You have trained hard to play your instrument like a pro or belt out your tunes with confidence. You may have started a band or you may be a solo artist. No matter the scenario: you are ready to play live.
To find your first gigs, you will start locally. You will visit your favorite bars and pubs and ask their managers whether there could be a spot for you or your band to perform. You might join more well-known acts in your town, doing a few opening sets for them. You could also attend open mics, if there are any in your area, and start building a network and collecting contacts.
After this trial stage, you will probably have a larger fanbase and you will have gained some precious performing experience.
At this point, you are ready to look for headlining gigs.
You are now a professional. You are offering a service to both your audience and the venue hosting you. Therefore it is only fair that you and your band get paid for your work.
Beginners, however, can have a hard time figuring out how much to charge for a performance. There are many factors to consider to avoid losing precious contacts because of a wrong negotiation.
In this article, we’ll go through a few tips on how to charge for your live performance and help you become a better negotiator.
Are you a band or a solo artist?
As commonplace as it may sound, this is the first factor to consider. Bands tend to be paid more, simply because there are more people involved in the gig.
If you’re a solo artist you are probably going to get paid less than a five-piece band, unless your name is more well-known.
Don’t forget to consider the slice of the cake reserved for any manager or booking agent involved in your project.
Consider your expenses
Before rushing into formulating an offer, carefully consider all the expenses you will have to cover to attend the gig.
Are you traveling from another town, another State, another Country? Have you spent quite a lot of bucks to rehearse with your band? Did you have to buy a new piece of gear to make the show better?
Consider all these costs and try to cover as much as you can with the amount you are going to charge for the gig.
Consider your position in the negotiation
Music venues and festivals are enterprises. They are in for the profit, so you can’t expect them to pay you thousands of dollars if you can’t draw a seriously big audience to your show.
Be realistic when placing your offer. Don’t try to overcharge the venue who’s going to host you or the opportunity will simply walk away with the cash you were longing to earn.
But don’t underestimate your project either. Unless you are still at the trial stage mentioned in the introductory paragraph, try to come up with a fair price, avoiding to undercharge the venue.
Unfortunately, there are tons of unpaid or underpaid gigs offered to musicians in exchange for some “visibility”. The fact that many acts accept these unfair working conditions makes it harder and harder for professional musicians to find spots to play and get fairly paid for their work.
If you’re unsure about what a fair minimum fee would be, try to contact a musician’s union. They’ll be happy to provide all the necessary information.
What kind of gig are you playing?
Being aware of the kind of gig you are going to play is extremely important. Why? Simply because different gigs lie in different markets.
For instance, wedding gigs are not in the same market as pub gigs. Pub gigs are not in the same market as festivals, and so on.
Some gigs require you to perform for longer sets; while at others you will only have to play a few songs. During some gigs, you will have an attentive audience excited for your music; during some others, you will just be in the background. Spouses-to-be usually have good funds for music, while local festivals or local pubs work on tighter budgets.
These are just a few examples of the differences between one gig and another.
When coming up with an offer, consider these factors:
- will this gig help me reach a wider audience or am I in just for the money?
- how many hours am I going to work?
- what kind of budget do my employers have?
As a sort of rough guide, you could consider the following:
- weddings, private parties, and corporate gigs are usually the most lucrative. During this kind of gigs, you are required to work long hours, play covers and requests, put in a lot of rehearsing time. In these settings, music is usually a background element, so your audience won’t be very attentive or prone to listen to your original music. You might get useful contacts and new fans, but the chances are lower than with other kinds of gigs.
- pub gigs are usually less lucrative. During this kind of gigs, you might be required to play only a short set of original songs, as the stage will be divided with other bands or artists. Sometimes, however, you get a whole gig for yourself and you are requested to play covers. In the first case scenario, you can’t expect to be paid a lot (sometimes you won’t get paid at all). In the second case scenario, you should charge the venue fairly, as you are going to provide a professional service for their clients.
- festival gigs can vary a lot in terms of money. Big festivals can be both lucrative and great in terms of visibility, but they can be accessed only by established acts. Smaller festivals, usually run by local associations, have usually tighter budgets. In this setting, you are often required to perform just a 30 minutes’ set and you are free to play originals. These gigs are great to enlarge your fanbase and get useful contacts, but they are often unpaid.
To sum up…
Consider all the different factors that could influence the price of your gig, including your position in the industry, the expenses you will incur into, how many people are part of your band or project, and what kind of gig you are going to play.
In the beginning, you might feel uncomfortable talking about money. Sure, you decided to be an artist because of your passion!
However, your music is also a service and your work. Getting paid the right amount for your work is only fair!