Hi “Can you play for free?” Wait! Climb down from the ceiling and step away from your instrument, there's more.
“We don't have a budget for music.” (AKA “can you play for free or exposure?”)
“We hired someone else for much less before”
“Since we are (fill in the blank) you should give me a deal.”
And the other hundred non-paying/discount questions and statements we have heard.
I truly believe giving a respectful, professional response and keeping certain feelings in check will help you get the results you want.
Here is the response I use when asked to play for free or at a discounted rate.
“Thank you very much for your compliments on my [your profession here] I'm flattered by your invitation to [your profession here] But [your profession] is my livelihood, although lucky enough to do what I love, it's how I make my living. I am not able to do it for free/discounted rate. I am sorry to decline, but thank you again for your kind words about my ]your profession]." I have also substituted my livelihood with my business and substituted make my living with it's a business.
Feel free to use this response if you like.
This response is brief, professional, respecful, and educational. I'm informing the potential client that this is a serious business.
FYI: 9 times out of 10 when using this response people end up hiring me at my rate. You can also use this verbally.
Now let's talk about that FEAR (I know all about it) The fear of not getting the gig, the fear of missing out on an opportunity. Do not fear, saying NO means saying YES to something else. You are leaving yourself open to something better. Also remember they need you for the event, not the other way around (or they wouldn't have contacted you). Oh and that other person that charged so much less or did it for free; you are not them and that is their prerogative. We all can't be Walmart.
Now let's talk about that ANGER, get rid of it. Go burn it off with some intense practice. Being angry will not help you or the situation. You are running a business if you get angry about every insulting question or statement you are not gonna last very long; or worse become an unhappy musician.
There are professionals that do offer their services for free; when it's appropriate and on their terms. Usually when I am giving services for free it is because I offered it (meaning its worked into my budget) also the benefit for both the client and I out way the monetary value.
When posed with the request for free/discounted services ask yourself:
How will this benefit both parties?
Am I doing this out of fear?
Can I afford it?
Will this make me happy?
Isn't being a Happy musician what it's all about?
How do you respond to these request?
Your Happy Musician