Charities: When to Play for Free

If you're a musician who likes to play for charities, follow these tips before you decide to play for free. Spread your talents for everyone to enjoy!

Play for charities and non-profits.

charitiesI recently came across a Facebook post titled, “Three Reasons Why You Need To Stop Playing Gigs For Free” by Brent Vaartstra. In his piece, he expressed his opinions about putting out the tip jar, amount of people at a gig and exposure. Exposure means the chance to play in front of the “right people.” He really didn’t cover any new ground in my opinion. Most musicians know that playing for free is not the goal of being musical performer, however a little light went on in my head. I have 11 points that I use when deciding when I will perform for free and these I think at least for me work. I don’t play in bars or other venues for free unless it meets my 11 point rules, a set of rules that I take very seriously.

There are literally thousands of charities that use entertainment as part of their fundraising efforts every day in America. I have performed for so many charities that I can’t remember half of them.

There comes a time when you or your band might have to make that decision as to should I do this or not. I don’t think that making a decision to play for a legitimate charity should be a big deal. It should never really be about exposure if, the event and charity are the real deal.

  1. I will play for a legit charity that promotes the “Health, Welfare and Education” of our young people. These organizations must be a 501c3 with a very strong commitment and track record to back it up. For example, MFEE (Montclair Fund for Educational Excellence). If asked to perform for this organization I would strongly encourage my band to perform for any of their fundraising efforts.
  2. I will play to help further “Arts Education.” To me, it is extremely important that we as a society recognize that the arts helps to foster intellectual as well as social skills. Arts Education is very important in assisting both adults and our younger generation.
  3. I will play to help raise funds to assist in the development of housing for those who are homeless. As long as I have knowledge that the money raised, will be used for that purpose. I will go through great lengths to raise money for homeless people if asked to do so. There is no reason for anyone to live on the street. I think we don’t do enough to address this terrible problem in America today.
  4. I will play to raise money for a person’s funeral. Because, no money was available to have proper funeral or cremation. I have always believed that people who have passed, should be given a dignified burial or cremation.
  5. To help with medical expenses for those who don’t have insurance or just cannot afford medical care. Even with “The Affordable Care Act” some will fall through the cracks.
  6. To help sick and orphaned animals. We should help whenever we can.
  7. To help spread the knowledge of goodwill and kindness. This should be self- explanatory.
  8. For continuing adult education for those who need assistance. There is no reason adult education should not be one of the main priorities in our society.
  9. To help reduce the effort of those who wish to destroy our land through corporate greed.  There is not enough space in this article to document the environmental damage that many big corporations have done. In some cases, the damage may never be able to be cleaned up! Heavy metals in our rivers and streams, Chemicals galore have caused untold damage and have resulted in everything from tainted crops to poison seafood.
  10. To those performing arts entities that seek to raise money for “General Operating Support”, as long as they are  “Not for Profit” organizations. No need to explain here.
  11. And any other legitimate situation that demands support of performance to raise money. No need to explain here as well.

I truly believe in these 11 points put forward. If I can’t honestly answer or find any positive reasons that match any  of the 11 points, I simply don’t do the gig. Doing free gigs just for the sake of doing gigs is a self-defeating task. So, doing these kind of gigs is different; they have a purpose and the results are usually positive.

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