For Who’s Benefit? by Sean Cregan (antifascist prisoner)
Antifascist Prisoner Sean Cregan takes a look at benefits culture.
Every year, hundreds of benefit nights take place for a myriad of good causes across the country. This article focuses on who actually benefits from these nights.
I have helped organize many fund-raisers over the years, mainly on the punk/oi scene, and have also played benefits myself. Personally, I or any band I’ve been in have never asked for any payment for doing a benefit gig: The clue’s in the name ‘BENEFIT’! I’m not saying that anyone in a band is ‘well off’, far from it, but when I hear stories of bands on the ‘scene’ wanting hundreds of pounds for playing, it makes me think ‘for whose benefit’?!
While I feel it is fair that a band are reimbursed for any travel costs and maybe given a few drinks, I don’t feel they should be paid any fee [any more than the people organizing the event and taking the cash on the door should – Typissed]. This is not big business! Most corporate whores that play at ‘set piece’ benefits are paid huge amounts and only do it to look good and boost record sales.
Our ‘movement’ however is miniscule in comparison and the bands that play are usually people you admire with integrity, and lyrics that are anti-establishment. Why then do some bands feel the need to be paid for supporting a worthy cause?
This is by no means indicative of ALL bands on the scene, and many are rightfully just glad to help raise money and awareness of the cause. But there are some who feel a pay day is due to them from these gigs, and it is to these bands this article is directed.
Putting on a benefit is hard work. From experience, I can tell you that the costs are substantial. First you have to find a venue, and you are very lucky if you find one that will let you use the room for free. If it’s a big event (e.g. an all-dayer), there’s no way this will be the case. In my opinion, these places make enough money out of the gig-goers to be able to afford doing this, but they are a business and it rarely happens.
The cost of the P.A. and backline (if the venue has these) should be included in the room hire. Then there’s the sound engineer, again all well and good if they will work for nowt, but it’s the exception rather than the rule. Printing flyers is another expense to add to the list. If it’s a squat party then add a hefty outlay for the bar, but if it’s a good night this should make a profit for the cause. These are most of the initial outlays. Let’s say, on the night, that two hundred people turn up to a medium-sized gig and pay a fiver in, that’s a Grand. Deduct from that the outlay, and then say five bands play that want a hundred quid each. You’ll be lucky to make a few hundred quid for the benefit.
Now I’m not saying people should be made to pay to play, but the payments should be kept to a minimum and bands should be happy to support the benefit and take only travel expenses. Paying loads of money to a band to travel from abroad, for example, makes no economic sense! If bands want to play the benefit, maybe they should book a few more gigs in that town, making it worth their while doing the benefit.
Some so-called punk bands are just outrageous in what they want to be paid. These fuckers should be ostracized and told to fuck off in my opinion. Making money on the back of others misfortune is just low and they should be ashamed of themselves. The simple message to bands is this: Play if you support the benefit, but don’t expect to be paid.
Some tips for putting on a benefit:
1) Ask around for help printing flyers, you may find someone willing to do it for free.
2) Always haggle with the venue, some will waive any room/backline charge if enough punters are guzzling their drinks.
3) Agree any expenses beforehand with the bands and don’t be talked into paying more on the night. Any damage to equipment, etc can be discussed afterwards.
4) Do not allow guest lists at benefit nights. I’ve always paid to get into gigs I’ve put on. If people moan they haven’t enough, point out that they appear to have enough money for beer! Usually works.
5) Always clean up after. It doesn’t hurt to keep relations with the landlord on a good footing.
6) Try a raffle or passing round a tin, it will make a bit extra.
7) [Consider using local bands instead of ‘big names’, keeping travel expenses and the chances of breaking down miles away to a minimum. Local bands also bring their mates – Typissed.]
Sean is a long-standing Anarchist and antifascist activist, currently imprisoned, along with five other comrades, for ‘Conspiracy to Commit Violent Disorder’. The details of the other antifascists can be found on this website. If you are interested in playing a benefit gig in support of these comrades, or even in organizing a benefit event yourself, please contact Leeds ABC – firstname.lastname@example.org . It doesn’t matter where you are geographically because we can put you in touch with other supporters.