A few years ago, I decided to stop doing what I call “exposure” dates. These are usually gigs that don’t pay anything, and have no real benefit other than simply giving you exposure to audiences. They’re great for folks who are just starting out as singers/performers, or who simply want to go out and sing. They’re NOT ideal, however, for someone looking to make a professional living as a music artist.
Usually, when one does an exposure date, they are not paid anything for their services. They are allowed (hopefully) to sell product before and after their performance, however. That doesn’t guarantee that anyone will BUY said product; it just means that you have the CHANCE to make some money on product sales. This could be an incentive to give the best performance you can, as you are gambling on your ability to win over an audience enough to make them want to buy your music before they leave. The problem arises, however, when there IS no audience.
The last few times I agreed to do an “exposure” date, I sang for very few people. One such gig, I sang for exactly 3 people: the sound man, a lady who sat in the back row, and my wife, who watched out of pity. The lady in the back row bought a CD for $10. After deducting the cost of making that CD, as well as paying for lunch for myself and my wife (food was provided, but everyone, including the artists, had to pay for their meals) and gas, I wound up losing money. On another date, I was asked to provide music while another event was going on. While there were more people this time around, not one of them paid any attention to my singing or playing. I was background music. I didn’t sell a single CD that day, so even though I ate beforehand, I still lost money on travel expenses.
For you die-hard gospel/Christian music fans, I already know what you’re going to say – “You’re obviously only in it for the money!” Most musicians will laugh and tell you that being in the music industry for the money is like going to Walmart for designer clothes. You might LOOK like you’ve got a lot of money, but you know the truth.
“But if you’re singing Christian or gospel music, shouldn’t you be in it for the ministry, not the money?” The short answer is, yes. I am in it for the ministry. I’m not asking you to pay me to sing or play. I AM, however, asking you to compensate me for my services, which include travel expenses (gas, wear & tear on my vehicle, insurance, food, etc.), preparation and assembly for my singing such as loading in any equipment and/or product, sound checks to ensure a comfortable listening experience, and even my education.
What’s even more expensive than all of that is my family’s time. If you want me to come sing or play for you, there will always be an expenses cost included, just so I don’t wind up losing money. What determines the final rate is what my family is doing at that particular time. If my family doesn’t have anything scheduled for a particular day, then I’m happy to come work at your event for a fairly low cost. If my wife and/or kids have a special event already planned for that day, and they want/need me there, then the price just went WAY up. I totally understand if that makes me unaffordable for your event. I’d rather miss out on a concert date than miss out on date night with my wife or seeing my kids getting a base hit in little league or scoring the winning soccer goal.
You see, while music is definitely a passion of mine, it does not override the passion I have for my family, and I believe they deserve more than a husband and father who isn’t around because he’s out singing or playing somewhere. And unless I can guarantee that doing so will give them a better life in the long run, then I’d just as soon stay home.