Exposing Exposure: When to Play for Free

MsRayV0511 Commentary 0 Comments

One of the most popular sites on Facebook solicited for amateur Metal to be included in their annual promo-compilation. Nice gesture. So, with this, they made some very reasonable, if not a little confusing, stipulations as to what is acceptable and what isn’t, such as no ‘bedroom bands,’ no ‘one-man bands,’ etc. Most of their followers were keen, except one.

“What’s in it for us?”

Everybody's gotta start somewhere...

Everybody’s gotta start somewhere…

Unfortunately, the answer was pretty much – you guessed it: “Exposure.” And the response was not pretty.

“Do you know how much it takes to write a song?

Do you know how much it costs for equipment, studio time, software, instruments?

Do you know how much time, skill and effort it takes to make music?

It’s bad enough that most people download for free but we should give it away, too? It’s work, work needs to be paid…” and so on.

The follower and the page went back and forth about the same arguments that we have been having for years, which boils down to art is work and work should be compensated and that is absolutely correct.

But, there is another side of this coin: It takes money to make money. If you treat art as a business, then you need to invest in that business, which includes marketing.

The problem isn’t whether or not musicians should get paid – that is a most resounding, unquestionable, “Yes!” The problem is, “When?”

At what point should they expect their investment to pay off?

15317860_1166802706721143_5390088195562952272_nExposure, as much as any artist hates to hear it, does have value. However, over time, the artless who are in charge of the arts have used it as an excuse to undermine the efforts and value of the artists for economical purposes and drive them towards sweat-equity-based occupations which most artless are invested in.

For those who do not understand what the big deal is, let it be clear:


The need to make art is not a whim or a phase. It is not something that “anyone can do,” it is not “a waste of time.”

It is a third lung one is born with and will die if they don’t breathe from it. It is an instinct, like blinking. The need to make art is no different than having to take a piss after drinking too much or grabbing the chocolate when the craving comes on.

The need to make art is as necessary as the need to make money. It is a fact. It is science. It is part of a genetic code, it is a human condition.

And the same people who would say that art is not a “real job” are the same people who are buying music, hanging paintings, trying on clothes, setting tables, celebrating and living life through someone’s designs and talents. Therefore, those people need to shut the fuck up.

But, like anything else, even the human body, it must be self-sustaining in order to survive and with that, you need to invest.

1381704_638301639524010_284296667_nWhen you take a ‘normal’ job, you invest in the gas and the clothes and the time to get there, be there, and conform to the expectations you agreed to in order to get your check. There is usually a time for training, orientation, and rules to adhere to. This is no different with art; you need time, equipment, training, orientation, and an understanding of the rules.

The most principle rule of art is that it must be experienced by others to have worth.

You may be the greatest songwriter or guitarist in the world, but if no one sees you, its worth is very limited. We invest in the arts that connect with us, speak for us, feel with us and we cannot invest in anything we’ve never heard. So, for that, for marketing purposes, it is very appropriate – and smart – to give samples of your work.

However, when those samples, like a song or a shirt, turn into whole shows or stacks of merch, then you have reached a point when it is appropriate and correct to expect others to return your investment.

25015202Pay to play is never okay. The venue is double-dipping, getting the bands’ fees and the ticket sales simultaneously, and it is extremely unscrupulous and borderline illegal.

A portion of every ticket belongs to the artist, that is another rule. Learn it, know it, live it, love it. As for whether or not you want to turn your passion into a business, that is completely up to you. Of course, no one wants to be a ‘sell out.’

But, ask yourself: “If I have the opportunity to do what I absolutely love, without compromising my integrity, and not worry about going hungry or homeless, would I do it?”

If you answer anything other than, “Hell yeah,” then ask yourself whose voice is answering for you. Because if it’s not your own, then whose life are you living?

“Get a Real Job” – T. Ray Verteramo

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