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The Price of Not Paying Your Crew

A month ago, Amanda Palmer got a lot of bashing from her fans and people who don’t even know her  when she, once again, turned to her fans to ask for some help on her tour.

She put a call out for “professional-ish horns and strings” players to join her Grand Theft Orchestra tour. In return, she promises to “feed you beer and hug/high-five you” instead of payment. Musicians got enraged by this move after she just received 1.2M from a crowdfunding site, Kickstarter. In her interview with the New York Times, she said it would cost her about $35,000 if she hires extra musicians and that she can’t afford it.

Here’s the top comment of her blogpost:

“I’ve been a professional touring musician for 23 years, and I’ve never heard of you until today. With all due respect, your request for free labor sounds like a promotional gimmick dreamed up by a corporate republican who has no concept of the history of working people in this country. “

Ouch. So true. Good thing Amanda Palmer changed her mind and learned her lesson.

Whether you’re a musician, or a filmmaker, or an entrepreneur, it’s best that you pay your crew. It’s the fair thing to do. If you’re broke, borrow money to pay your crew. If you can’t borrow money, don’t even start that project. But if you’re willing to give “FREE” a try, make sure you’re ready for the ff:

Not getting the upper hand. If you don’t pay people, you are their slave. If you pay them, well…they become your workers. Ideally, decent workers you can rely on. If you won’t pay them, you will have a very difficult time adjusting to their schedule and they could even back-out anytime they want without any explanation.

Saying yes to their requests in the future. If you used a friend for a project without paying him anything, he will likely consider this as an “investment”. Later on in life, he will ask you a favor and you simply can’t say no because that’s what friends do- help each other. Yes, there are some who just help without any malice but they’re rare creatures.

Acting nice 24/7. You have no right to act stern if you’re not paying your crew…unless maybe you’re a big shot like Lars Von Trier or Spielberg. If you pay them, you can just be yourself.

Not having anyone to blame. If something goes wrong, let’s say while you’re filming the soundman forgets to record a half-day’s worth of work or the camera man drops your camera, it’s much easier to make people accountable of their shortcomings. The soundman could pay the damage he has caused so you can do a reshoot.

Being okay with whatever they’re willing to give. So let’s say you’re creating a set for your pictorial and then you noticed that your set designer is using a much darker shade than what you expected. If you got him for free, he could just laugh and say “sorry dude”. But if he’s paid, then he’s not laugh. He’d get serious, say “sorry”, and rush back to the nearest hardware. He’d try to fix everything so you will approve it.

Before you ask help from friends and fellow professionals, think again. Think hard. If you’re up for some ass-kissing and being Mr. Nice Guy all the time for your project, then sure, give it a try. But you’ve been warned;-)

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