…there was lunch in the larger, first floor cafeteria where, in the corner, on a small stage there was a man, playing a guitar, who looked like an aging singer-songwriter Mae’s parents listened to.
“It is,” Annie said, not breaking her stride. “There’s someone every day. Musicians, comedians, writers….We book them a year ahead. We have to fight them off.”
The singer-songwriter was signing passionately…but the vast majority of the cafeteria was paying little to no attention.
“I can’t imagine the budget for that, ” Mae said.
“Oh god, we don’t pay them.”
The Circle, by Dave Eggers
Two different Bay Area artists have posted on Digital Music News about being asked to perform on Oprah Winfrey’s “The Life You Want” tour. Both were asked to perform for free, one chose to do it for the exposure, the other decided not to kiss the ring. The one (Revolva) who wanted to be paid did not get hired. The one who did it for the exposure did get hired.
The question came up with artists who were asked to play for free on the Amanda Palmer Kickstarter tour (about which criticism Ms. Palmer evidently is still stinging) and it’s actually a very old question.
I would suggest to you that there’s a difference between telling an artist that the tour can afford $500 plus some swag and a bunch of comps, and telling the artist that in exchange for being allowed to bask in the glow of the genius of the headliner, they have to play for free plus a couple of house tickets.
Particularly when the headliner is one of the richest performers in the world and can clearly afford the $500 route.
I think that the question that needs to be examined here is not what decision the artists made. Artists presented with this “opportunity” will either take the deal or they won’t. The question is why is the deal being offered in the first place, particularly when employers are being sued every day for unpaid internships.
As a restauranteur told me once, if they can’t afford to tip they should cook dinner for themselves.
The tour is called “The Life You Want”. That title has so many satirical possibilities that I think I will just let it sit there.