Opinion Blog: The Only Thing Spent is You: Musicians, Farmers Markets, and Valueing Our Talent

(This is an opinion piece written by Jamie)

Here we go! “Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events is seeking musicians or other family-friendly performers for the 2011 Chicago Farmers’ Markets. While these are unpaid opportunities, they offer great exposure to different audiences throughout Chicago’s neighborhoods.”

Dear Musical Compatriots!
As long as our city gets you to work for free, while your taxes are PAYING all the other workers – like sound engineers, security guards, ticket-takers, caterers and gardeners in THEIR jobs – the ONLY thing they remember about you is you’ll work FREE!  I know – I’ve been at this for 30 years. I get paid by artists to show them how to ask to get paid. Hey, I sing at benefits. Different thing. Sure, you should donate an appearance here and there, especially while you’re building your base. Grab the chance to promote your thing on a radio show. Guest on a friend’s set at a club.

But know this! The more of us that stand in line for these kinds of jobs, the less we gain.

If you’re new at this, take my advice. If you choose to be atmosphere for the Shangri-la trade-off of having “different audiences throughout the city” encounter you for no pay, (while the vendors are selling their wares for cash), know what you’re signing on for.

Don’t buy it when someone tells you that if you stand in a crowd on a humid 95º day, singing Yankee Doodle with your ukulele, you’ll be the one they pick n’ PAY when visiting royalty’s in town.
If they think of you at all, it will be the next spring, when their replacement in a paid city job, scrolls thru the acts from last year and tweets…

Hey, Schmucks, it’s that time again!”



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