October 31, 2017 – It’s a great opportunity, and the pay is ‘exposure.’ How many times have you heard that before as an independent artist? We seem to be bombarded with these types of ‘opportunities’ on a daily basis, don’t we?  I know bartering can be a form of payment, but can you really put a tangible value to exposure? The short answer is yes. However, that value may not truly be worthwhile for you.

The first thing you should do is consider the other suppliers or providers for the event. Is there catering, venue rental, equipment rental, photography, videography, insurance, staff, bartenders, etc. involved? Are they being paid for their work? If the answer is yes, then it would seem that the event planner is simply not placing enough value, or any value at all for that matter, on you performing. If that alone doesn’t make you want to say no and tell them where they can stick it and you want to seriously consider this as an opportunity keep reading…

Here’s how to determine if ‘exposure’ is really worth it to you.

Step 1:  Configure what the cost is to you and if you can afford it. You need to determine how much money you will have to pay out-of-pocket to perform at the event. Do you have other musicians you need to pay? How much would you owe them? Would you be missing work? How much money would you be walking away from? Do you have to travel a long distance to the gig? What are the costs associated with gas, food, lodging? Also, consider other expenses such as how much it would cost to park your vehicle at the event, do you have to buy food at the event, and so forth.

After calculating your out-of-pocket cost, you should determine if it’s something you can realistically pay.  Can you afford it?  If the answer is no, then say no to the gig. It’s not advisable to go into debt over an event in which you will be performing for free. Trust me, there will be other more lucrative opportunities.

If you can afford it financially and are willing to make the investment, set this new financial cost amount aside and go on to the next step.

Step 2:  Now, let’s take a look at your time cost. How much is your time worth? This amount might be different from your normal performance price point.  The best way to analyze your time cost is to consider the least amount you would take in order to go out. Maybe you would go out if your gas to and from were covered?  Maybe the cost to buy yourself something to eat? What is the least amount it would take to get you out of your comfy bed? For me, I would factor in how much it would cost in gas to get me there and back plus what amount can justify me getting out of bed, loading my equipment in my car, setting up my PA, putting on a performance, and re-loading my equipment back into the car and then back into my house. Whatever that amount for you is, add this number to the figure from Step 1.

Now you have a tangible minimum cost-to-you for doing this gig. We will compare this with the value of the ‘exposure’ to determine whether or not ‘exposure’ from this event is actually worth it to you.

Step 3: If they are saying that you will be paid in ‘exposure,’ then you need to determine what the financial value of this ‘exposure’ actually is.  Once you determine the value of that ‘exposure’, then you can compare that to your cost for doing the gig for free (the figure you came up with in Steps 1 & 2).

To configure the ‘exposure’ value, you need to find out a couple things…

-How many people from your target market will physically be at the event?
-How many people from your target market will see advertising with your name and branding on it? Factor in flyers, social media and other online presences, and any other marketing material that will have your information on it.  

Here are some questions you can ask the event planner to find out answers to these questions:

• How many people came to this event the last time it was held?
• What was (is) the age range, ethnicity, and general interests of the attendees? (You can ask more specific things to find out if your particular target market will be there.)
• Tell me about your marketing efforts and which of those marketing efforts will I be included in?
• Will you have a way for me to collect e-mail addresses of all attendees? (more on this later)
• What else will be going on while I’m performing? (This will give you an idea of what you will be competing with while performing at the show. I once agreed to do a show based on donations from the audience, but the event planner made the exhibit area available for people to shop with the vendors while I was performing. So as soon as I took the stage my dedicated audience disappeared. I was performing to empty seats because everyone had gotten up to visit with the vendors.) The event planner may say that she doesn’t have all the details ironed out yet, but if you do agree to do this event be sure to share your preferences. Would you want a dedicated audience? What other elements are important to you. Since you are doing this event for free, then they should do what they can to accommodate your needs.
• Can I sell my merchandise? Do you take commission off of my sales? Push back if they want to take commission off of your sales. Since they are not paying you, you should be free to recover your costs with merchandise sales.

Remember, your target market is a very specific subset of people. It’s not everyone. Not everyone loves your music. You should know what types of people will have a favorable reaction to your music. This is your target market. If you don’t know who or what your target market is, you should consider creating a target market profile for your music to help you uncover who your ideal fans are and how to reach them.  Click here for resources to help you create an ideal fan profile for your music. If the event you’re considering will not attract your target market, it doesn’t make sense for you to do it. For example, if the event attracts mostly boating and sailing hobbyists but you do techno punk music, well this would not be the right event for you. That’s an extreme example, but the point is to pay careful attention to who will be exposed to your music and if they are your prime targets for potential fans. If you determine that the audience this event will attract does not match your target market, then say no to the gig.

If most of the people attracted to this event do match your target market, then the next step is to determine how many eyes will see you performing and/or see you on advertising.  Compare that to what it would cost to advertise to that same amount of people. For example, if you start an ad campaign on Facebook, you will get a price for advertising.  This would be a great place to start. Try running a fake ad on Facebook for the same amount of people in your target market in the location of the event and see what Facebook says the value of that kind of exposure is. Try to factor in as many variables as possible. For example, the length of the campaign should be the same time frame as the time frame of the event starting with the marketing of the event all the way through the event and even until the post-marketing ends where applicable. That could be a period of about 1 or 2 months or longer. You should run your fake advertising campaign for the same amount of time as well. After getting all these details in, you should have a cost to run the ad. This gives you some idea of the financial value of the ‘exposure’ this event would bring if you choose to do the gig.

If your event does not have an entertainment budget, at least make the exposure worthwhile. Click To Tweet

Another thing to mention is that if you can somehow collect e-mail addresses or contact information of all event attendees, this would bring the value up a lot higher. If you can get e-mails of all event attendees, you can reach out to them after the event and make an offer to download free music and start to cultivate real relationships with them. How much does it cost you for one e-mail address? Or, better yet, how much would you pay for a targeted e-mail address? If it’s a possibility to get e-mails from doing this event, then you should definitely add this as a financial value as well.

You also should consider how your performance will be situated at the event and what potential financial gains you could have by doing this event. Can you sell merchandise? How much merch do you think you could sell? Would you have an opportunity to speak to attendees after your performance? What kind of follow-up gig opportunities do you think you can get out of doing this show? These factors should also be considered and added to the overall ‘exposure’ value.

To summarize, here is the equation you should use when calculating the value of ‘exposure.’

Calculate the number of attendees representing your target market i.e. those who will see you on advertising + those who will see your live performance (Calculate this financial value using a fake Facebook campaign.)
+ $ Value of Potential Merch Sales
+$ Value Potential follow-up gigs
+$ Value of potential E-mail addresses collected
= Total calculated value of ‘Exposure’

Step 4:  Now you can compare the ‘exposure’ value to your cost and see if it’s worth it. If the cost of doing the gig is way more than the value of the ‘exposure’ then you might not want to accept the gig. However, if you determine that the value of the ‘exposure’ is equal to or more than your cost of doing the gig, you should seriously consider doing the gig. Should you decide to take on the gig, it is very important that you make the most out of this ‘exposure’ and utilize every opportunity to grow your fanbase.

-Read this Before Taking on Another Unpaid Gig (for exposure)

There are some cases though, where it might make sense to accept a gig even if the cost is more than the ‘exposure’ value. For example, if:

-It’s a friend or family member and you just want to help them.
-It’s for a charity or cause you personally believe in.
It’s an audition for some other bigger and better opportunity (make sure it’s not a scam though)

In these cases, it might make sense to do the gig regardless of the lack of compensation.

However, don’t make a habit of taking on gigs you know you can’t afford and the value is not worth it.  You are not only undercutting yourself, but other musicians in your area. You will be doing a disservice to your local music scene as a whole because you will be setting a precedent for the worth and value of live music.  It often times is undervalued already as it is. If an independent artist keeps accepting no-paying gigs consistently, it perpetuates into the starving artist concept even more and does more harm than good. Sometimes taking on no-paying gigs can actually pay off, but you need to know the difference between what’s worthwhile and what is not.  Put a fair value to your work and stick to it as much as you can. You are worth it! Note: For new artists without live performance experience, you might have to take on some free gigs before you can charge. It’s kind of like when you start a new business, you might have to give away some freebies in order to start making money. Sign up for the how to get gigs e-course for tips.

Alternatively, if the event planner is not willing to pay you, but you still want to do the event, see if you can help them find a sponsor for your performance. There are many things you and the event planner can do to offer value to a potential sponsor such as adding their logo and branding to your stage decor, inviting them to share your merch table for free so they can sell their product or service, mention their names and what they do a few times during your live performance, give away their sticker or business card to all event attendees, etc. You can get really creative here.

The point is, if you really want to make something happen, make it happen. Create your own opportunity and don’t just settle for anything. Your career is yours for the taking.

+How to Book Paid Gigs
+Keep Your Gig Calendar Full (Diversify Your Gigs)
+10 Things Venues Won’t Say About Your Booking Pitch