Should You DJ For Free?
In this time and age when everything is moving so fast and there are so many newbies looking to get into the DJ scene, it’s becoming harder and harder to make a name for yourself in this industry. With too many DJs for the current market demand, it’s quite natural that the wages and prices people are willing to play for a gig are going down (sometimes ridiculously so.) And while I’m not preaching hanging a ridiculous price tag on yourself as a beginner just to make sure you don’t ‘waste your time’ with one gig or another, I’m also against selling yourself short. And, in 2018, selling yourself short as a DJ means DJing for free.
So, should you DJ for free? My answer is a big NO. Artists from all sorts of fields are currently facing the same problem as you – their work and effort are devalued to the point that they have to offer their services for free, being promised ‘exposure’ or all sorts of vague rewards like that. In my opinion, here’s why no one should accept to DJ for free:
It’s not sustainable. As a DJ, you need to invest in new hardware, software, records, whatever you’re using to stay on top of your game. If you aren’t getting paid for your gigs, how are you going to afford all that? Sure, most of us wouldn’t just drop our day jobs and become full-time DJs right from the start, so you’d probably have an alternative source of money for equipment. However, if you accept to DJ for free once, the word is gonna spread, and more and more venues/organizers will hit you up with similar proposals, or really low pays. All in all, DJing for free is unsustainable, even if you’re just doing it as a hobby. You don’t want to end up putting more money into it than you can earn back.
It hurts you AND other DJs. You might not think about it, but a DJ accepting to provide free work is hurting the image of DJs and musical artists all over the world. Event organizers are predators – once they encounter one person who’s ready to provide their services for free, they’ll start using that against other DJs in trying to lower their pay, or worse, ask them to play for free as well. ‘Cause, you know, they have a guy who’s willing to play for free, so why would they pay you? What’s more, you will start thinking poorly about yourself. You’ll start feeling as if your work is never good enough to be paid for, and you’ll just end up quitting sooner or later because no one wants to be treated as a newbie forever.
Free work is never appreciated. As I mentioned before, you DJ for free once and then all you get are shitty pay contracts or other requests to play for free for ‘the exposure’ or whatnot. Do it a couple more times and you’ll probably never get out of this vicious circle ever again – ’cause again, why would they pay you the second or third time you play at their venue if the first time you were so nice to do it for free?
All in all, I think you should never offer your services for free, DJing or not. Might be OK to play at your cousin’s wedding for free, but nothing more than that.