the world. We’re two hours from Montreal QC or Burlington VT. The road which leads to our driveway can be lonely and dark – and yet when you arrive at our driveway, there’s always a light burning bright for our musical guests.
I didn’t take the marketing gig for those folks. I vowed to never work for tips. There’s a price to be paid when my brain is engaged on your behalf. And so it should be with musical artists.
Thanks for your consideration.
Be well. Practice big medicine.