Quit Working For Free!
Are you a musician? Is your group having issues? Ask Fan Landers! Critic Jessica Hopper has played in and managed bands, toured internationally, booked shows, produced records, worked as a publicist and is the author of The Girls' Guide to Rocking, a how-to for teen ladies. She is here to help you stop doing it wrong. Send your problems to her - confidentiality is assured, unless you want to use your drama as a ticket to Internet microfame.
A few months ago I recorded some songs that I did not expect anyone to listen to. Except they did. And my local scene seemed to think I did a pretty good job, so I started playing out a lot locally. Eventually, I landed an opening gig for an older artist who is one of my biggest influences. Which led to opening a whole tour for him. Yay! But...that led to him assigning me booking and PR duties because the aforementioned artist is "self managed".
This has all been a really awesome experience since I'm a total rookie, and this artist has become a really great friend and mentor. But the work load is getting out of control and I'm not getting paid! It started as a few small favors, so we never talked money, but it never stopped. Now it looks like I'm expected to do this for a while. How do I keep this opportunity and friendship without getting taken advantage of because I'm a fangirl? I really love this musician as an artist and a friend, but I barely have a grasp on how to book my own shows and do my own PR, let alone run someone else's. I'm overwhelmed! Help!
The way you describe this makes it sound like it just happened to you, like you do not possess agency over your own life. The scene and this dude made the decisions here, you just went along with them.
Meanwhile, on the website of your actually good band, you describe your music as "dumb" in the first fucking sentence.
Maybe what you need to learn from your mentor is how to assert yourself and the importance of your art. Which, if I read your letter correctly, is what you are asking for permission to do.
If this job paid you, what would it take for it to be worth your while?Do not factor in what you think he can afford - just consider what you want (and need). He wouldn't play a tour for free, would he? Follow your mentor's model.
Mr. Mentor would not be putting this work on you if you were not adept to handle it. Even if you don't have a grasp, you are obviously a motivated learner - give yourself that much. He's been making records as long as you have been alive, he knows how to handle it, he just found a pliable helper. Maybe he thinks of this as an internship.
If you want it to be your job, tell him very directly and explicitly that your apprenticeship is done and, if he'd like to continue the relationship as it is now, you will have to be paid. Have an hourly rate worked out, or a monthly wage. If he is actually your friend he might also appreciate this sort of professional boundary.
Also, he's probably had a half dozen managers and booking agents, so it's not like he doesn't have experience giving people a cut to work on his behalf. Don't apologize, tell him you appreciate him trusting you with this opportunity but it's become a full time job and you need to be paid accordingly. Smile and make eye contact while doing so.
Walk away from the situation if he can't or won't pay you what you're worth. Because there are like 425 other bands and managers in your city who will. HOT TIP: Practice with a friend beforehand and listen to "Yasss Bish" on repeat until you feel pumped and prepped.
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