I’ll be completely honest: I’m relatively new to the world of paying gigs. My undergrad was not in a good location for classical performance, so pretty much all of my performances were unpaid, just to get something for my CV. However, now that I’m in a new city, I have MANY more performance opportunities, as well as a ton of unpaid gigs that just seem super fun. How’s a musician to choose? Here’s how to decide when to take or pass on a gig!
Is it worth your time? Literally, is it paying enough for it to be worth you showing up? I seriously regretted a gig recently, because I was offered $0 to work with them, and it took a solid 2.5 hour round trip to get there and back. Public transport is great, but seriously, it was only six miles away! So long! While I’ve now found a ride with another person in the group, I’m going to think twice about taking any gig in the future that isn’t paid, let alone one that requires an additional several hours on either side of it. Know the value of your time! If you don’t love the gig itself, then you should seriously consider whether it’s worth the time invested.
Does it offer networking opportunities? The reason I took that gig in the first place was to meet other performers in my new city, and that’s certainly happening! I’ve reconnected with some performers I’d met in the past, as well as picked up some new connections. An unpaid gig can be absolutely worth it if it allows you to work with someone you’d like to learn from!
Are there major drawbacks to it? Two and a half hour commutes. Weird or conflicting rehearsal times. Working with someone you can’t stand. Playing an instrument or singing a voice part that you’re not comfortable with. If there’s something that you’ll have to do for a gig that you know you’re going to dread, then think twice about taking it in the first place!
How much time can you honestly devote to it? I have a Bad Habit of saying yes to anything I’m asked to join, which can lead to having way too much to do. I’m finally starting to get better about only accepting work and obligations that actually fit in my schedule. One of the primary things I think about when I consider taking on a new gig is whether I’ll be able to dedicate the external practice time to it that it deserves. Can I actually give a new gig two hours a week of practice time? Will I really sit down and do it? If not, it’s okay – I just say no in the first place. It’s more professional to tell someone no than to say yes and back out.
None of this is to say you shouldn’t do someone a favor. Some of my best performances have been unpaid favors to friends. Many of those have led to further, funded gigs! However, you have to know what you can actually, physically accomplish in the 24 hours you have in a day.
Gigging can be a super satisfying way to make some cash and improve yourself as a performer. Just make sure it’s worth your time! Never be afraid to say no to something if it doesn’t work for you or your life. You got this!
First seen on my Patreon!