Tim Kreider writes a brilliant article on artists who get requests to do work without compensation. So often we are offered the award of "exposure" instead of money. Kreider, as a writer, and us, as musicians, are easily put on the internet free of charge. Recordings and videos are put on the internet to post and re-post. In our society, our work is not considered as important or vital as other professions. Even worse, people think we are doing what we love with money as a secondary aspect; therefore, it makes it acceptable to ask us to do it for zero dollars. The biggest problem is that we think it is acceptable as well, and it makes it harder for colleagues in the same field. Kreider also makes a valid point that in a society where we are judged by how well we do quantitatively, it is quite demoralizing to be asked to do something for free.
I agree with Kreider wholeheartedly that we have to say no to doing our work for free. We spend countless hours in the practice room "doing work for free." We have put in thousands and thousands of dollars to go to school. Perhaps we even buy into the idea that we do what we love. But that is not the case a hundred percent of the time. I could even say that I am doing what I love perhaps one third or one quarter of the time after feelings of frustration, incompetence, repetitive exercises, and let's not forget the classes we are not too fond of taking. What makes up for the other parts is the fact that what we love makes it worthwhile. However, it is also being recognized that makes that performance worthwhile, and being paid is part of that recognition.
Certainly it is a lot harder to get exposure as a new artist in your 20's with no experience and nothing to show for your value. There may be opportunities that really would be beneficial to our careers. Perhaps you would love doing something so much it would be worthwhile to do it for free, especially for someone who really cannot afford to pay you. It is, of course, up to our personal judgments and individual situations. However, in this small world of classical musicians, or even any genre of musicians, it is vital that we stand our ground for each other and not just for ourselves. It is most definitely a difficult route, but a worthwhile one.
Kreider's article: Slaves of the Internet, Unite!