When you are a performer and you have to deal with potential clients, the biggest problem is that they don't think you're human.
Like the hobbits or the elves, they simply think that you are a peculiar species coming from a fantastic fairy tale world, unrestrained by the common laws of nature.
Or maybe the clients themselves are fantastic creatures.
It must be one of these explanations because otherwise there is no reason why they would ask you to perform just "for exposure".
In 2017, there are still people (sadly on both sides!) who believe that "exposure" is a sufficient payment for a performance.
This reminds me of Tinker Bell and the fairies: just clap your hands and the fairies will survive, believe in them and they will not die.
Feed performers' vanity, tell them that many, many people will see/hear them, and those performers will never suffer the hunger again.
Personally, this is the most frequent question I've been asked by clients, who didn't want to pay a fee for my live performances (whether it was acting, dancing, playing music or cabaret...so if you think this just happens to your category, be “relieved”: all performing arts receive the same f. treatment!)
This has to change, but the change has to start with the performers, with every single one of us saying "no" to this very bad habit (for God's sake, if you are so desperate that you would even pay your clients to let you perform, still don't do it, as this is devastating for all the other performers: take one for the team, mate, say no!)
They often tell you something like: "It's a really renowned festival, in two days we have 100.000 people coming over: if you perform there, thousands of people will appreciate your work and will contact you!".
You can choose to answer: "Since you have so many paying people coming to your festival, it shouldn't be a problem for you to pay the performers that you hire!".
Or you could answer: "Guarantee (in a binding contract) that you will make all those people pay me $1 each, and yes, we have a deal!".
You can even reply: "You wouldn't ask an electrician to come and fix the electricity at your place for free. It's as simple as that: you pay for a service that you use."
You could even ask them if they work for free themselves, or if they would be happy to have children working for free. Let’s see if they have a bit of empathy.
Try whatever answer you prefer, but – honestly – I think that it's pointless: they will keep insisting with their idea that being on a stage pays enough, and you will keep thinking: "You seriously consider me that stupid and worthless?".
Don't do it, don't force yourself into a situation that will easily transform you into the Hulk: just smile and move on.
And tell your colleagues not to perform for exposure!