When is an Unpaid Gig Get To Be Too Much?

by | 5 Dec, 2019

Hi Ozzie.
My name is Mike. Several guys in our band want us to play a festival that’s 700km away. We won’t get paid and we’ll be on the road for a week. Should I agree to this idea? It would mean taking seven days of my accrued holidays and leaving my wife in charge of our six kids, 24/7.

Whoa Mike! When bluegrass gets into bed with business, expect a nasty rash. Those guys are all ‘between jobs’, right? And no kids. They’ve got plenty of time to leave town and, given that they haven’t got cars, they’ve convinced you to take your ’85 Holden Camira, towing a heavy trailer with their PA system and the bull fiddle. Your sudden absence from the workplace will immediately mark you down by HR (whose manager will tell your boss as soon as you’re gone that you’re one of those ‘picker guys’ who wear the bib’n’brace and like staying up late in barns filled with hay).
If alarm bells aren’t already ringing, the no-money feature should trigger something, as should the fact that the guys want to borrow your AMEX card to pay off the outstanding accommodation costs of the last festival jaunt they attended, before you joined the band. Heard about that ol’ bluegrass song ‘Don’t Let That Deal Go Down’?

This column is dedicated to every Australian bluegrass musician who wants to improve his or her craft – and live to play another day. Ozzie J Picker is an Australian who has enjoyed more than 50 years of playing and singing bluegrass, as well as studying the long history of its roots. Ask him anything…