Question about getting paid...is this tacky?

PorkPieGuy

Platinum Member
Ok, so I'm in a really great Americana band that I'm super-proud of. We are making some headway in terms of gigs, but because we are just starting out, we are getting paid anywhere from "tips only" to $400/gig. I'm really afraid that we have priced ourselves out of some potential great gigs, and gigs we play at are so random (anywhere from festivals, to colleges, to car dealerships' grand openings). So, I'm thinking of trying a new tactic:

Whenever a venue says, "How much do you charge?" instead of replying back a certain dollar figure, I'm thinking of saying, "What's your budget?" I got the idea from someone on here somewhere.

What do y'all think?
 
M

Matt Bo Eder

Guest
The line definitely leaves it open for discussion, which sounds like you're willing to negotiate. And that's a good thing. OTOH, I remember the line of "Call five plumbers to come over to your house for a job on Saturday night, and whatever they charge, we'll charge one-quarter". ;)
 

Woolwich

Silver Member
It took my band a while to find out what "the going rate" was locally, for some reason people kept it a closely guarded secret possibly to prevent upsetting someone else when they discovered they were getting underpaid.....as we were for quite some time.
In one of my bands we ask for the going rate, in the other we know from friends in other bands what they can ask for and we ask the same as this second band is potentially a bigger draw. I was pleasantly surprised to find that simply by asking the question we were able to get £100 more per gig.
We have a set amount that we won't play for less than, and we limit the number of charity events that we play for free and are careful to only do this with people that we know organise a good event.
Of equal importance to the fee is having a group of people who are in agreement with the parameters that the band will work within, if some people within the band want to play for lower amounts and others don't then it's a recipe for dissent.
What I will say is that in my experience I've come across very few landlords and pub managers that try to knock the price down (& if they do and if it's within our limit then no problem) and even fewer who try to take a lend by offering an amount way below expectations.
In terms of asking a venue what their budget is, it can work in reverse. I've told a pub one amount, they've quickly countered with what their budget range is and I've gone back and agreed that we'll play at the top end of the budget amount.
 

mikyok

Platinum Member
Depends on what market you're going for.

Never undervalue yourself, think of all the hours of work that goes into what you play. Being paid in exposure doesn't get anyone anywhere. I wouldn't ask what the budget is, you're exposing yourself to be ripped off from the get go. Negotiate by all means but you want a deal that makes playing worth your while.

Focus on the promo side of things. Get a website with links to live videos on YT. Do some photo shoots, google ads etc. The more professional you appear to be the more venues are willing to pay.

If you're doing gigs where the venue is full and they're making a fortune at the bar you should be getting a cut of that.
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
That's a good way to handle it, with some finesse. I preface it with something about 'our pay varies with different types of engagements-- clubs, weddings, festivals etc', and then ask what they're budgeting or what they were expecting to pay. If I have an idea of what type of thing it is, I'll quote them our usual rate for that-- e.g. wedding reception = $1200 for four musicians for two hours of playing. If it's more than they wanted to pay, I usually give them options for fewer musicians, or adjusting the hours. Or just accept their counter offer, if it's not too far out of whack.

Just have your fee schedule worked out in advance-- what you generally need for what kind of gig, for a normal length performance, for your normal lineup. And how much per hour to +/- from that for more/fewer players, and how much per player for additional hours of play time.
 

New Tricks

Platinum Member
In any business, there are two schools of thought on that.

Personally, when someone asks me what my budget is, I dismiss them.

There are cases where the budget question is appropriate, necessary even. A caterer can do a $20 to $100 per plate but the menu will change drasticly.

The only real change for a band is location and time played, and the time doesn't change the dollar amount much because most of the effort is spent transporting and setting up/tearing down gear.

I'd tell them that we play for free but charge $XXX to transport/set up/tear down the gear :)
 
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Frank

Gold Member
When I hear someone say to me "what's your budget?" - i.e. car dealer - what I instead hear is "how much of your money can I get away with taking?"
 

Les Ismore

Platinum Member
Ok, so I'm in a really great Americana band that I'm super-proud of. We are making some headway in terms of gigs, but because we are just starting out, we are getting paid anywhere from "tips only" to $400/gig. I'm really afraid that we have priced ourselves out of some potential great gigs, and gigs we play at are so random (anywhere from festivals, to colleges, to car dealerships' grand openings). So, I'm thinking of trying a new tactic:

Whenever a venue says, "How much do you charge?" instead of replying back a certain dollar figure, I'm thinking of saying, "What's your budget?" I got the idea from someone on here somewhere.

What do y'all think?

"What's your budget?" may or may not be appropriate.

You can always give a comfortable quote on your side, say $800 then just play off their response.

You always have bargaining ammo, like "Is there a PA, will we be the only band, is there a DJ who'll need to use our PA, what time is set-up?" All stuff that can add to the price. Things like food/drinks IMO are just perks and should't be considered in the bargaining price, rooms 'maybe'. Giving them a good quote can get them to tell you their budget sometimes.
 

Brian

Gold Member
"Everything is negotiable" I think if you begin with that in mind, things usually work out more smoothly.
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
The only real change for a band is location and time played, and the time doesn't change the dollar amount much because most of the effort is spent transporting and setting up/tearing down gear.
How's that work as a practical matter? Given that it's a fact of life that not all gigs pay the same. Do you never play clubs?
 

Odd-Arne Oseberg

Platinum Member
You always have bargaining ammo, like "Is there a PA, will we be the only band, is there a DJ who'll need to use our PA, what time is set-up?" All stuff that can add to the price. Things like food/drinks IMO are just perks and should't be considered in the bargaining price, rooms 'maybe'. Giving them a good quote can get them to tell you their budget sometimes.

I think just getting all that sort of info first before talkng about money gives you not just that specific information, but also allows you to gauge who you're dealing with.

Now, on the bar scene there is such a thing as getting a first gig and then if things went well aka they sold a lot of beer, you ask for more next time. This is not educated people being paid scale, it's self employed business people trying to charge as much as they can without looosing essential opportunities. Playing for exposure is generally BS, but playing nice to get a steady well paying gig with well driven establishments i something different.
 

Dr_Watso

Platinum Member
When I hear someone say to me "what's your budget?" - i.e. car dealer - what I instead hear is "how much of your money can I get away with taking?"
Yep. I won't deal with people who ask me that. Then again, I research ahead of time to find as much as I can about average pricing for whatever it may be.
 

SquadLeader

Gold Member
I think just getting all that sort of info first before talkng about money gives you not just that specific information, but also allows you to gauge who you're dealing with.

Now, on the bar scene there is such a thing as getting a first gig and then if things went well aka they sold a lot of beer, you ask for more next time. This is not educated people being paid scale, it's self employed business people trying to charge as much as they can without looosing essential opportunities. Playing for exposure is generally BS, but playing nice to get a steady well paying gig with well driven establishments i something different.
Very well made points.

The steady gigs we have these days arose because we offered our standard deal which is "we play the first gig for free...if you and/or your clientelle like us re-book us at an agreeable rate for us both".

It's really worked well for us. We've been offered two paid 'residencies' at separate bars in the last year because we're decent fellers knocking out decent tunes (though the latter may be debatable :) )

Originals bands (especially) have to be brave and willing to back themselves capable of getting the rebooking.

This year, interestingly in the face of the criticism of 'exposure not paying the bills', we've also secured half a dozen paid gigs from free 'festivals' we've played. Again, I firmly believe, give it your best, act decently, behave yourselves, and there are venue owners out there who will see it all and give you the gig.
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
Hal Galper's book The Touring Musician has some helpful advice. He's talking about booking a tour in performance venues, but you can adapt this to whatever circumstances.
 

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bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
The most important thing to remember is that a band gets paid based on their value to the people who are doing the hiring, plain and simple. That value may be monetary, or the coolness factor of the band.

In a club situation, does the band bring any business to the venue? Clubs aren't in the business of paying bands just because the band sounds good and has passionate, dedicated players. Bands are paid according to the revenue they help generate.

For weddings, corporate events, etc. where no direct revenue comes from the attendees, the band is paid based on what they add to the event. they may be fun to dance to, they may specialize in a certain style ('20s jazz perhaps) or their name alone has caché. Back in the day in L.A., it was always cool to hire Jack Mack & The Heart Attack for events, and they undoubtedly commanded top dollar based on demand for them.

Negotiating is a delicated dance, and sometimes best left to an experienced manager. Even though they will take 15-20%, their skills to get more money (or better accommodations) may be well worth the fee.

The Touring Musician negotiation suggestions are are undoubtedly useful in certain situations, but not at the club level. Unless the band can demonstrate that it will bring business into the venue, the booker won't be swayed by thoughtful, diplomatic talk. If the band attracts 50 people at a gig on a Tuesday, that could represent $500 in drink revenue, and the band is entitled to ask for a portion of that in return. Not all of it mind you, clubs aren't in business to break even!

I'm way ahead of you: bands aren't in business to break even, either! Well, let's consider a venue's fixed expenses: building rent, insurance, maintenance, product, licenses, electricity, advertising... not to mention employee payroll. Those are the basic costs of doing business, they're not optional, and they exist even when nobody walks in the door. Compare that to the only direct, out-of-pocket expense a band has per gig: the cost of gas to & from the venue. So if a band splits $30 in tips, they've covered the hard cost of gas.

Just trying to put in perspective that a band must seriously consider what they bring to the table, before assuming that venues are obligated to pay bands just to be fair.

Bermuda
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
Ok, so I'm in a really great Americana band that I'm super-proud of. We are making some headway in terms of gigs, but because we are just starting out, we are getting paid anywhere from "tips only" to $400/gig.
The good news is, Americana gigs tend to pay decently, so you're already headed in a good direction money-wise. If you're sharing up to $400 as a band, playing clubs (I assume?)... you're doing well. In those higher paid situations, I'll bet you keep the people dancing and drinking (read: spending money) and that's valuable to the venue.

I'm in a few Americana bands, and we tend to play more and make more money than my other local bands.

Bermuda
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
"a band gets paid based on their value to the people who are doing the hiring"

"Bands are paid according to the revenue they help generate"

"a band must seriously consider what they bring to the table, before assuming that venues are obligated to pay bands just to be fair"

Consider these things I said earlier, and let's conduct a little test.

If you were the booker or owner at a venue, what would you ask the band in order to determine what value they have? I don't mean "do you know all the classic rock songs?" I mean hard questions that the band must answer in order to get a pay commitment for a gig, such as "how is your draw?"

And be honest, using as much perspective from a business owner as possible.

Then, answer those questions as the band.

I think that will help everyone understand better about why bands get paid what they do, or don't.

Bermuda
 

New Tricks

Platinum Member
How's that work as a practical matter? Given that it's a fact of life that not all gigs pay the same. Do you never play clubs?
Sorry but I don't understanf the question. How will what work out?

All gigs don't pay the same but most gigs do.

The majority of working bands here play in bars/restaurants for $300-500 for 4 sets. Bands that bring people with them will be on the higher end but the pay will still max at around $100 each.

In my experience, a lot of bands don't appear to bring in enough business to pay the band. There are of course exceptions and those bands are working every week.

A successful business knows where their profit comes from and a successful band should learn, realistically, how much they are contributing to the revenue.

I've played my share of gigs where I felt bad about taking $300 because I KNOW we didn't even bring in that much gross revenue. Other times, when there is a cover charge, I'm counting heads and doing the math, thinking we need to ask for a raise :)

At the entry level, you have to really love playing live music to be in a working band because it's pretty much a minimum wage job.
 
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