No, thanks. I do a few events each year for free, but entirely at my own discretion. This list of reasons goes for the writing portions of my life, as well. When you ask an artist to perform for free, you are essentially asking them to add value to your event for nothing in return but the promise of “good exposure.” My husband and I once had an event coordinator at a bookstore read us a memo from corporate headquarters about how they needed to provide free events to bring traffic into the store. This was just after she asked us to run a writing workshop for free. This was not going to be good exposure for us. It was just taking advantage.
The performer or artist you want at your event still paid out of pocket to be there for you through her education, insurance, and rent, among many other things. Not to mention her time. Please factor these things in when you ask anyone to perform or teach at no cost. (These are my reasons for not doing everything for free - other artists likely have their own set.)
I pay for classes to get good enough to be able to perform and teach.
I’ve learned from some incredible artists. I paid to learn from them because they worked hard to get good enough to teach and perform. I still take classes and workshops from writers, hoopers, actors, and dancers whose work I like because I want to learn more and get better at what I do. It’s professional development. Hours and hours of it. What I do is not just “for fun.” Well, it IS fun, but it’s not “just for fun.” It’s hard work, and it costs real money, to get better at what you love.
I pay for rehearsal space to get good enough to perform.
Hoop practice can’t happen in my apartment, and good rehearsal space isn’t cheap. It adds up. Someday, I hope to have my own space to teach and rehearse and share with others. That will cost money too. I know, because I once had a space for writers and artists to share their work.
I practice every single day, so I’m good enough to perform and teach.
Good writing doesn’t happen because I slack off and don’t write for several weeks. It’s not like I put on my fancy eyelashes and costume, and ta-da! I can hoop! It all takes work. I’m not perfect. There are days when my body is really very sore. There are days when I feel like everything I do just sucks, but then I continue to work at it. Why? Because I want to be the best I can be when someone hires me. I want to give a meaningful performance. I want to write a really great poem. Go read a greeting card and then read something by Fleur Adcock. You’ll notice the difference.
I have insurance so I can perform and teach.
What? Yes. I pay each year for separate insurances – one for instruction – and the other for performance. There is insurance out there for performing poets, too. Google it, poet friends, then carefully consider whether or not you should continue to get up on the table to shout your poetry over the audience without it.
Making costumes takes time, talent, and money.
This doesn’t come up so much in the writing part of my life. Yet. I’ve had to learn how to sew better, and I hate to sew. Fringe isn’t cheap either, let me tell you.
I love what I do, and because I love it, I want to honor the other artists who are involved in learning their craft so they can succeed. Do I care about the Angry Divorced Father’s Club? If they seek to become less angry, then yes. Will I perform for them for free? No. You just can’t continue to make your art well if you don’t get paid. Eventually your checkbook says 0, and it’s not long before the checkbook of your spirit has a negative balance as well.