However, there are times when you should weigh up all the factors and decide if proceeding with the gig is really in your best interests.
Here is when I would consider saying no to a gig:
When the price isn’t right
“I would like x10 15 minute shows over two days, and my budget for the lot is $100”
Guess what my answer was?
I’ve talked a lot in recent weeks about undercutting and perceived value of performances and performers, so I won’t repeat myself. However turning down a gig because the pay isn’t fair is something that takes a great deal of maturity and confidence. It is unfortunately something that you will undoubtedly have to do in your career as a performer, and it is something that should be done tactfully but firmly. Have the confidence and self-assurance in you and your product to not take gigs that are below your worth and that may damage your perceived value and reputation.
Safety refers to that of both you and your audience, and is a particularly important consideration with both aerial and fire acts.
For aerial acts, you will want to ensure that there is an appropriate place to rig your equipment (you may want to call in a professional rigger to inspect the venue and/or hang your gear for you) and that you have clear space underneath you, not above people. If it is a long “hang about” type gig, make sure that you get sufficient breaks for you to rest and recover your strength between sets.
For fire, I always insist on having an assistant present, on standby with wet towels and a fire blanket. You will want to have a designated area, such as a stage or podium, where your audience can’t get too close, especially if that audience are going to be kids or drunken people.
If these considerations can’t be accommodated for whatever reason, consider offering an alternative (LED instead of fire, for example), but if the client isn’t interested in this alternative, have no hesitation in saying no.
I touched on this briefly in the post on performing for charities, but you may want to apply the same scrutiny to corporate clients. Make sure you do your research. Does the company have questionable ethics or environmental practices that you don’t want to be associated with? Then you don’t have to. Decide in accordance with your own moral code.
When I say this, this one can be a tricky situation to navigate for several reasons. Firstly, oftentimes, you don’t have the luxury of vetting the companies that you are going to be working for beforehand, especially if the gig is booked through an agent.
Secondly, you don’t want to get too pernickety with this, otherwise you’ll never take another gig again. No corporation will be squeaky clean. Decide what you can and can’t live with, according to your morals.
Thirdly, if you’re like most artists, cash flow may be an issue. You’ll have to weight up how much you’ll be getting for the gig vs how reprehensible you find the practices of given corporation. I know I’ve taken gigs for companies that I’ve not approved 100% of their practices because I’ve REALLY needed the money.
It’s always a difficult decision to turn down a gig, but at the end of the day, you need to do what’s in your best interest.