There is a very nice article by Linda Essig about something I’ve written about here a few times. What I like about her article is that she quotes rules from the US Department of Labour. This new slant on an old issue gives “our side” a bit more strength in the ongoing argument.
In my experience as a professional musician (a career spanning three decades) is that nothing good comes from playing for free. People think you can gain exposure and/or experience from donating your services for free. It’s funny, I remember a quote from a music business book that said “All you expose by playing for free is that you will play for free.” My career experiences concur. I will also add that the way I am treated on a gig is directly proportionate to how much I am paid. The worst I have ever been treated has been on gigs that I volunteered (very, very early in my career) to do for free.
The other excuse people give for playing for free is that they want experience. Unfortunately, not all experience is equal. And the worst kind of experience you can gain is from playing for free. This goes hand in hand with the way you are treated. The only experience you gain from playing for free is just how bad things can get when you play for free.
Anyway, I invite you to read her article. I agree with her 100%