There really is no right or wrong answer as to whether you should give away your services for free, but you should take the following into consideration when trying to make your own decision.
The Benefits | Ask yourself if you, your brand or your products will benefit from such performance. In other words, will performing for free allow you or your brand to grow or be heard or be widely known, or will you be able to sell any products or services you offer as a direct result of such performance? Will you able to get more paying gigs as a result of giving away your services?
Unintended Consequences | Your decision to offer your services for free may affect the entire DJ community as well as your own profits. Consider the fact that if you perform for free at a club or venue, those owners and promoters now know they can get you to perform for free – and most likely, if they want to take advantage of you or other DJ’s, they will. Same thing with any organization that convinces you to play for free. Why should they pay you if they can get you or another DJ to perform for free? Know your worth.
Tax Deduction | Donating your services to a legit company or organization is tax deductible – for those of you DJ’s out there who pay taxes – so keep records so you can claim the deduction.
Promises | Beware of anyone who makes promises as to the benefits you’ll receive for your free performance. Promoters and club/bar owners who want to take advantage of new DJ’s use this technique to get them to perform for free while fattening their pockets at your expense. Remember that no one can tell the future.
Eager To Perform Or Gain Experience | This usually applies to new DJ’s but I’ve seen some veteran DJ’s who also perform for free because they’re eager to perform in front of a crowd or because they’re willing to open up or play next to some bigger name DJ. While it’s up to you to perform for free, why not get some cash (even if a little) instead of selling your soul. If you’re looking for experience as a new DJ, consider tagging along with another DJ who already has a residency. Look for a mentor. Yes, I know a lot of DJ’s are very protective of their residencies and are always watching out for under cutters and snakes, but it’s worth giving it a try. You’ll network in the process which is a win/win situation.
You Love Music | You simply can’t use this as an excuse to perform for free. Guess what? All DJ’s love music. Perhaps you love it a lot more than others but if you always perform for free because you love music and love being in front of a crowd, your decision to do it is affecting the entire DJ art. That’s right. Every venue you play for free, is a venue another DJ can’t get access to.
No Guarantee | Remember that there is no guarantee as to whether performing for free will work in your favor, so consider all the positives and negatives when making your decision.