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Red Shadow
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Why you should never do a free shows.

1. Once you perform a show for free, you will get inundated by other charities calling you also wanting a free show. It doesn't matter how secret you keep the 'free' aspect, the people running the event are gossipers of the highest extreme.

2. Those that say 'we will add you to our Facebook page' are the worst kind. Nothing tells other charities that you do free shows than a picture of you on a different charities facebook wall. You might as well be shouting it from the rooftop that your willing to work for free.

3. You turn up at the event, and find out that the band is being paid, the waitresses are being paid, the room hire is charged along with all the food. You, the entertainment for the party are the only one working for free.

4. You are not respected at all. Because you are there 'for free' they give you a value of nothing, and treat you as such. This is not alway the case, but it happens enough to warrant mentioning. You arrive and no-one was expecting you or care. Some even have the cheek to ask for the admission fee from you. You set-up next to the hotdog and candy-floss machines and are asked to perform while they do the raffle on the other side of the room, next to the car-boot sale. There are no announcements made to say your shows about the start, the person that booked you is no-where to be seen. Its a nightmare gig, and your not even being paid.

5. These charities have money, lots of it. If you research charity organisations, only 5% of all donations get to the people that need it. Everyone down the line gets a cut. Administration costs, wages - these people asking for free stuff are getting paid themselves you know.

6. It cost you money. Petrol, car-parking costs, car wear and tear, supplies for the show, wear and tear on your props, exerting your voice, turning away a paid gig, not being at home to answer the phone to a client losing them. None of this you will get back, no-matter how clever you get with your paperwork.

7. Fatigue is also a major issue. A professional is working a lot and projecting their voice can often strain it. A singer on tour is told not to talk when off-stage. If you want to give your paid clients the best show possible, you cannot be at a weakened energy level due to working a free event.

8. Fairness between clients. Its not fair for you to charge one client your full fee, and another client (whoever that might be) a discounted or free rate. Everyone in this world should be treated equal and I've found that even those wanting a handout want to have some self-respect. They would rather earn your money selling a newspaper than just be given it. Treat everyone equal and people will respect that, and you. When you tell a charity person this, I often find they suddenly have money to pay you as well.

9. Asking for a free show is in the script. They are working from a script that is in front of them and the start by saying free publicity, Facebook, that you'll get mentioned in a newsletter etc. Haven't you ever found it odd how all these charity people calling you use the exact same lines! They are all working from the exact same script. Once you get past all the promo stuff and say no, often these people will ask you for your price and then for a discount. Again, that's also in the script. These people ask for free entertainers so often, that they have what they are going to say written down. To them, its a formula and a sales-person job. They don't care about the charity themselves, there just being paid to make the phone-calls.

10. You are not important to them. The person calling you doesn't want you particularly, they are just going through a list found online of entertainers in your area. Anyone of them will do and they don't care if its you or not.

11. The person calling you wanting you to work for free is being paid to make the call. They are even on a salary. If you asked that person calling you if they are donating their wage to the charity they want you at, you will get a very awkward response from them. Its so funny, I often do this just to hear them squirm.

12. Public liability. These are people looking for money, every way they can. You are after-all performing for people with special needs. The chances of accidents is increased, especially if your at one of the nightmare gigs where people walk through your stage and your squashed in the corner of the room. Putting yourself into the crossfire of a lawsuit is a warranted risk.

13. Paperwork - there is tons of it. You say yes to the free show, and suddenly your asked to fill in a contract, risk assessment and show all your documentation etc. a normal client doesn't need any of this, yet here you are having to fill in forms for a show you are not getting paid for.

14. These are not fun shows. Charities are charities for a reason. I did one which was for a Russian exchange program and got there to find out none of the children spoke English, even though I was told they could. Others can't stand or walk so asking for volunteers is a tough job. Its just a sad fact that these wont be your best shows and so all that publicity will be for naught because of the audience, and it will shake your confidence for the next gig.

15. Double booking you with another entertainer. I once had a charity organisation booking where they had two of us turn up for the same event, at the same time. The booker got us both just in case one of us was to cancel. This was an event where we were both getting paid as well, and I was the one that got there a minute after the other guy, so I was the one canceled. I sued them and got my fee. But it just goes to show how little they think of us as professionals.

16. Any potential customer at a charity event, is most likely heavily involved with that charity. Perhaps their child suffers from the same thing. What that means is that they will never book you. Every penny they make they would rather give to the charity themselves, rather then a hire a magician who they have already seen! that's right, by seeing us at the free gig, they have seen the show and have no need to book us! You can shout out that you have different shows until your blue in the face, but the average lay person doesn't seem to acknowledge this.

17. You are pointless to the organisation. Lets say the charity was for cancer awareness. How is your magic show going to help that? How many charity groups actually need a magician for their event? How is it helping them make any money or raising awareness. We are counter-productive to what they are trying to do and distracting to the struggle that they are trying to present. If the charity really wanted people to know about the hardship of their cause, they should be doing a talk on it or something. Not hiring a magician!

18. Some events are not advertised at all. I did an event at the hospital, where the organiser put me, a band, catering staff and helium balloons in the garden area of the hospital. We were all there for four hours, and just three people turned up over the course of that entire afternoon. No-one had even thought about advertising the event and we were all wasting out time. Those three people were there to visit the garden by-the-way and not us.

19. You might catch something. Some of these charities are for serious illnesses. Being around them can be a risky factor as you are after-all working around infections. I have a rash on my arm right now, that a child gave me a month ago. I have to go to the doctors next week to get it treated. The child seemed healthy and it was a normal birthday party, but she accidentally scratched me and I didn't think anything off it at the time, but several days later a rash appeared in that area. Im not in pain, so don't think its anything too bad. But imagine if that scratch had happened to someone with a more serious illness, like chicken pots and you catch it as an adult. You have to think about what the charity is and who the audience is for.

20. Some of these charities are stupid. Like save my pet goldfish or pay for the school class to go to France on holiday for free. Some charities are only set-up so that the organiser can get a free holiday or they have other alternative agenders. There are also a lot of con-men in the game of fake charities who will use all the money they make from the event to go on holiday.

Feel free to add to this list if you have any other reasons.
Mindpro
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So your answer to the original question is - Never?
dearwiseone
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Ku7uk3 brings up some great points. Thanks for sharing!
Robin4Kids
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I think it would be safe to put Stephen down as a "NEVER!"

Based on his assessment, there must be a lot of charities in the UK that are loaded with money, out to get your money or infect you with their diseases! To be fair though, he has a few good points buried in his well-thought-out reasons to say no.

Not everyone supports charitable organizations, but fortunately there are those of us that do. Before I would offer my time, talent or money to a non-profit, I would certainly want to be confident that it was legitiment and helped a cause that I was passionate about.

I serve on the boards of several non-profits such as the Food Bank, Make-a-Wish and our local Family Services Center. These organizations are at the top of my list to support, anytime they need it...no questions asked. There are others that I will help such as the American Cancer Society, March of Dimes, Child Advocacy Center and the American Heart Association, that I will help because I have had family and friends that have benefited from their work. But I do have stricter requirements of them, such as no other entertainer can be paid.

I think it is good for everyone to find a cause close to their heart to support in any way you can, big or small. The work that they do (the legitimate ones) would never get done if it was dependent on the government, and we would end up paying for that out of our tax dollars. But I realize charity work isn't for everyone... but it should be!!!
Mindpro
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Quote:
On 2013-11-01 11:34, Robin4Kids wrote:
I think it would be safe to put Stephen down as a "NEVER!"

Based on his assessment, there must be a lot of charities in the UK that are loaded with money, out to get your money or infect you with their diseases


LOL!
Gerry Hennessey
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Brilliantly said. Bravo!

You took a lot of time to write that and every point is so very true.

This should be required reading for anyone asked to do a free gig.

Again well done. There is nothing more to add. You said it all.

Thank you.
"Every discipline effects every other discipline. You can't straighten out the corporation if your closet is a mess" Jim Rohn

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dearwiseone
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I think Stephen's observations reflect reality, he wrote a great post.

The American Heart Association has several staff members who take home salaries approaching $200,000! If they can afford to pay that person $200,000/year, plus benefits, they can afford to pay me a couple thousand or especially a couple hundred to attract publicity for their marketing.

March of Dimes is even worse! There's no way those guys are getting my money or donation.

"Roxanne Spillett, the chief executive of Boys & Girls Clubs, was paid $988,591 in 2008, a year in which the organization took in $107 million. Dr. Jennifer Howse, chief executive of the March of Dimes, was paid a total of $627,104 by her organization, which raised $237 million."

"The American Heart Association determines compensation in much the same way as the Boys & Girls Clubs, using comparative data, consultants' opinions and annual reviews measuring performance against various benchmarks. In 2008, the heart association paid its longtime chief executive, M. Cass Wheeler, who was retiring, a total of $995,424. That year, the association raised $645 million."

In my opinion, those salaries are excessive. Yep, them poor little non-profits....just trying to help people out.

Please understand, I have nothing against earning that much. Some people deserve and are worth that much. But I think most people have false ideas of "charities" and "non-profits." They can afford your fee, they can afford to cover your expenses...they're just choosing to spend that money on a corporate jet or week-long retreat in Fiji for their executive staff instead.

There are legitimate charities (not many though). By doing your research, you can find them. I enjoy donating many shows every year, I also contribute financially to a couple charities, and I think it's a wonderful way to give, share, help others, and show gratitude for what you've been given. I'm just way more picky than most. I won't be donating to an organization that pays it's director nearly a million dollar salary, in addition to benefits.

Also, please understand that as an entertainer, you're just someone trying to earn a salary, just like the CEO, secretary, office staff, and anyone else in the organization.

I encourage other entertainers to be very, very selective about the groups or individuals they donate shows to. I personally think the best people to donate shows to are individuals, not corporations.

Just my thoughts!
Mindpro
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Are you guys telling me the only events you get asked to do "for free" are these types of charity events? This is interesting if that's what you're saying.
dearwiseone
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No, Philip and Henry have contacted me twice asking me to do free shows! (I really dislike those guys!)

Yes, other than that, it's been all these types of charity events.
Mindpro
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Wow, I'd heard of them offering $50 shows but free? Wow
Zombie Magic
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Quote:
On 2013-10-31 10:51, Mindpro wrote:
The really quick answer is there is never any such thing as FREE. Free in it's truest form rarely exists. While you can decide to perform for no fee, you should never perform for free. There is a difference.

As a professional or even semi-professional you are providing something of value which is your performance. The typical view of this is what are you getting paid? But in reality payment is only one such benefit that a performer can receive. If someone chooses to provide a performance for no pay, I strongly suggest you receive some other form of benefit other than payment.

This can be in the form of publicity, a guaranteed signed letter of endorsement or testimonial, the agreement or contract of another related or future event from the client, direct contacts or mailing lists from attendees of the event, the ability to do your own mailing list sign-up at the event, professional photos or video from the event from their (or your own) resources, direct contacts to event sponsors or supporters, and endorsed mailing from the client or charity, be included as part of the advance promotion through media resources...I could go on and on as there are literally dozens maybe even a hundred different such benefits and types of compensation other than cash or check.

It should be viewed as an overall opportunity. These can often be great networking events or showcase events in which you personally invite your potential or VIP clients, etc.

My point is there can always be many other and additional benefits that can be beneficial to your business which can or may play a factor in such decisions. Too often performers just look at the surface deal and immediately say no, when in reality there could be many residual benefits.

I once participated in a newly developed school conference. I was asked to participate but they could't pay me or my expenses as I'd have to fly myself and pay for my own lodging. At a glance it was a "no-way" deal. After much consideration I decided to do the event anyways after suggesting many of the things mentioned above. While at the event I met one school contact that I talked with who by the end of the three day event came back and said he wanted to book me for their school event. I charged $1500. That school was in a medium size community that included four other high schools. After that first booking I did, I received calls from a second, and a third additional area school. They all wanted to book me for next years event all on consecutive days. The third year I added a fourth school and a couple of years later a new fifth school. So I earned $1500 the first year, the next year it grew to $4500 and then eventually to $6000 for the five day run.

I am proud to say that this will be tenth year of doing this run of dates which is now regularly on my annual calendar. That's over $55,000 I've earned (at that's before merch and BOR at each event) that came from doing one single non-paid event where I had to pay my own expenses just to be there. Often it's seeing the potential bigger picture, and creating a win-win deal that may not include direct financial payment.


Mindpro, We're fortunate to have someone with your experience that takes the time to share your expertise.

THANK YOU!
charliecheckers
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Quote:
On 2013-11-02 04:46, Zombie Magic wrote:
Quote:
On 2013-10-31 10:51, Mindpro wrote:
The really quick answer is there is never any such thing as FREE. Free in it's truest form rarely exists. While you can decide to perform for no fee, you should never perform for free. There is a difference.

As a professional or even semi-professional you are providing something of value which is your performance. The typical view of this is what are you getting paid? But in reality payment is only one such benefit that a performer can receive. If someone chooses to provide a performance for no pay, I strongly suggest you receive some other form of benefit other than payment.

This can be in the form of publicity, a guaranteed signed letter of endorsement or testimonial, the agreement or contract of another related or future event from the client, direct contacts or mailing lists from attendees of the event, the ability to do your own mailing list sign-up at the event, professional photos or video from the event from their (or your own) resources, direct contacts to event sponsors or supporters, and endorsed mailing from the client or charity, be included as part of the advance promotion through media resources...I could go on and on as there are literally dozens maybe even a hundred different such benefits and types of compensation other than cash or check.

It should be viewed as an overall opportunity. These can often be great networking events or showcase events in which you personally invite your potential or VIP clients, etc.

My point is there can always be many other and additional benefits that can be beneficial to your business which can or may play a factor in such decisions. Too often performers just look at the surface deal and immediately say no, when in reality there could be many residual benefits.

I once participated in a newly developed school conference. I was asked to participate but they could't pay me or my expenses as I'd have to fly myself and pay for my own lodging. At a glance it was a "no-way" deal. After much consideration I decided to do the event anyways after suggesting many of the things mentioned above. While at the event I met one school contact that I talked with who by the end of the three day event came back and said he wanted to book me for their school event. I charged $1500. That school was in a medium size community that included four other high schools. After that first booking I did, I received calls from a second, and a third additional area school. They all wanted to book me for next years event all on consecutive days. The third year I added a fourth school and a couple of years later a new fifth school. So I earned $1500 the first year, the next year it grew to $4500 and then eventually to $6000 for the five day run.

I am proud to say that this will be tenth year of doing this run of dates which is now regularly on my annual calendar. That's over $55,000 I've earned (at that's before merch and BOR at each event) that came from doing one single non-paid event where I had to pay my own expenses just to be there. Often it's seeing the potential bigger picture, and creating a win-win deal that may not include direct financial payment.


Mindpro, We're fortunate to have someone with your experience that takes the time to share your expertise.

THANK YOU!


I quite agree. This and many posts from Mindpro are worth rereading and saving.. There were several opportunities to perform "free" shows a while back that I almost past up because of opinions I read that caused me to believe performing for no financial gain would never be of benefit. Against my "better" judgement, I decided to accept (and actually pursue) several "free" performances that were very rewarding and beneficial to my business.. One example I can share is a show I did for "Hunter's Hope". A huge local celebrity (Buffalo Bills Hall of Fame Quarterback Jim Kelly) had a son named Hunter who died at an early age from Krabbe Disease. He and his wife Jill host an annual event at the Bills indoor practice facility to celebrate families and raise awareness of this and other early childhood diseases. By performing at this event, I was able to get a photograph along side Jim for social proof for my website. I also had a chance to help the cause by incorporating their educational material in my performance. For my particular situation, this was a perfect match, and I would not have felt right receiving financial compensation - it would have lessened the thrill I got from participating.
Mindpro
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Thanks for the kind words you guys, you're making me blush. It's funny but I hear from guys that also say they copy my posts and have referred back to them time and time again in their learning and growing process. I've met one guy that showed me his binder which was a collection of many of my posts. I asked him for a copy of it. I appreciate that and say just wait to a couple of the books and resources I'm working on are done. They'll be a great addition to these posts.

One of the students I've been coaching emailed me and asked me to revisit this thread because a couple of months ago we covered this topic quite thoroughly and the insight and information I offered to him not only helped him greatly but according to him gave him perspective which he said was the most valuable, so I will add a bit more here.

I think much of the concept in doing "free shows" as discussed in this thread can vary based on many dynamics. It is definitely NOT one size fits all.

Those early in their performing career or at earlier levels such as amateurs, beginners, hobbyists or semi-professionals, in reality could and likely should look at this differently than those pros doing it for a living or their sole means of financial support. We are all at different levels in our performing and reasons for performing, and therefore this can also come into play.

As a newer, younger or non-professional performer, one popular theory is that at this level your goal should be to gain as much performing experience as possible, and I don't mean just for family and friends. At this level, a performer may and probably should view these "free shows" as an opportunity - an opportunity to gain some experience, contacts, things for your promotional materials and web site such as photos, video's, audience testimonials on video, a letter of recommendation on the client's professional letterhead, maybe some newspaper coverage, as an opportunity to pass out or distribute your business cards, promotional materials, create a email sign-up offer, drive traffic to your web site (lead gen), to gain promotional photos, as in Charlie's example to gain a photo with a celebrity, Mayor or other VIP, and if nothing else to gain even some "camera on a tripod video footage" simply to critique and review your performance afterwards for improvement.

Point being there are so many benefits to performers at this level, do not let the stern opinions of some of the longer performing pro's prevent you from properly considering this situation AS IT PERTAINS TO YOU. You are in an entirely different situation and level than them, and therefore the benefits and advantages to you as your overall consideration for such events and offers is also different than them.

For those than are pro's we have some things to consider with such offers that are non-existent to the previous level of performers above. For one, these events always seem to be on a prime Friday or Saturday night. These are our money times for most performers. So in such a case it's not a simple matter of yes or no, it may also mean forfeiting one of four (25%) of our prime income generating Saturday nights. So not only are we giving up our fee for the event, but we are allowing our overall income and means of support to take a hit. This is a huge consideration. Also performers at this level do get approached much more often by such arrangements and events due to their stature withing the local performing community. Having their performance brings draw and credibility to the event. Also at the level of some pros things like the possible mentioned benefits may not be worth what is being sacrificed to do such an event. Then there is also the concern that if you do a few of these, you will all of a sudden be on the top of every charity's list as a "go to" for every such future event from every such charity.

It's important for performers to understand these two (or many) different levels of operation and execution, as it is the primary basis for the difference in perception and often tone in the responses offered here.

The bottom line I was trying to make is to do what is right for you, BUT do step back and take a look at the bigger potential picture rather than just what it appears as at a glance. And do so from your proper perspective of your current level of experience.

I should say one more thing about this. All of this so far has been about should I do this or should I not. This is in reality only the first step. I have seen so many performers that do take these types of events, show up and while they do s decent job, they do not give it their best. They do not treat it the same as their typically normal decently paid performance. They may be ****y in their attitude, they may not bring their "A" show or material, they may cut back certain elements of their performance, they may do a shorter show, they may not be as enthusiastic, they may not wear their normal flashy, sharp stage attire, etc. They don't give it 100%. To me this is wrong.

If you're going to accept this, you should always give 100%. I have fallen into this category and learned this the hard way, but it was a great lesson. I won't bore you with another story, but my point is if you are going to take this type of a booking, ALWAYS bring your "A" game an give 100%. This is where success and residual benefits happen.

I'm sure whether they'll admit it here or not, many of the performers here have been guilty of this falling under the too common mentality of "they should just be lucky I'm even doing this" and "they're lucky to get whatever I give them". They're soured for any of a variety of reasons. Don't let this be you. It's better to say no. However, if you do say yes, you should live with and follow through with your commitment and obligation 100% mentally and physically.

Not just with this topic and thread but with all offered here on the Café, you must remember that perspectives come from many different levels of experience and physical locations (how often do some of the European performer's posts seem, well, "foreign" to us here in the states? I'm sure it's the same with them and some of ours as well) and everyone must accept and remember these come from performers at different levels that may or may not be the same as yours.
Alikzam
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I wrote an article about this on my blog: http://partshowpartbusiness.com/2012/11/......or-free/

I'd normally just quote it here, but there's additional pictures and things included in the article as well.
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There is no easy answer for this debate. Good info from everyone here. It's not just us this is happening to. Here's the same problem from a writer's perspective... http://nyti.ms/1dmGKTq

My favorite line from the article: "People who would consider it a bizarre breach of conduct to expect anyone to give them a haircut or a can of soda at no cost will ask you, with a straight face and a clear conscience, whether you wouldn’t be willing to write an essay or draw an illustration for them for nothing."
.
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TheAmbitiousCard
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When I'm asked to do a free show I always give the same answer:

You might try calling a local cub scout troop. There are many young scouts willing to give a free show.
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A free magician may only be worth what you pay him. LOL
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TonyB2009
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When is it good to do a free show? Never.

When is it bad to do a free show? Always.

No exceptions. I offer legitimate charities a good price, but if they want me to perform for free they are out of luck. Once or twice I have handed my fee back, but they have to pay me first.
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Here's a recent article that reflects and reinforces pretty much what has already been said:

http://www.thestar.com/business/personal......ree.html
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If it's a non-profit in my community that I believe is providing a worthwhile service and I feel to be a worthy organization, that I have respect for, I will ask if the band is getting paid, if the band is paid, I want to be paid, if the band is working for free, I will donate a show
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