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  • Writer's pictureEmily Rigz

If You Ask Musicians to Play for Free You Are a Fuckwit (with very few exceptions)

Hello my wonderful creative friends.

I’m writing this blog from Australia, and if you’re not aware, Australia is currently at wore with its own culture. This is shit, but it’s only intensifying things for artists who quite frankly are used to things being in a permanent state of shitness.

Every now and then I talk to non-Australian dwelling people who tell me that:

“it’s really not this shit in other countries for musicians”

This makes me sad, but also angry.

I want to talk about artists being paid fairly because:

  1. I believe any working artist can relate to it

  2. I also believe it’s the cancer eating away at our whole industry

  3. I am concerned that this will become an issue when as the Covid restrictions lift and venues are trying to get back on their feet

Who hasn’t had the experience of some smug pub owner bleating his bleeding heart out to you because:

“as you know, venues in Sydney are doing it soooo tough right now and so we are looking for champion musicians that will play for free in our pub to help us bring in some revenue”

Now, let me say this.

There have been heaps of awesome venues in Sydney close down because of the war on culture…oh fuck lol, I mean “war on crime…or drugs…oh no sorry it was violence at the casino, wasn’t it? Or some shit, lol…whatever”.

A lot of venues didn’t survive the lock out laws that were introduced in 2014 that contributed to 418 licensed venues closing up shop. With their deaths went Sydney’s night life. Kings Cross is a ghost town compared to what it used to be.

Top that off with noise restrictions, constant whining from folks about people having too much fun, the destruction of the arts department and now our government absolutely refusing to do jack shit for musicians during the Covid-19 crisis. It’s a tough gig, for everyone.

And so, I’m not ragging on the awesome music venues that respect musicians and pay them fairly. I am, with a passion, ragging on venues, event organisers and all the like that ask musicians to play for free (with the exception of charity events and maybe open mic’s).

You know in the early days of my music career I used to get paid to go busking. That’s right. I used to get paid to set up my little PA and sing my songs for people at the markets. If the little old markets in Moruya get it, that musicians should be paid for their time, then you’ve got no. Fucking. Excuse. As a business owner in a major city.

Emily Rigz busking at Moruya Marketing
Look, I even found a photo of it.

Let’s dissect this, shall we.

When slimy old-mate from said pub puts out the call for “champion musicians who will play for free”, what he (or she, let’s be fair) is really saying is this:

“I think I can cut costs here and either:

A) Line my own pocket, or

B) Impress my boss with my sweet budgeting skills

Because we all know that musicians:

A) Have no value, and

B) Are so desperate, because the industry is sooo shit, that we can capitalise on

this by taking advantage of musicians who are desperate for a gig

Now, listen. I get it. I know how tough this game is. I started at the very bottom of it and I really really really know how depressing and lonely and isolating it can be.

But you know what, that’s just part of being a freelancer in every industry.

But, if you whore yourself out to these people asking you to play for free, or even just play for shit money, you are perpetuating all of the things that makes the Australian music and arts industry such a bleeding shit show. You confirm that you have no value and yes, people will absolutely see you that way.

Because if these fuck-knuckles can keep getting free labour then nothing will ever change.

Can you imagine, I mean really imagine if you needed your car fixed and you went to the mechanic and said “hey bro, I’m looking for champion mechanics that will fix my car for free to help me with my finances this month, WOOO YEAH BITCHES! And don’t worry, I’ll tell my friends you were saaaaa good and you’ll get heaps of exposure for it”.

You would never, ever, in your wildest nightmares, insult your mechanic like that.

So why the fuck, why. The Fuck. Do you let people insult you like that?

Stop doing it! Stop playing for free. Stop mixing for free. Stop teaching for free. Start valuing yourself!!!

Because if we all do that, pretty soon people (and holy hell maybe even our absolute bag of dicks of a prime minister) will start to value you, and the whole arts/ music industry as well!

Ok, one last thing.

I realise that this might not seem so applicable for cover artists. I haven’t done the covers circuit for years, so I don’t really know how people are feeling about their perceived value in that space. But I do, with all my heart, believe in all you little music writing champions with a story to tell and a heart full of fire that everyone is laughing at.

Just fuck them all off.

Believe in your own value, set your rates for what you’re worth, and if we all do this together, one day we might have a scene where it’s unthinkable to ask people to work for free.

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