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we/I will only do benefits we volunteer for, so we know something about the cause, and have a sense of involvement. We (the band) used to get approached monthly; there are 'benecerts' somewhere around L.A. almost weekly, and once you've done a couple, somehow you get put on some universal 'soft-touch' list that the promoters share...and around here, these are considered 'great exposure/free publicity' (celebrity presence, etc.,), so many performers (musicians, comics, magicians, jugglers, mimes, etc.) will jump at the opportunity to perform where they think the media may show up, or that will lead to paying gigs.
I like to do benefits where I get paid, just like the Pepsi guy does. I will do some for free, IF I believe in the organization and I know I will be treated right.
I do Blues For Christmas whenever I'm invited. Last year it was blast seeing all the other performers - and the lady that puts it on is a musician so there's usually food and such. http://www.bluesforchristmas.com/Welcome.html
So if it's a good cause, there's exposure (like the press) and it's not on a Friday or Saturday, I will consider it - as long as I know I'm not the only one donating my time.
I will do just about any CANCER benefit. I've done three for breast cancer this year and unfortunately two were friends. It's the least I can do if I can't contribute to it financially. How many people are able to do what we do? It's the one thing in my life that I can actually do to give back.