Your Questions: Should I Always Turn Down Gigs That Don’t Pay Well?

Joey Santos
Read time: 3 mins
Last updated 25 March, 2018

Digital DJ Tips reader Nathan writes: “In the past, I struggled to get DJ gigs playing in the state I grew up in. I have since moved to a new state and I’m doing much better here. I upped my DJ/production game, and as a result I’ve been able to bag more gigs and have even released a few productions. That said, I’m still far from being a household name.

“Hearing about my success, promoters from back home have been wanting to book me. They’re willing to pay my fees, but they don’t have any budget left for my transportation and accommodations. At the same time I’m not ‘famous’ enough for the bigger promoters with bigger budgets to notice me just yet.

“Should I accept their offer even though I may have to end up spending for my flight and lodging, or should I just turn them down and wait for better offers? It would mean a lot for me to do a show for the folks back home, but I’m still undecided because of the expenses.”

Digital DJ Tips Says:

If you really want to play that gig back home, you’ve got to compromise. One thing you can do is you can explore your transportation and accommodation options: Instead of booking a hotel, why don’t you try looking for a cheaper Airbnb or maybe even couch surfing? You can also try looking for the cheapest flights online using a service like Skyscanner.

If you just live in the next state that’s a couple of hours away by car, maybe you can schedule a “mini tour” where you drive to and play one city after another until you get to your home state. Touring is how independent artists in the US traditionally got their name out, and live performances are still lucrative today.

Of course, you can simply just turn down their offer. Personally, when it comes to playing shows – especially ones where I know I won’t make any money – if it’s not a “hell yeah!” for me, then it’s a definite “hell no!”.

I’ve been in a similar situation in the past where the province I am from wanted to book me for a festival performance. I knew the organisers had a tight budget, but I really wanted to play my hometown (a definite “hell yes!” for me) so I gave them a special “mate’s rate” for my DJ fees, which were just enough to cover my expenses. That meant I had to book the cheapest flight possible (and I hate 5am flights) plus I had to stay over at a cousin’s place to keep costs low.

It wasn’t ideal – I didn’t take home any cash from the gig – but playing to a big hometown crowd was something I’d always wanted to do, and that had more value to me personally than making a few hundred dollars. At least I didn’t end up with a loss!

Ultimately, this is going to depend on how badly you want to play back at your home state – I know it means a lot to you as you said, but maybe you could wait a little longer until the bigger promoters notice you. Plus, I wouldn’t worry about it too much since you seem to be doing well at the moment. You should continue to focus on building your name and to work even harder on booking bigger shows and producing more music that will get you more fans. That’s how you go from strength to strength in this game.

Do you think our reader should fly back home and do his “homecoming” gig? Let us know in the comments.

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