I’ve been grappling with the concept of free shows and exposure vs. paid shows. Now, free shows are okay to do. You are giving of your time and skills to someone or something else without expecting payment. This world runs on “I have something you want; therefore you will pay me for it”.
Paid shows are obviously okay to do. There is something about knowing you are getting paid a lot of money to perform that just makes you work harder than ever before to prepare and not disappoint. With a free show there is sometimes a mentality of “they are lucky to be getting me for free, so therefore if I make a mistake – eh it’s not the end of the world, after all, I am doing this for free.”
However, the problem with doing free shows is that if you do enough of them you will be known as “The Magician Who Does Free Shows.” It can be your trade name. “Come quick! The magician who does free shows is doing a free show!!!!” Until: “You have to see this! The magician who does free shows is doing a PAID show!!!! AHHHHH what is this world coming tooooooo?!?!?!!? Oh the humanity!!!!!”
So when does one know when it is a good idea to do a free show or when they should insist on a paid show?
If you are starting out as a performer and shows are few and far, then accepting free shows (not necessarily approaching someone and saying you will do a free show, but people approaching you and asking for a free show) not only gives you an opportunity to perform in front of live people and perfect your skills, but it also gives you exposure. You can hand out your business card to people and make connections.
Once you have been around the block a bit (especially if being a magician is your profession and your income is based on the amount of shows you do) you are entitled to and expected to be paid what you charge without having to negotiate. I am not a working professional but I would think that your price for a show is fixed and only under extreme circumstances should you negotiate. You as the performer have spent countless hours sharpening your skills and you have talent! Your time is valuable. Every minute you are doing a free show you are losing an opportunity to either practice or do a paid show.
There are exceptions when one does a free show:
1) A relative or best friend is running an event and the funds are low.
2) Your Church or Synagogue or Mosque asks you to perform
3) There is a charity event
4) You NEED exposure
5) You NEED to perform
You do not want to sell yourself short. You want people to respect you. Once I was asked to do a kids show and I quoted something quite cheap and the lady never got back to me. When I inquired with a friend of mine they said I got rejected because I was too cheap. Trying to do things for cheap or free might just bite ya in the ass. So make sure that your next show and future shows are signed on your terms and conditions and not solely on theirs.