For Free or Not For Free?
The question/conversation I hear from a lot of artists and creators is should you work for free to gain a buzz around your brand?
The answer to that question is not so cut and dry, and it depends on what your goal is.
Below I offer 3 questions to ask yourself before you consider charging or doing free work/shows.
1. Why did you choose this as a passion?
This may seem like an obvious answer, but it's one you have to remind yourself of daily. Now I'm not going to be cliché and say "Don't worry about the money. Just put yourself out there, and eventually it will come." Though that is true in a sense realistically we have bills to pay and a family to feed.
Now I'm not saying become so "business" to where you're a robot to your audience, but you can turn your passion into a career that feeds itself. Many people, including myself started in music for the love of music itself.
When I started, I only repeated the lyrics to my favorite songs which evolved into me replaying my favorite songs and recording covers. Never in a million years would I have thought I would get into music production and be an original artist.
The beauty of having a passion for it first is that you would do it whether money was an option or not, but let's be clear that stores like Guitar Center (I love Guitar Center lol) don't care if you're making money from your music or not.
So how do you make a return on your investment Do research on your particular audience or who you would like to consume your music first before trying to reach out to larger venues to perform. That way you have more leverage to negotiate based on real life analytics. Proving that you can draw in the audience that particular venue/company is looking for.
2. What do you have to offer?
This can be applied to almost any industry, but I'm going to focus this around my artists and music producers. As a creative you want to make something the world hasn't heard before. Imagine you spent months creating the perfect song only to realized when it's released it falls on deaf ears... Yea I know I have plenty of those stories.
Have you ever wondered maybe it's your approach? It's easy to blame others than ourselves, but use this analogy. Say you're in a room and you see 10 girls/guys with the same outfit on. Pretty boring right? Now let's say out of all one of them has a purple headband on (silly analogy but roll with it). Naturally, we're going to be curious about the one who stands out if only a little.
So, to my artists switch up your topics/flows every once in a while. Music producers: don't be afraid to add different elements out of the norm to your production regardless if it's popular or not. The reason collectibles can range in the high dollars is because there's a limited amount of them or they're not easily accessible. Be different in the right way to gain the eyes who appreciate originality.
3. Do you know how to market yourself?
Marketing can be a boring topic, but I'll try to make it a little entertaining. By the way I have an article on how to market yourself online.
We typically like people who are like us or how we would like to be. So, think of this step as just being a great person overall outside of your music. If I saw, you on the street and say, "hey check out my new song this is a banger!" There's a good 98% chance you'll ignore me or curse me out. That's exactly how you would look if you spammed your music all over the place. True some may click and like it, but you didn't create a fan. Why? Simply, because they don't know YOU.
How many times have you just talked to a person and randomly find out they enjoy the same things you do? It's a great feeling, right? So, if you enjoy that type of interaction, I'm willing to bet your potential fans would too. You should never ask for a favor first. Your number one priority should be surrounding yourself with people who are like-minded and sharing your ideas with them.
Now, I know what you're saying. How is that going to make money for me? We're more likely to buy from people we know/trust. If I know you're a scam artist I won't buy from you for obvious reasons. With surrounding yourself with like-minded people you start to gain trust and now you understand their needs and wants.
After you cater to that group of people word will start to spread in a positive way. Meaning, more fans "friends" who enjoy you as a person along with your music. Those are the people willing to pay you, because you're not...you know...a scam artist.
So, to bring everything together you want to make sure that you are providing your current/future audience with material that let's them see you outside of your creative process as well. I've always liked Killer Mike from Run the Jewels, but after seeing his interviews, TV shows, and understanding his views it makes me like his music more.
Now, I'm not saying you should always do free work, because you don't want your reputation to be the "free guy/girl". All I'm saying is instead of solely focusing on the right now money calculate how that particular move would help you grow as a person and or company. Look at your career as a small business, because that's what you are.
Do your research so you know the industry you're in and how business is conducted, but also have fun and be creative. We're attracted to things that make us think and feel better in this crazy world we live in. Be someone else's peace and everything else will into place. If you enjoyed this article, please share it with your peers you believe would find this helpful. Thank you and talk to you later.