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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014

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In Music Commentary

Trained and experienced musicians deserve reasonable and fair compensation. (PHOTO: shutterstock.com )

No dough, no show: Why you shouldn't take a gig just for exposure


As president of the Southeastern Wisconsin Arts Guild (SWAG), I am in daily contact with all types of artists throughout the community and beyond. It brings me great pleasure to be connected to so many wonderful and talented individuals. In these daily interactions, I not only have the opportunity to form relationships with local artists and creatives, but I become more aware of what their needs, goals and objectives truly are.

As a group, few professionals donate more of their time and talent towards charitable causes than artists do. Think about it. How many times have you attended, or at the very least, been made aware of a benefit concert in support of a charity or cause? Most would recognize that it is an impressive number indeed.

Speaking as one who has produced and promoted numerous special events, I know that nothing draws a crowd more than live entertainment and/or recognized and talented artists. Therefore, the local arts and entertainment community has many and varied opportunities to serve.

As a group, professional musicians consistently rise to the occasion when it comes to helping others. Musicians, like most professionals, devote many years of their lives to the study, development and performance of their craft.

When musicians choose to donate their time and talent to help a non-profit or charity, it can be a rewarding and worthwhile experience for both. For the charity, it means more donations from a large crowd that is attracted by the music and musical performers. For the musicians, it can help boost visibility and exposure in the market.

However, aside from charity fundraisers, school assemblies and the like, playing public venues solely for exposure is a costly misstep. Trained and experienced musicians deserve reasonable and fair compensation for their services the same way that all professionals do.

Musicians should always negotiate for just compensation, including monetary payment, when performing at venues that gain from their work. It's important that local musicians and other artists always remember that they are an important draw that helps bring patrons to the performance venue and customers to surrounding businesses.

In short, when trained musicians play solely for exposure – except in the case of charitable and/or non-profit events - it devalues the work. When there is an abundance of talent in the market that is willing to play or perform for free, it lowers the amount that venues are willing to pay local artists – regardless of talent, training or experience.

Moreover, it means fewer paying gigs for musicians. Ultimately, it helps create a "talent drain." sending top-tier artists to other communities where the pay and prospects are better.

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