By Austin White
January 27th, 2012
There has been a growing view of aspiring professional musicians on the internet that musicians should not have to work for free nor should they even be asked to work for free. They believe they are for some reason entitled to getting paid well for their work regardless of whether or not there is even a significant demand for their services.
The possibility that they individually might not be offering anything of great value to the world to get paid for never crosses their minds and they tend to believe there is some sort of capitalist conspiracy being perpetrated against them. Artists are also more likely to demand welfare (i.e. the government using violent force to steal money from one group of people and giving it to another) with either the view that they need a guaranteed income because they don’t have time to work a regular job due to their pursuing of musical goals or because, the very elitist view, that they are special creatures who are above working regular jobs and should just be provided with free money in return for their creative genius that the world should be grateful for.
Here is the latest picture off the internet which perfectly illustrates the economic illiteracy of many artsy-types.
It’s a Craigslist ad by a small restaurant owner looking for live musicians to perform in the restaurant. The owner makes no money offer, but states that the performers are free to promote their own work and sell their CDs and if customers respond positively the performers will enjoy an increasing number of opportunities to perform and promote themselves.
Also included in the picture is a reply from a musician who is obviously appalled that he has even been asked to perform for free.
It’s quite a generous offer considering that the restaurant owner doesn’t owe any musician such an opportunity. The owner could simply play Top 40 music on a stereo, but instead chooses to share his customers with aspiring performers.
Everyone wins. The performer gets free advertising, a venue to perform in and sell CDs, and access to customers who have been drinking, eating, having a good time and are possibly more likely to buy the CDs on the spot than if they were browsing Amazon. The customers get to enjoy a unique dining experience with live music that can only be found at that particular restaurant at that particular time. The restaurant owner gets to enjoy whatever increase in sales the performers bring in. This is the owner’s reward for arranging this meeting between the performer and a new audience, and the audience and a new performer. He’s acted as a broker for the performer and deserves every penny of his increased profits.
But what if the performer doesn’t put on a good show? This is where the restaurant owner is revealed to be an even greater friend of the starving artist.
The restaurant owner is taking a great risk upon himself in order to arrange the meeting between the performer and his customers. What if he was wrong about live music enhancing his business? What if his customers turn out to hate live music while they eat? What if they do like live music, but hate the specific performers? What if he loses some customers over the experiment? What if he loses a lot of customers over it?
The only party in this arrangement that stands to lose is the restaurant owner. He must endure all the financial losses that may result from his decision to feature an amateur performer.
The performer on the other hand only stands to gain. He might sell a lot of CDs or he might sell very few CDs, but, unlike the restaurant owner, faces no risk of losing business. The performer bears no costs other than gas money and a few hours of his time – money and time that he’s completely free to decide whether or not to spend on this performance opportunity
If anything the restaurant owner is being foolishly over-generous to aspiring performers. The performers should be paying for the opportunity, not getting paid. If they’re actually good they’ll make back the performing fees in CD sales and tips.