TRANSCRIPTION: "Success Beyond The Score" Podcast, S.3, EP. 6

Here is the transcription of episode 6 of season 3 of the podcast "Success Beyond The Score". Happy reading!

- Watch the video of the episode here: YouTube

- Listen to the audio of the episode here: Kajabi


Hello, hello, hello! I hope you can hear me. I'm just checking my mic levels. Of course, if you can't, please put a message in the chat. Now, today is scorching. It's super hot here, which is kind of nice! We don't get a lot of really hot weather, and then we complain, and then it gets cold, and we want the hot weather back. But it's great. So, at some point, I may have to put a fan on, because I've just kind of kept all the windows closed to stop the noise on the microphone. Let me just make that a bit closer to me. Yep. And, hopefully that should work. Just let me know in the chat if everything is fine.

Okay, today we have got an interesting hot topic, and that is: is playing for free a contradiction for musicians?

Thinking of this title, I thought, well, you know, it's something as musicians we always struggle with, we have a problem with, we wish it didn't happen. Sometimes stuff happens to us, something that ends up with us playing for free, and we kick ourselves because we let it happen. Other times we choose to, we don't mind. But listen, I'm going to get it straight out there: I believe a hundred percent of musicians should be paid. End of story for me. However, I've gone through doing stuff for free, and occasionally I get asked now, but I have some rules, and I'm going to share those rules with you because they've helped me a lot.

Okay. What I would say firstly is that, over the centuries, music has been relegated. It started off as being the preserve of certain groups of people who got paid. I'm a Christian, so let me go even to the Bible, um, the Levites, you know, they were musicians as well as ministers. They got paid, they didn't have to work as such just to do the music. And as we've gone through the centuries, music has been relegated. Now, we do have orchestras in the UK, and they are paid. We have musicians who are paid, I'm paid, but it is a bit of a struggle.

I recall speaking to a few friends about their experience. One friend said to me, when he started out, when he got this work, and it was a church setting, he'd get there, do his work —brilliant musician, phenomenal songwriter— and only get a drink and a patty. Now, listen, if you're from the Caribbean, you will understand the word patty. Um, British people, it's like a pasty, a pastry filled with meat and veggies and stuff like that. That was it. How can you live off that, you know?

Maybe for you, you've been invited to play at stuff and people just say: "Thank you very much. You've played wonderful. See you next year." Or maybe you've been asked to play somewhere, and they talk about the venue: "Ooh! It's a great stage and we're going to have so many people coming, yadda, yadda, yadda, yadda." No mention of pay. Maybe you've looked on the fly and realized they're charging £50.00, £70.00, £20.00 for tickets. No mention of pay. You find it difficult. You're thinking: "How? What should I do it? Should I, uh...?"

Here's a good one. I just thought of this one: "Uh, I'd love you to come and play. Um, you know what? There's gonna be people there who will snap you up! You know, they're gonna want your details. They're gonna book you!" No mention of pay. 

Now, today, it's gonna be so hard for me, but I'm going to stick in the path of working for free. I'm gonna do my best to argue the point for working for free. It is tough for me to do, but I'm gonna do it. 


As I said, for me, as I started off, I did a lot for free because it was the culture I was in. My music started in the church setting, so I just played for my local church, played for friends, played for family. Free. It was just what I did. And eventually, I decided I wanted to go and make it full-time and transitioned into a full-time career. Transitioned into getting paid all the way through. Go back to episode five of this podcast where I talk about getting paid. Absolutely. 

I think the worst one for me, in terms of getting paid/working for free, is where they tell you they're gonna pay you, you rock up, and they don't. And it's not straightforward as that. I mean, I remember doing a gig for a friend of a friend, and I thought: "Okay, I'm doing it for a friend." And I said: "Look, I've got expenses, da, da da, da, da." So yeah. "Yeah, we'll pay, we'll pay you, we'll pay you in cash on the day. Yeah. We're good for it. We're good for it." Only to find on the day it just didn't happen. Only to find months later that I'm still chasing the pay. It happens. Don't like it. But I learned some lessons, which added to my rules, which I'm going to share with you. 

I remember another event. It was a business launch, and they explained their situation, and I thought: "Okay, I can see their situation." I negotiated that they covered my travel expenses and, because they were into art, I negotiated a nice piece of art, which I was really looking forward to collecting. They said: "Oh yeah, yeah, that's fine. You can have that." They sent me my travel expenses in advance. No problem at all. Happy to rock up, do the performance, come to collect my art. Could not get my art. Waited, waited, waited. Even up to this day, I have not got my art. Lessons learnt. 


By the way, if you're enjoying the podcast episode or season three, season two, season one; please like, share and subscribe to my YouTube channel, so you can get notifications for my next one. I'm actually doing eleven days on YouTube for season three of my podcast. And then, I'll be putting the audio out onto iTunes and all other places. But for right now, it's on YouTube. And then this is, uh, episode six. So lot long to go. 

If you're new here, and you have not yet got this, I have a couple of free gifts to give you. One is called "25 Secrets of the Successful Gigging Musician, Singer, Songwriter, Rapper and Spoken Word Artiste" (I had to think about that). The other is "Ten Reasons Why They Will Pay You In Advance." If you go over to — the link is in the description— you can get that. 

The other thing I do have, which is a paid product, it's about “How To Work Out Your Gig Fee, Collect Your Payment, And Manage Your Music Money.” Now, I'm doing that on special reduction because I'm doing live work. So if you go over to, you'll see that one there. 


If you've got questions, please put them in the chat. I can see that one's already there from Morgan Genus Sports. Check out her products! Really, really good. Now then: "When do you play for free?" For me? Rarely. Zero, in fact. Barring lockdown —not that I worked for free in lockdown— but before lockdown, I think it's probably two gigs a year I did, because I believe in getting paid. 


If you want to play for free, if you choose to play for free, here are some rules that will help you with doing that.

My first, number one rule —I'm gonna give you five today— my number one rule is: It's your choice and not theirs. Like I mentioned earlier on, you're gonna get people coming to you saying: "If you play, people are gonna be there who wanna book you." That is their choice, not yours. Their decision, not yours. 

Let me tell you a story. A few years ago, I met someone at a gig, a musician who should know better, ha ha ho, who was putting on an event, fair do’s, putting on like a jam thing, fair do’s. Okay. No money in that. No money at the door, fair. And said: "I'd love you to come and play. I'm inviting some people down there. While I know you've gotta come from far, if you can just come and play, it'd be really great to have you on the build, da da da." I'm like: "Hmm, okay." It's a new city. I wanna kind of break into that city. I'm gonna go do it. And: "Ooh, you've got some people coming and might be able to have a chat and get booked for other work." He describes some of these people and described what they wanna do, and I thought: "Yeah, yeah, fine. That sounds good." 

I take myself, try not to speak power, hahaha. I drive. Well, my husband drove, I was his passenger. We drove miles to do this show. Did it, met one of the persons he mentioned, the other people didn't show. Bottom line, nothing happened. Checked out what they were doing. Nothing happened. So whilst it was beneficial for him to have me there, because maybe that pulled his crowd, maybe it gave the variety, I came away with nothing. I came away with miles on my vehicle. Petrol spent, time, I guess, wasted, because I could have stayed at home and do nothing, rather than go down there. 

Okay! So I went and I took the gamble. Here it is: working for free. You have to decide if you want to take that gamble. And it is a gamble, because it can go in either direction, but remember, it's your choice.

I was disappointed because I was hoping to get something from it. I thought: "Well, I'm not gonna do that again." But in my early days, I did do a lot of free work, because I chose to do a lot of free work. So that's your number one: your choice, not theirs. Know why you're doing it and be satisfied. Just make sure you will be satisfied. If it doesn't work out, you go: "Oh well, win some, lose some." That's it.

Number two, here's number two: fair exchange. I have a business coach, Sandy Grandville —I should call her Lady Sandy Grandville, because she had the title of a lady. I was on the business course. I think I might have mentioned to you the course I did, maybe not. The business planning one. But, anyway, she was the tutor, and we had a very good discussion about working for free. She said, in her book, there's no such thing as ‘free’. In her book, she has to get something from it. And in her book, there must be a fair exchange. If money is not the currency, which is what I mentioned in episode five, what is it going to be? For her, it could be a lunch, it could be travel expenses. For you, it may be (and I've done this one) a feature in a magazine. If I know that the event is gonna have a spread in a magazine, spread in a newspaper, I say to them: "Please, you have to mention me in the article." That is what I want because I want the publicity, I want to use the article for my PR, for my website, to tell people and my fans about it. It works for me.

Maybe you want a write-up in the brochure that they're having for the event. I've done events where they've got a programme. It's printed, it's glossy. You've got 500 people in the auditorium. They're gonna be flicking through, reading. They're gonna read about you. They're gonna have your number there. They're gonna have your website there. They're gonna have your socials there. They're gonna have your bio there. Hopefully, by them reading about that, when you go up on stage, you only have to endorse that. You say: "I'm on page 26 of the brochure, la la la." Whatever you're gonna say, promote yourself.

Maybe they're gonna be doing some radio work, and you say: "Look, I want to accompany you with the radio work and talk about that." Or maybe they're mentioning you on the radio. Being on the flyer! Whatever it is you want as your currency, that's what you've gotta say. Have your currency.

Number three is: who will you and who will you not work for free? Hello? You know, you have to make these decisions. You've gotta decide. I know I said it's your choice, not theirs. I said about fair exchange. But sometimes, you've gotta narrow it down to who. For me, I attend a church, and if they ask me to play, I will play for them for free, because that's my ministry. That's my job. That's what I'm doing right there. That's what I'm happy with. You might not be. That's for me. Any other church, religious organization outside my immediate church, they pay my wage because I'm working. And if it's a ministry, I'm still working. And also, I need to pay my bills. I'm working.

For me, there are only maybe two or three friends I would work for free for. That's it. Outside of that, you don't fall into that category. I'm sorry, friends, you don't. With friends and family, sometimes they will say: "Can you come and help me out and da da da?" You go: "Yeah, sure, I'll help you out." But if you ask them to help you out, will they do it? That's a great test. If you know they ain't gonna do it, then don't do it for free, because you're just gonna be really unhappy.

Sometimes, drawing a line like across friends and family keeps it clean, because you are a business. I'm like that. Sometimes, I have extended family ask me to come and do stuff. But it's business. And some days, I don't wanna work, I do not want to work in family settings, I just want to be a family member. That is it. But for you, um, the musician I'm speaking to now, you might say for your family and for your friends, you'll do it for free. That's fine. It may also be a charity. You may decide if it's your favourite charity. You believe in the cause, you believe in what they're doing. You will give your services for free. 

Even if you're giving your service for free for the charity, make sure they advertise you. Make sure they promote you, make sure you're in the brochure. Make sure they introduce you well. Make sure they have a link from their site to your site. I've done that as well. And on their website, they've mentioned you and promoted you. That's another way, that's a fair exchange (back to currency). But you must decide who you will and who you will not work for free, and whether it's zero.

Number four. Think about the percentage of free work you will do in a year.

Now, I got this tip from a really great friend, Nikki Tapper. She's a BBC radio producer. Years ago, when I was just making some changes and cutting my teeth and moving to my full-time career, we were talking, and I said to her: "I'm doing this gig and I don't like working for free. You know? I need to get paid." And she said one of the things she did is to decide, in her year, her quota. How many events she would do for free, and after that, they all have to be paid. That might be a rule that works for you. 

And finally, my fifth point is when you're starting out. When you're starting out, you might decide you're doing it for experience. You might decide: "Nobody knows me, I've just gotta get some skin in the game." You might decide that you're testing out your material and figuring out what songs work. You might decide: "I don't have a fan base. I'm just figuring it out." "I've got another job, just doing it for free right now helps me because I'm an apprentice," so to speak.

I would also argue that, in those cases, you should at least get your expenses covered, because you have to get your expenses covered and then start to build from that. But starting out, you may decide, because of your confidence, that's what you want to do and that's fine. That's the way I did it. I was starting out, and I didn't mind, I had a full-time job doing something else in education, so that was cool. 

So those are kind of my five things. My guide, I would say, for working for free. And if you can think of other rules, put them in the chat because I can extend my guide. Hey, hey! You know? 


I did mention saying no. Let me just say; let me just have a look at the question here before I get to this. “When you just start out, is it normal to play for free to help get exposure? It is a norm or other events or planners taking advantage?” Ha, ha, interesting.

Well, yes. When you're starting out, I think it is the norm, but it doesn't have to be normal. We can change the status quo. If someone is approaching you, they like you, there's something about you that they want. You can actually say a fee, you can say you need your expenses covered. That's always like the minimum, so that's fine. Are they taking advantage? Yeah. Some people are taking advantage. Absolutely.


"How do you raise your prices? For example, you've done a free show for a person, but the next time you want to be paid, how do you progress it?" good question, Sun Rei. Okay. My experience of doing that; I did that with someone where I did their work for about two or three years running. I was getting other paid work and I decided I needed to get paid for this one, because I couldn't keep up. We've gone through Covid, people, we've gone through lockdown, and maybe you were doing work for free, and it's now time to start getting paid. What I actually said to the person was as simple as: "Um, yeah, I'd love to do the gig. Really interested in doing it. Unfortunately, I've got to change the way we work. I now need to start charging because I have expenses and I really need to get those covered." 

The person said yes. That was great. That was easy. "What if they say no?" You might be asking. Then you have to make that decision: Do you continue to work for free or do you say no? Sometimes, you might need to say no, or maybe just say: "I'm sorry. I cannot do it on this occasion because of my expenses."

I generally have found that people will sort of say: "Yeah, I can do that. What sort of fee do you need?" I did a training course years ago, my first music training course, Ben and Beppa. I always talk about these guys. Absolutely fantastic. That course, it was a life changer for me. They said: "Start with the word expenses, 'cause people will pay expenses." Then, you need to cover up with a figure. What's your expense cover? Is it £50.00? Is it £100.00? Is it less? Is it more? You just gotta work out the expenses that you need covering. Your travel, what that's gonna cost. Things like that. Round it up to a round figure, present it to them. 

Perhaps they might need an invoice, and this is a really good [point] where I could say, if you grab that course of mine, that I've mentioned, on “How To Work Out Your Gig Fee, How To Collect Payments, And How To Manage Your Music Money;” it goes into a lot of depth on how to construct an invoice. It goes into a lot of depth about how to negotiate your fees. It goes into a lot of depth about working for free, when not to. It goes into mindsets, because a lot of getting paid and working for free is about our mindsets and how we think about ourselves and what we do. So do check that out, There are some more tips there about how to sort of level up your payment. Let me see. Yeah, that's how to progress it. 


Let me just go into the ‘say no’ thing, 'cause I've mentioned to say no. Sometimes, you have to say no. In fact, all the time you have to say no, because people are always taking, aren't they? The Musicians' Union I'm a member of have a Fair Play Guide, that it's for free, which you can download, and it goes through, you know, the whole thing of "if you play fair, you should be paid." End of. And it's there to help promote musicians' events and so on. So do check that out.

But remember what I said in episode five about getting paid. Our art is valuable. We do need to change the status quo. And I said: "Today I'm gonna try my best to stay in the lane of free." This is so, so, so hard. Sometimes, you do have to say: "Sorry, I'm not available. I have expenses which must be covered." Those kinds of things help to change the status quo. And other times, you need to walk away.

Let me give you a couple of stories when I did. I was asked to play for a very prestigious, two very prestigious events with two different outcomes. At one prestigious event, they made it very clear that it was gonna be for free, and I said okay, because I wanted the PR, I wanted the video, 'cause they were gonna give me the video clip, which I could use. So for me, that was a fair exchange. I wanted those things. However, I later found out through the grapevine that this person is notorious for booking musicians and not paying them. I thought: "Well, okay, that was fine because I got my video, I got the publicity I needed." It worked for me on that occasion. And I actually did another thing for them and that's where I heard about this notorious reputation of this person, to the point that this person didn't even feed the musicians. They didn't even give them a meal. They were to sit at the back of the hall, waiting to go on stage, going on stage, come off stage, go home. They didn't have a changing room because only the A-listers had that.

You know, when you come across something like that, you need to call it out. And I actually did. When people in my network said: "Oh, so-and-so's invited me to play," I said: "Ah, he doesn't pay musicians, he doesn't feed musicians. So you really need to think about it." Call it out! Because that's the way we're gonna change people like that, who are taking the mick —Morgan Genus, I'm answering your question— taking the mick! I don't swear, so I won't say anything stronger than that.

Another one that I did was an event where, um... It's a really long story. Let me give you the short version. Short version: they wanted to book me. They didn't keep in contact with me. I thought they'd forgotten about me. Then I got a call that they wanted me to come to the event. The event was like in two days time. I said: "Hey, I did invoice you. You said you're gonna pay me, I need to be paid in advance." It's two days time! "I've got a lot of running around to do. When you rock up, I will pay you." I said: "Okay, please pay me on arrival." That's another rule I have: on arrival if I'm dealing with cash.

On arrival, I could not find this person. He was —sorry, I said a gender— they were busy sorting out the arrangements for the event. Fair do’s. I said to myself: "I will go and do a sound check, might as well." I set up my equipment, did my sound check. Fine, fine, fine. Still, the promoter, no show. Okay, so I went to find the promoter. He said the money was in his car, said he had to go get it, but he had a lot to do. I said I would wait. He stopped. He thought. He stuck his hand in his pocket. He took out some cash. He said: "Well, this is all I have, and I can give you the rest later."

I was like, no. I could see there were other things kicking off. You know, when you go to a gig, you gotta watch what's happening around you. How is this promoter dealing with the rest of the artists? How is he dealing, or she dealing, or they dealing, with their audience? Because you get a barometer, you get a reading on them. In this particular event, things were going wrong. There were people turning up to say they had tickets, but they had no seats. There were people turning up who wanted tickets, but there were no tickets left. There was a caterer saying: "I've catered for X amount of numbers, but I can see in your hall you've got X amount of people. The food will not stretch!" I think they needed Jesus in there to extend it. 

Now, listen, I saw all of that. I saw the writing on the wall. And, you know what? "Self, it's time to go." So I said to my daughter, who attended with me: "We are going." She goes: "Really?" "Yeah, we are going." Let me tell you, I didn't even change into my outfit. I was still in my arrival outfit. My jeans and my hoodie and stuff like that, looking smart. I didn't even change because I thought the minute I put on my garments, they're gonna think —the promoter's gonna think: "They're gonna perform." I said, no. So, yours truly went in there, pulled down my microphone, unplugged it (did it very gracefully, by the way, very nicely), and the DJ says: "Where're you going? The sound is on, where're you going?" I said: "I'm going." "Why?" "He hasn't paid me, so I need to leave." And I took my stuff and I left. So sometimes you've gotta put your foot down, a firm hand, because people talk. And so people know my reputation. So I hope that helps in dealing with people who are taking the mick.


Sometimes, with working for free, you really don't know. You've just gotta go with your gut on something. Sometimes you gotta go with what you see, and other times, you've gotta make that decision. I could tell you more stories, honestly, but I'll tell you what, nowadays, I don't do any work for free. I'm sorry, I don't. Don't ask me. Don't. And if you do, we have to have a conversation. It got to work for me, and you've got to do the same. 

So listen, I can see the chat's got some more comments. I'm just gonna check that. If you've got any more questions —ooh, I've gone over my time! 'Cause I try not to be here too long because I know it's your lunch break. Please put them in the comments box and I will be looking the comments to answer anything later so you can get the reply. Don't forget to like, subscribe and share it with other musicians, 'cause people need to know we need to change the status quo. But there are times when you need to work for free. In fact! Um, maybe I shouldn't say this... no, actually I can say it, 'cause it was publicly said.

I went to a meeting to do with the Commonwealth Games, which has been held in Birmingham this month. It was a public meeting of the committee and musicians and organizations who were looking to attend them. They are paying musicians and performers for the Commonwealth Games —they've gotten in contact with me about things that they are paying— but one thing they did say is that, where it concerns the auditorium, like the main sort of track and field areas, Alexander Stadium; they'll be getting in some larger names. You know, people who are probably being featured in the charts, the pop charts and so on. They mentioned that those kinds of people would be coming because they want the record sales, because they want the publicity. It was very interesting to hear a large organization like that, the organiser, Commonwealth Games, actually saying that. I'm not talking rubbish, it was still a trade. It was a fair exchange. They were not coming for free to get nothing from it. The artists, they're getting something from it. You can do the same.


Um, let me see, let me see, let me see. All right. So Sharon Y: "Thank you so much, Millicent, I followed your very good professional advice and received payment." Oh, brilliant! "Received payment and food for an event." Fantastic! Yay, Sharon! I actually put on a webinar a few weeks ago on getting paid, "Get Paid What You're Worth." I've got the video for that, I'm still editing. When that goes up, I will be advertising that out, so people you can go watch. There will be a charge because, obviously, I gotta get paid. Girl gotta work. If you are interested in that, because Sharon was on that and she actually got food and got paid for something —fantastic. Grab one of my free gifts, the 25 Secrets or How To Get Paid In Advance, so you're on my mailing list and I can let you know when that's out.

I'll try and put an ad on my YouTube. But the thing with social media platforms is they don't always post out to everybody. Today I've got about 688 people. They don't always get my notifications because that's the way social media works. So, the best thing to do is to get onto my mailing list. Go over to Go to free gifts, grab one of those, get added to my mailing list, and I'll be pushing out lots of stuff. In fact, when I have time, I usually pull out some free email with free tips and advice. So you're gonna get a lot from me.


Let me just go back, see if I missed anything. "Do you always use a contract? Does this help to secure that you get paid?" Okay. Morgan Genus, really, really good. I always use a contract. Absolutely, have a contract. In the course I mentioned that I have, "How To Work Out Your Gig Fee, Collect Payment, And Manage Your Music Money," I do talk about contracts a lot, and you can get that from the store on But you must get a contract. You must give a contract or receive a contract. Put it in writing. The Musicians' Union says you've gotta put it in writing, 'cause if things got pear shape, you can take it to the small claims court or something.

If I'm working for free, 'cause we are on a topic of free, I also send a contract for that. I also send that, you know, we've agreed that. Does it help you to secure that you get paid? It depends on how you do the payments. When you get paid in advance, during or after. Go grab the course, 'cause I go into a lot of detail about that, but I have found that I do get paid. I do get paid. Even though I've mentioned all these scary stories, they all happened over time in my experience, and I've learned to level up. And that's why today I can sit here and give you those five reasons about how to manage working for free. But go grab those things and to get paid in advance. I've given some tips there that helps to make sure you get paid to, Morgan Genus. So I hope that helps you there. 


Um, right. I think I've covered all of them. You have been great. I know this was gonna be a hot topic for musicians. Like, subscribe, share. Please put comments in the chat, put questions in the chat, I'll come back and help you. Go over to my website and grab your free gift or go to the store if you're interested in the “How To Work Out Your Gig Fee, Collect Payment And Manage Your Music Money.”

Now, tomorrow, I am going to be doing: Do you have a music hobby or a music business? And does it matter? It clearly does. It absolutely matters. They're night and day, they're really, really important. Maybe not as exciting as the getting paid ones, but it will really help you in terms of getting paid as well.

Do come back tomorrow, one o'clock, British summertime. Please tell your friends. Please share. You've been great. Thank you so much. I am going to see if I can get my music rocking as I do my outro, and I'll see you tomorrow.

Bye for now.