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Al Angello
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When someone offers you EXPOSURE instead of money for a performance, they are offering you nothing. EXPOSURE to the elements can often times be a cause of death. Two different kinds of EXPOSURE; one will kill your career, and the other will kill you.
Al Angello
Al Angello The Comic Juggler/Magician
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SpellbinderEntertainment
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Ohhhhhh, right, I was slow on that one.
Too true, too; not quite the exposure you bargained for.
OK, I'll take my meds and get back on track. <grin>
Thanks for the clarity!
Walt
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jlibby
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I remember some years ago a woman called and pretty much told me up-front that this fundraiser she was working on had a budget for everything EXCEPT children's entertainers. She seemed embarrassed about asking me to donate a show, but I just flat-out told her (but nicely) "no."

In my experience, I have never, ever, ever, ever been offered one red cent for a charity or fundraiser show; around these parts, they expect the entertainment to be free, unless it's a band. Either that, or I've been dealing with the wrong class of fundraisers!

See ya!
Joe L.
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Bob Sanders
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Joe,

You are in Texas, where charity is still charity instead of a front for a business. Volunteers there are easy to get. Sometimes folks just have good neighbors!

Enjoy it!

Bob Sanders
Magic By Sander
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Jim Snack
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There's a lot of collective experience in this thread. Let me add a few thoughts from Volume One of my Success in Magic course:

"Whenever I receive a request to donate my services for a "good cause," I evaluate it carefully. After all, this is a business and I won’t survive in business if I don’t get paid for performing. And I only have a certain number of performing days available each month.

The first thing I consider is: who is asking? Do I have a previous relationship with either the person making the request or someone else in the organization who recommended me? If I receive a call from a volunteer who is simply going through the yellow pages trying to get a magician or clown to perform for free, then I decline, particularly if they have never even seen my show! But if it is from the activities director of the local community center who has hired me in the past, then I’m willing to consider the request.

Even if I don’t have a relationship with the person requesting, I might be willing to consider it if I am interested in developing the relationship. This probably won’t happen if the call comes from a college intern or other volunteer. If the director of an organization is willing to call me personally to make the request, and has seen my show and really wants me, then I’ll consider it.

The second consideration is whether or not the request is from an organization I feel positive about. For many years, my sister was a very active volunteer with the Make A Wish Foundation. Even though my sister no longer volunteers for that organization, whenever they call, I am open to the request. The same is true for the Hole In The Wall Camp in Connecticut. I’m a pushover for sick children.

The next thing I always ask is: who else will be performing at the event, and are all the other performers also donating their services? The last thing I want to find out is that everyone else is getting paid except me! This can happen, especially when the organization has spent its entire entertainment budget on the “headliner” and now needs some local performers to fill out the bill.

That’s when you get the call from the college intern who has been assigned the task of finding some strolling performers who might be willing to perform for “the exposure.” Trust me; the headliner will get all the exposure, you will be lucky to get a thank you letter.

Furthermore, I ask if everyone is donating his or her services, not just performers. Is the theater or hall being donated? How about the band, the caterer, or the sound, lighting & staging company? If money is budgeted for these services, then I feel it should be budgeted for your entertainment also.

If I have a personal connection with an organization or feel positive about their particular cause, if all the other performers and service providers are volunteering their services, and/or if the exposure is with the media or in front of potential buyers, then I’m open to the request. Before I agree to do the show, however, there is one more strategy I sometimes employ to try to turn it into a paying show.

Turning a Request for a Free Show into a Paying Gig

I explain that I will be willing to donate my services as long as no one else calls wanting to hire me for the same day. If I get a request for a paying job on the same day, I will have to cancel my donated show with their organization in order to take the paid engagement. After all, this is a business. I only have a limited number of performance days available each month, and the day they want is a prime one.

“But we want to advertise you in order to draw people to the event,” they plead.

“Okay,” I reply, “I’ll donate my time, if your organization covers my expenses.”

“How much would that be?” they ask.

I explain that performing is my business, and like any business I have overhead, expense for office rent, props, etc., which amounts to about 50% of my gross income. If this were a paid performance, I tell them, I would have charged a fee of, say, $400 for the show. If the organization will cover my business overhead, 50% of that, or $200, I will donate my time. They may advertise my performance with full assurance that I will not cancel at the last minute to take a paying job. As long as they cover my overhead for that day, I can perform and still stay in business.

More often than not, they find the funds to cover my overhead, so they can advertise my appearance, and I don’t feel so bad when I have to turn down a paying gig for that day.

You probably won’t want to employ this strategy every time you get a request for a free show, but when you are on the fence, trying to decide whether or not to donate a show, try it. You may discover that it is possible to turn a request for a free show into a paid performance. Granted it is not your full fee, but getting paid something is better than nothing, particularly when you are starting out. Furthermore, you won’t feel so bad when you have to turn down a paid booking on that date because you are already committed."

Jim

Posted: Jan 20, 2007 7:58am
One more thought, regarding how to gently turn down such a request.

When I am initially contacted, I will tell the prospect that I might be available on the date in question, but I have a tentative hold on the date from another organization that I will need to call before releasing the date.

Then, I can collect the information about their event that I discussed above and still back out if I don't like the sounds of it. I simply call them back a day later and say, "I'm sorry, the other client confirmed that date, so I'm not available."

Jim
Jim Snack

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RSD
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This is how I handle freebies: I work ONE show a year where I volunteer my services. I work with the same LICENSED charity every year on the same event. If I get any other requests, I politely tell them I already have an affiliated charity. Furthermore, I get paid my normal fee via cheque from the organizers. I then turn around and donate the equivalent in cash back to the charity. This ensures two things...1) My show fee goes directly into the charities kitty and not into some "event expense account" and...2) I get a tax charity receipt, which I can then claim on my income tax at the end of the year.

On a side note, I have found in the past that very rarely that I get paid gigs out of charity work. I find that I just get more requests to donate my time and get branded as a freebie performer. I started this policy of mine about 6 years ago and have not had a problem.
Christopher Starr
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Excellent advice, Jim. Thanks! Smile
Bob Sanders
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"Freebies" aren't quite the same as charity shows to me. To me, charity shows are an investment and obligation I gladly honor. They offer an opportunity for the organization get more than just my performance.

Charity shows gain their importance to me because of a philosophy ingrained in me by a mentor long ago. It goes way beyond the entertainment industry. Simply put, the philosophy is:

Success is a trust to be administered.

"Freebies" are a something for nothing. At best, they are a gift. At worst, they are another extension of social welfare programs and simply squander resources with a politically correct deception. There is no accountability for responsibility in "Freebies". Fun and productive are unrelated terms. Producing fun is not always responsibly productive. It can even be contraindicated.

Bob Sanders
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Paddy
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Funny this topic popped up today. There is one show I do every time they ask, and that is for the "Make A Wish Foundation." Anytime, anywhere, I will help them when I can. But today I received an email from my church about a kids carnival in March. Not asking for anything, just a publicity thing to all the congregants telling us about it. I checked and am not booked for that day, so I called them up and volunteered to be there as my clown character, doing magic and balloons for the whole congregation. When they asked my fee, I told them, "One Dollar."

I do know that the committee running the thing will put my name and info in the church bulletin, plus they asked me for about 100 business cards for them to hand out for me. I usually don't even think of doing things like that, but just got caught in a senior moment and gave it a try. I'll let you know if I get any paying business from this.

Peter
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TrickyRicky
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I will only do the Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto.
Once you do a charity freebie, you will be bombarded with requests for free services. These organizations pass your name around to each other. Whenever I get calls for charity, I tell them that I only do the Sick Kids Hospital.
Richard.
Bob Sanders
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Paddy,

There are times when I simply want to do the show and know it matters. Then my standard line is, "I don't charge family." I've never felt abused from this either. It seems to be treated as a valued gift and puts pressure on them to step up to the plate and work harder.

Bob
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danspada
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I actually work in a non-profit for people with disabilities. I am the Marketing Director but am slightly involved in our event planning, and I can tell you first hand that sometimes free gigs are great exposure, but make sure you're not being exploited. I know for some of our events we will promote certain aspects of the event to gain further exposure...for instance, if it is a well known band, we'll do PR and put the bands name on everything. However, if it is, say, a lesser known act, like a magician, then we don't usually promote it...sorry, guys.

BUT...one option you can do is tell the charity that you are booked on the day they ask you to volunteer. But tell them you would love to do a benefit show where, say, half (and I just throw this number out there) of the proceeds will go to the charity, while you keep the other half. That way, they are likely to still promote you (in PR, posters, and their website, maybe even their newsletter) and you are still making some money on the side.
Bob Sanders
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Well it is resolution time for a new year. How many of you made one in this area?

Bob Sanders
Magic By Sander

PS --- Do yourself a favor for 2010. Make a calendar specifically for this area. Look at your investment. Would you be willing to pay a substitute to do this for you? If not, why are you doing it?
Bob Sanders

Magic By Sander / The Amazed Wiz

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Steve_Mollett
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Drew McAdam's "Making Money from Magic" recommends free charity shows to gain exposure and networking in a new market (notably for those starting out).

Thoughts on that?
Author of: GARROTE ESCAPES
The absurd is the essential concept and the first truth.
- Albert Camus
Steve_Mollett
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None?
Author of: GARROTE ESCAPES
The absurd is the essential concept and the first truth.
- Albert Camus
Reuben Dunn
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After a few years off, after moving back to California from the UK, I've spent some time going over assorted threads; just hoping to catch up with things.

This comment interested me.

On 2006-12-14 16:28, Paddy wrote:
Quote:
On 2006-12-14 14:00, mota wrote:
Has anyone here actually got shows from charity event? My experience has been free shows make more requests for free shows. It also wrecks your pricing...once you do it free everyone wants it free.

Anyone here have a different experience?



My first "gig" was doing a 45 minute set of "Hearing Dogs for the Deaf", which is a UK national charity. I offered my services for free, e.g., as a donation. I like the charity and have an affinity for the the deaf.

They were very gracious. They took care of me on the day, wrote a rather kind testimonial for me, and, unasked, gave me a cheque for the equivilent of $100.00 for petrol (gas) expenses. This was a welcome surprise for me as I was really only doing this for the experience.

Did I get anything in return, e.g., a lead for doing this "free" show? Yup.

One of the members on the planning committee was also in the Human Resources department of an Accounting firm that was located in Wales. Several months later I got an email asking me if I would be available for a Christmas party at a rather upscale country hotel in Wales.

In additon to that, this same H.R. person was also involved with a breast cancer awareness charity in Solihull, which is near Coventry. I did a 45 minute paid show at that, and was then asked by one of the women present for my contact details.

It turned out that one of the divisions of Price WaterHouse & Cooper were doing a banquet for 500 people and were in need of a performer. A 30 minute train ride from Coventry to Birmingham, a lovely dinner, 45 minute show and then 30 minutes of numerology readings, and a rather nice pay cheque too.

Three nicely paid gigs,all because I went to a local meeting of the Hearing Dogs for the Deaf, and offered my services for free.

As my kids would say: "Sweet".

Steve Mollett wrote:

Quote:

Drew McAdam's "Making Money from Magic" recommends free charity shows to gain exposure and networking in a new market (notably for those starting out).

Thoughts on that?



I think Drews book is one of the most carefully hidden books on earning money as a performer because of the market that it's aimed at, the mentalist arena. McAdams is extremely well known in the UK, in Scotland in particular, and his book is one of the best books that I've read on the subject.

He, along with Chuck Hickock, does advocate offering the services for free, as a way of breaking in a new routine/act, and towards gaining exposure and experience with an audience.
Good Thoughts.


Reuben Dunn


www.reubendunn.com
Eldon
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My experience has been about the same as everyone else that has posted here when it comes to charity shows. That being said, Michael Finney once told me that he does one or two charity shows a month, and that those shows pretty much book him enough corporate gigs that he doesn't have to do any other type of advertising or promotion. Keep in mind that the charity shows he does are usually high priced plate dinners and such. The type that corporate big wigs attend.
Ken Northridge
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Quote:
On 2011-02-05 01:48, Eldon wrote:
My experience has been about the same as everyone else that has posted here when it comes to charity shows. That being said, Michael Finney once told me that he does one or two charity shows a month, and that those shows pretty much book him enough corporate gigs that he doesn't have to do any other type of advertising or promotion. Keep in mind that the charity shows he does are usually high priced plate dinners and such. The type that corporate big wigs attend.

I am extremely guarded when I’m asked to donate my time. I’ve been burned before. I once donated my time and was treated poorly, ingnored, not even a simple thank you. Then I found out other entertainers got paid and were treated like stars!

However, the Michael Finney example is why you should never say never. I suppose it takes as much experience as Michael Finney has to discern the good from the bad.
"Love is the real magic." -Doug Henning
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David Thiel
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I will choose who I do free shows for. And I explain to them, in advance, that I do what I do for a living and that I am interested in trying out some new material mixed in with my more polished stuff. This enables me to get some sort of fix on how the new material is faring before I put it into my paying shows.

The charity knows this and often they have been very helpful in honing components of effects that are still at the `I need a live audience` phase.

I work WITH these people -- admittedly not many -- and work to develop relationships with them so it`s more of a personal relationship. These charities have significant networks and they talk among their circles of friends.

IF you are doing charity shows to get more shows, prepare for disappointment. Either you donate your time or you don`t. This way I get valuable real world experience for my new effects, I gain a network of people who are friendly to me -- and the charity gets free entertainment. Works for me.

David
Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Except bears. Bears will kill you.


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