Wednesday, 25 January 2012


There is one thing that often shows up as a discussion topic among musicians this month. It’s about being underpaid.

The first one I saw was a Craigslist ad that has risen to fame (and has been deleted, but has been quoted in many places). That was a touché. Next, in a similar vein, from Dave Goldberg. He has got good arguments, I think.

However, all I could do was imagine how bad that was… until that hit my band. I made a Facebook post about it in my personal profile, and I got many reactions. So, I thought I would also share it here (some sentences have been quoted verbatim from my post).

We got this offer via email from a 4-star accommodation in country-side Victoria. To drive from any of our places in Melbourne to that place takes about 3 hours. The gig would run for 2 hours. In the email, they spent a paragraph boasting about how great their place was. And what did they offer as remuneration? 1 meal plus drinks. That was it. Could this be some kind of joke? Now there came a Schrödinger cat-ish situation. It could be both a joke and a non-joke, depending on who observed it and when it was done. They weren’t joking when they made that offer, and it sounded so unfunny to me as well. When I told about it to a bar owner that had paid much more than that to me to play music, he LOLed.

Anyhoo, I entertained myself with the thought that perhaps they didn’t understand that it was a ridiculously low payment. Chelsea told me, “Negotiate away!” Happy to oblige! I asked for money on top of that and did all the maths for them.

But they said nuh-uh.

O. M. G.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve played for free air in so many occasions (e.g. non-profit events or social gathering). I’ve got many witnesses to amen that. In those occasions, I even did things that didn’t make sense financially (i.e. lost money). Why? The organisers also lost money. But I can’t in good faith let a leeching practice continue. Even a small cafe can pay much more than that.

I remember one time when I was still in high school, around 20 years ago, I was invited to my mate’s birthday party. So, of course, lots of food and drinks. I saw a piano and offered myself to play. I didn’t expect any payment. I just wanted to make her have a good time on her special day and entertain everyone. The party went on for a couple hours… so then I decided to call it a night and go home. When I said goodbye, her parents gave me money (enough to buy about 20 Macca’s burgers, or perhaps 40? I don’t remember, but for a high school student that was like “Wow!”) as a gesture of gratitude. Even they could pay me more than the 4-star place!

I sincerely hope that this kind of venues would start respecting musicians as business equals. Right. Now.

UPDATE: That 4-star place managed to get another band to fill in the slot. Oh, well. Hopefully, they actually paid something decent to that band.

  • Kamal

    Some people are essentially shameless, and have a nasty sense of entitlement. Stuff those idiots.

    /me thinks his comment _DESERVES_ first spot.

  • ade ishs

    @Kamal: Greed, I’m afraid, is the problem. + Ignorance. + ….

  • Kamal

    @Ade: honestly, I doubt it is ignorance sometimes…