First time you were paid to play?


Silver Member
The first gig at which I made money was November 1986.
We hired a hall, got a local pub landlord to stock and man the bar, hired a PA and got 2 bands in to support us. By getting a bit "creative" with the accounting (we lied about how much the PA cost) we got the two support bands to pay for the full PA and agree to getting 50 pence between them off every pound that came through the door, so a 50/25/25 split in our favour. I can't remember the final analysis but they both made a slight loss on the night but were happy to get the gig, we all made a modest profit.

My first gig that I got paid was July 2006, I didn't even ask how much we were getting because after having no band and not playing for 18 years, just the chance to be on stage with three other guys who knew the score was enough, As it was we got about £45 each.

A juxtaposition to it all is the venue that contacted us the other day. If we were willing to travel for an hour to play for 45 minutes using their PA and drum kit (goodness knows what that would be like) and fetching our own backline amps (and for hygiene reasons probably opting to use our own mics) and bringing people with us was an expectation, we'd get 100% of the door take. Which considering we'd be one of three bands is a bit disingenuous because we would be splitting it three ways I imagine. So as long as we took say £750 on the door (depending on ticket price let's just call it 200 people) we'd be getting roughly what a pub will play us no questions asked. We politely declined.


Platinum Member
Mine was the usual proper pub with a stage known for music.

We'd played a few private parties, and practiced our asses off, we'd even participated poorly in a battle of the bands on a real stage. This was for cash though. First time. By all accounts we killed it, which was a fantastic feeling. The club owner stated that he saw how many people walked in drawn by our playing and that entitled us to a larger share than even the headliner, which in this case was the house band. I still remember at the end of the night each of us in the 4 piece band walked away with 52$ which came from door money and a small portion of booze sales.

Boy were we in for some hard knocks when we started learning that most places do not pay that well or fill up that well for original acts!


Lol, you played 3 months ago at a bar that you and your band now consider too less to play again..?

Because now you play allready 1 year and 9 months drums and you have an EP..?

I will tell you, i play drums almost 40 years, out of which 15 years for a living, from 20 people venues till 4000 people venues, and right at this moment i will still play at ANY bar i can play, if i can play with nice musicians..

Sorry to say, just being honest, but in my opinion this is a pretty crap attitude to have..

And allthough you have a band with a few decent songs, always remember there are 1000's of bands with a few decent songs who actually are eager to play and who are willing to play the little bars for a while because they know thats needed to grow as a band and musicians..

There is nothing wrong with being proud of what you achieved untill now (also with your band), but there is also nothing wrong with keeping both feet a little on the ground..

I always read your posts with much interest (no joke or sarcasm), but if you want to really grow as a musician you might want to evaluate your (musical) attitude in life a little..

Just to be clear, there is no bad intention or anything like that meant with saying this..
I didn’t mean 3 months. I meant a year and 3 months ago. That wasn’t clear.
I’ve been playing drums 2 and a half years.
The reason we wouldn’t play at this venue anymore is more complicated, really, than saying it’s beneath us. It’s one of those venues that’s hard to get most people to go to because of the location, has no natural draw, and charges a cover. So I feel (and I think my bandmates feel the same way) kind of crappy asking people to drive out to this place and pay $8 to see us when they could have seen us at another venue that’s closer and has no cover/ just pays us out of drink sales.

I guess maybe it’s more that the way this venue operates is at odds with my personal preferences when it comes to playing music. I can’t really explain why it feels crappy to charge a cover, but to me it does, and there are so many other venues we could play at that don’t do that.

I guess really if I was in a band and everyone else wanted to play this place, I would do it with no hesitation, but I wouldn’t ask anyone to come to the show. That seems sort of worse than just not playing at all.

I appreciate your thoughtful reply to my comment. I do understand how it sounded, talking that way about a venue, and now it's causing me to really think and examine my feelings about this particular venue, and other venues in general and how they operate.
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Bo Eder

Platinum Member
I was 13. It wasn't as hell-bent-for-leather cool as some of you, but I was in high school and the show choir needed a drummer. They did these 15-minute shows and the director told me he'd pay me $45 for every show they did that year. To a 13-year-old with a steady school gig the $45 added up.

I was lucky mom and dad outfitted me with a Slingerland kit that had a regular 14x22 bass drum, and 12/13/16 toms, but they were all concert toms. The usual flat-based hardware and some basic Zildjians. I worked that kit hard for the next five years hauling it around to these show choir festivals, and in-between all that I found punk that I played for free ;)
1994, I was 17. I played in a punk/rock band, we played originals and some covers. The guitarists dad was part of a "motorcycle club", and got us an opening spot for an annual pig roast. It was also the first time I played in front of a very large, rowdy crowd. We were paid $100, and all the food we could eat.


Senior Member
I was 14 when I started playing drums in my father's band. Parties, weddings, and so forth. So this was around 1982. I think I got paid between $50-$100 per gig. This was when the minimum wage was $3.35 an hour.


Senior Member
I’ve played the drums at things I was paid to do other things at. But I’ve never been paid for drumming. I do that for free.


Silver Member
1966. I filled in for John Francis Gunning with Country Joe and the Fish, Forum regs prevent me from telling how they paid me or how much.


Gold Member
You mean you all get paid? ;)

I can't remember for sure, but I *think* my first paid gig was playing for a local theater production of Guys and Dolls. Can't remember the amount, but it came as a check, and it was a small number. I used my treasured Blue Vistalite Ludwig kit that my parents generously got me for my 8th grade graduation. At the time of the theater gig, I was 15. Did that for 2 years in a row - age 15 and 16, and I had the time of my life. Also met some girls. :)


Administrator - Mayor
Staff member
18, summertime, 1966. Played at a local park for the public for a few bucks, and while there we were approached by a lady who liked us and wanted us to play a private party at her house on the river that night. We sent her to see out manager, and he told us we would be playing and making a whopping $35.00 each plus a meal and liquids. We played about 3 hours, split the tips, 6 ways, and off we went. The folks there seemed to like us.


Staff member
Great question Jon - I really had to dig into the grey matter to work this out (was I paid, or not).

If I count "expenses" as "paid", it was 1975 on timpani in a production of Benjamine Britten's Noye's Fludde at the Glenda Jackson theatre in Birkenhead (part pro, part amateur orchestra).


Platinum Member
Oh, cool question. My first was for a local theater group. I played in the pit orchestra for Kiss Me Kate, I believe it was. I was 14, and I think the only reason I got the job was because I could read music. I think I got paid $10, IIRC. For the whole run, not one show, lol.

Push pull stroke

Platinum Member
Great question Jon - I really had to dig into the grey matter to work this out (was I paid, or not).

If I count "expenses" as "paid", it was 1975 on timpani in a production of Benjamine Britten's Noye's Fludde at the Glenda Jackson theatre in Birkenhead (part pro, part amateur orchestra).
The Wes Anderson movie Moonrise Kingdom uses that piece extensively, it actually shows part of a production of it. I like a lot of Britten’s stuff, my oldest daughter absolutely loved that movie when she was about 12, the same age as the main characters.
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