When working in sound, chances are you’ll come across projects where you’re asked to work for free – and, depending on the project and your situation, you might be tempted to give it a go. But before you do, stop and think for a second. How will this end up benefiting you?
- Gain Valuable Job Experience
- Build a Portfolio
- Stay Sharp While Unemployed
- Learn New Skills
- Gain Enriching Experiences
- Use Your Skills to Barter or Trade
- Build Your Resume
Recently we had a member that was asked to work a gig for Exposure! They asked for advice, and these were the responses.
Was contacted last night to do sound and lighting for a big hip hop gig. After minimal response (and info) from my contact last night, I only just now found out its an “Exposure” gig. A bit last minute to tell me that. I’m not in a financial/transportation position to do a gig without payment, or at least travel compensation. It sucks because I’d love to say at the venue and with the artist, but the fact that I was told only now that it’s an exposure gig really bothers me. Should I still work it anyway?
Update: Member Declined the Gig and feels powerful about it.
Janelle: You can’t eat exposure
Diego: I have some pretty inflexible rules these days for working.
Bottom line is I have to be paid. That can be 1.) Money 2.) Opportunities/Networking 3.) Skillset development. If the cost of you going there (gas, food, etc.) and opportunity cost (passing up paid work or better opportunities), is outweighed by the benefit of doing the gig, I’d do it. Being told last minute that it’s not for pay is a huge red flag though. It says a lot that they either tried to deceive you or weren’t put together enough to lay out expectations way in advance. Trust your gut on this one, whatever that may mean to you!
Tfer: If it’s not learning or earning, then no.
Jon: Don’t do it. Report them to your IATSE local
Riley: Organize the place with the IA’s help. We don’t punish employers!
Sarah: Hard no. If they were being dishonest about this, who knows what else they will try to pull, even if they offer to pay you after you back out, I wouldn’t do it without an upfront payment, at least in part.
Dylan: Do not work for free. Then you fuck the rest of us.
Sam: You know what quality of folks you are dealing with, but go with your gut. Also, you won’t have WORKED for the venue or the artist; you will have volunteered for it. Sad to hear that something you were looking forward to now has gone bitter. That is not a good way for them to treat people. Maybe since it is so last minute, you can use that as leverage and actually get paid for it. Who else could they get in 4 hours?? Pay you, or no one!
Emily: I agree with Dylan. When you take free or even super low paid work, it makes it’s worse for everyone. It devalues our job.
Gilli: Say no.. if it’s super last minute and they need someone they will find the money.
And, if you do the gig and negotiate a fee, get it in advance…
Riley: Don’t work if you’re not getting paid.
Melisha: So sorry to hear this, they should’ve made that clear from the beginning. Tell them they have to pay because they didn’t say it from the start and didn’t ask if this was ok for you.
Andrew: Exposure doesn’t even work for artists, and it definitely does not work for engineers
Hannah: What’s the exchange rate on exposure bucks these days?
Adam: Exposure for engineering? What exposure would that even be? I work in film, so maybe things are different, but who’s getting name recognition from free engineering work, regardless of who you work with or where?
Petra: Refuse the gig at the last minute, so they have to either pay you or the show does not happen.
Cassie: Red Flag. Common courtesy to let you decide if you want to work for free, not the other way around.
Brad: My experience over 35 years is “Exposure” or “Future Opportunity” gigs are NEVER worth it.
Kim: I’m cooking dinner tonight, fried exposure. Also, anyone got a spare room I can move into? I can afford 400 exposure a month.
Juno: No, never work for free. Trade only if you can take some advantage of it.
Shea: Run away!
Debbie: Considering you’re experienced, I don’t see why you need exposure. Do we ever really need it? If I were in your position, I’d feel disrespected and possibly tell him to go fuck himself. Well done for not doing that. You should still get paid. Your time is worth way more than whatever “exposure” is.
Jett: Giving them a hard no at the last minute will also make them feel the consequences of their actions.
Jeremy: Ask your landlord if they accept “exposure bucks.” Seriously though, you’re in a good spot. Just tell them if they went want an engineer, they’ll have to pony up the dough.
Lora: Always establish a fee before agreeing to a job.
Justine: Absolutely, resoundingly NO.
Bridget: If you were a performer I’d still say no, but the exposure part would at least make sense (chance to play in front of a new crowd at a big venue, etc.). As it is, how the hell are they gonna pay you in exposure as an engineer?
Chad: I’m with on this one. Odds of it paying off, in the end, are super slim
Brad: If you’re going to do something for free, it should be something you WANT to do for free for some reason.
Gemma: Nope. Nope, nope, nope
Ben: I’d say no, personally. Exposure doesn’t pay my bills
Ky: I wouldn’t do it! It seems like people are trying to take advantage tbh.
Ben: Are the security guards also asked to work for free?
“I work for free” = “I am not a professional”
Hayley: A lot of times in my experience when people don’t have a budget and aren’t upfront about things in the first place, they (and the people they introduce you to) are also shady and will just keep being stressful and low-budget. It’s easy to get caught in a rat race to the
Danielle: Kindly respond with your rate, if you are willing to do it at a lower rate then emphasize the discount & leave the ball in their court to accept or reject it. Bottom line is your time & experience is something they need & has a cost. Just because some promoter didn’t budget his event wisely doesn’t mean you have to do a gig for free.
Chris: Maybe ask if you’re going to be offered paying gigs there in the future. If it’s a foot in the door for a new regular venue to work at, it would be worth it. I’ve had to do that at one of the venues I work at. Once they recognized my abilities, I’ve been offered shows and have been getting about three a month.
Jess: Zero pay is unacceptable unless you are the one offering to do a favor. Do it if you believe in the art.
Agusta: Sorry to hear that! Not fair to not tell you in advance I wouldn’t trust they will ever want to pay you.
Leo: I never work for free. Never again (did it lots of times before making this decision) If you work for free, they usually treat you like a dog and suck the life out of you (no food, no water, no help, no communication, nothing…
Rosanna: Noooooo. It’s bad enough that people take advantage of creatives in this way, especially for their own financial gain. I went into technology, so I wouldn’t have to deal with that shit!…
Joan: You were way too nice. The only response to an unpaid offer is laughter
Sesret: No. Nope. Nah. Nuh-uh. With a side of telling them to call you when they are serious
Sue: “Thank you for your interest in my services; however, I’m afraid I must politely decline your offer.”
Ben: In this industry, if you want it enough, you’ll get it with pay, much sooner than you expect to. Just keep networking and try not to let this discourage you
Jessica: Exposure gigs are for the artist, not tech people.
Christopher: This is the reason I discuss rates right out the gate so that we are on the same page
Leticia: If you are not local and are going to have to spend more than $10 bucks in gas well then, ahh bah! Pass it up.
Otherwise – Just Do It! If you do actually desire to mix at this venue and for this artist just freakin do it! Most musicians are broke too
Karrie: I always booked one-offs along these lines as best I could
- Would I have fun or (am I passionate about this gig, venue, artist, cause)?
- Would I learn something?
- Would I make money?
Gigs needed to fill at least two of those. If I were passionate about this gig and going to learn something, I would consider working for free. Otherwise, PAY ME!
Reasons You May Want to Work for Free