Every week I receive at least one email from a full time professional musician or band stating that they would like to perform for DesiYUP for FREE!

“Ma’am, please don’t mind me saying this, but I would like to say that you will not have any problems with our fees etc. as we are very junior and I think that it would be a very ill mannered practice for juniors like us to demand fees from you.”

junior artists performing for DesiYUP

I am always honored to read emails sent by musicians or bands from across the globe. It’s good to know that DesiYUP is visible as an event organizer and that artists are interested to work with us. But dearest musicians and bands: offering your art for free is not the right approach to establish a relationship built on mutual respect and equality. There are many event organizers and concert promoters who take advantage of upcoming talent. They are eager to make artists perform for free and earn some easy money. This irresponsible attitude damages the entire live performing scene in my opinion.

Dear musicians, before approaching DesiYUP, just take two minutes of your time and read our mission statement. DesiYUP’s aim is to nourish, inform and expand the love for meaningful Indian music. If we start booking musicians for FREE, we aren’t respecting our own core values. So when I read emails from musicians that are asking me to give them a platform, without charging a single penny, I get slightly disappointed. These musicians fail to understand that they lower the status of their art and their own talent, just to get a live gig in Europe for some short term social media visibility. But this behavior has a long-term negative effect on them and their fellow musicians.

The long-term negative effect is that people won’t value independent Indian world music artists and more specifically Indian classical musicians. If you can’t value your art and talent, how can you expect from others to value you as a performing artist?

Also, DesiYUP is not a foundation and we don’t get any government support or subsidy. This means that we are fully dependent on the revenue that we make on ticket sales. We often collaborate with Dutch theaters or cultural institutions, and they expect from us that we know which artist will guarantee them ticket sales. This means we have to carefully select the musicians that we can work with, as that person should guarantee us ticket sales. This doesn’t mean that we don’t invest in upcoming talent; we do! We are actually well-known to work with musicians who don’t have a fanbase in Holland. But in return we demand a lot from these musicians.

Another long-term negative side effect is the standardization of mediocrity of Indian (classical) music in the West. Musicians who are willing to perform for free just to get some visibility harm their fellow musicians. Meaning upcoming musicians who don’t perform for free have a difficulty in finding the right venue’s, good organizers and promoters who are willing to pay for their years of hard work, knowledge and talent. Why would organizers pay for art or talent if so many artists are willing to perform for FREE?

Another group of individuals whom I receive emails from are Indian expats living in The Netherlands. These Indian expats, who mostly are part time music hobbyists who have good jobs in a corporate environment or they are international students. They don’t pursue art full time and if they make a few bucks on the side they are happy with it, but their livelihood doesn’t merely depend on music. 

I frequently receive emails like these: “I am singer based out of Eindhoven and would be interested in any kind of performance/collaboration etc. I sing Hindi and Kannada and some other regional languages too.”

When I read such emails, I know for sure that the person didn’t even bother to visit our DesIYUP website and scroll through our previous concert list or attended one of our live events. Some of these part time expat hobbyists have received some music training in India or have a bit of performing experience. Which is great for community gatherings and private parties that make them successful thanks to their enthusiasm and willingness to perform in front of family, friends or colleagues.

However these individual music hobbyists -who perform for free as long as they get a platform- also cause inequality and harm to the professional music scene when they start performing for event organizers and want to be booked by professional promoters. There is a big difference between singing cover songs occasionally in a private setting or community event and being a full time professional performing artist. Professional musicians practice every day, pay their taxes with their music, invest time and money to build their brand, interact with their fanbase and collaborate with other musicians.

But individual hobbyists are not to blame! They are merely discovering the Dutch Indian music scene and they are smart enough to notice the standardization of mediocrity of music events in The Netherlands. Therefore organizers and professional promoters who book them to perform for free and musicians who are willing to perform for free are both to blame.

Dear full time professional musician, DesiYUP is part of the Indian music scene in the West and we are responsible to give our audience high quality live performances and educate them about meaningful Indian (classical) music. We believe that this will help to increase the value of Indian music in the West. Therefore I humbly request you not to send emails to event organizers and promoters stating that you want to perform for FREE! Help to sustain your own bread and butter and help your music community to thrive!

With respect,
Mahesvari

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