Many musicians are accustomed to playing for free, especially those who don't have a large following. The joy of it, as well as the promise of exposure, often suffice as a reward. But this can cause consternation for serious or professional artists who spend hours upon hours honing their craft. In the economy of live music, when is it appropriate to not pay someone for her creative labor?
Aaron Thackeray Denver music is much more than sold-out shows at Red Rocks. Let's make sure we're paying everyone fairly.
My own experience suggests there is no clear answer. Overall, musicians enter into business relationships at a disadvantage, and not paying musicians treads a fine line with their outright exploitation. But I've also come to learn that there are many instances when playing for free seems acceptable. So, how do we tease out the difference? It can be hard to codify exploitative behavior. I'd suggest as a starting point that when other people profit from the presence of live music but the musicians themselves don't receive compensation, they are being exploited by definition: their labor generates value that disproportionately goes to other people.More »