New DJs are eager to get in front of a crowd, even some not so new DJs are still trying to break out of the routine, of not being booked on the weekend. Alot of these "hungry" DJs look for ways to stand out from the crowd, the go on Groupon , Craigslist , and host of other places to get "promo" photos, customize their gear, make merchandise, and put up as many mixes as they can.
Then the inevitable happens you meet someone,whether thru a friend or a Craigslist or wherever and they ask you to DJ for free, **(I'm not talking about charities that can write you a receipt for your services as a tax write off) I'm talking about the people who want to pay you in beer, or the important people that will be at the party for you to promote yourself to.
Now if you've put in the hours and haven't had a break you might be itching to jump at this but you DJing for free does alot more than you may think.
As Heath Ledger(the Joker) once said, "If your good at something, never do it for free."
Lets step away from you as a DJ and think about everyone in the DJ community. If you DJ for free (or $100 & bar tab or hookah, yup people do that), your actually telling the bar manager, club owner, or booker that DJs are cheap, and you decrease the market for yourself when you have more experience you can't get paid what you want.
If your saying to yourself "no one DJs for free" I have to tell you I put a fake ad on Craigslist for an NYC party on NYE last year, saying no compensation, not just a Saturday, ladies and gents, New Years Eve!!
I had several responses the one that stuck out will remain nameless but told me he was the resident at Avenue( a bigger club here in the Tri-state area)on Wednesdays. I have heard some DJs say I just love music, NEWS FLASH, everyone kinda loves music guy, not an excuse to sell your soul.
Now there are some times it is "OK" to play for funsies. As mentioned earlier legit charities can be a tax write off on the service you provide. When networking , if you out at another venue or party showing a fellow party rocker love, and he asks if you want to get on its a good way to shine and bond. In the end, its really up to you on what you value yourself as a DJ. There are plenty of ways to get your name out there with out selling yourself and this culture out to the lowest bidder.
***Disclaimer consult a tax professional before making any decisions about deductions and their implications