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Pricing your gig without pricing yourself out of the competition?

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Jul 5, 2022 - 8:10:39 AM
17 posts since 9/30/2013

Hello all,
As our little band is getting inquiries about playing different festivals in our area, I have a question about bids for performance. There are usually 4-5 musicians. Do you base your price on hours, or whether you are on stage or strolling around the festival? I don't want to undercharge, but I don't want to outprice us.
FYI I am the one who submits 1099 if needed and does all the paperwork and promotion

Jul 5, 2022 - 8:32:24 AM
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1374 posts since 4/12/2004

If you're smart, you'll base your fee on what your customer is willing and able to pay. That means that you have to learn and understand what different segments of the market are willing to pay for what you provide. When I played in a band, the fee we charged wealthy people who were hiring us to play a party would be significantly greater than the fee we charged for playing a "knife and gun club" bar. The goal is to not leave any money on the table.

Jul 5, 2022 - 8:40:53 AM

3154 posts since 9/5/2006

We use a set fee that is reasonable, covers our costs and pays the musicians for their time at a respectful rate. I have to change a set fee to go out if more pieces are needed and if the time is more than two hours I charge more to cover those contingencies. You have to know what your market will bear and prices change according to venue. But set a bottom limit and try to maintain that as the bare minimum. Different regions have different pricing. Just be reasonable.

Edited by - Bob Buckingham on 07/05/2022 08:41:50

Jul 5, 2022 - 10:09:40 AM
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9812 posts since 8/28/2013

My pricing system:

First, I check the anatomy the person who may want my services. Depending on what is larger, I either make him pay through the nose or charge him out the a**.

Jul 5, 2022 - 11:47:12 AM

383 posts since 11/9/2021

Bobs got the right of it. Depends where and who you are playing for. The price to fly us to Fla to play a festival there is way more then to play a local faire. Sat and Sun gigs usually require travel on Fri and Mon so gotta charge for those days too. Also depends if you supply the sound system or not.
I always say, if you are willing to come to my house, hump the sound equipment to the gig, set it up, and then break it down and hump it back to my house, the cost is a couple a cases of beer. Sadly, no takers ever for that!

Jul 5, 2022 - 12:35:11 PM

157 posts since 12/27/2019

Also depends on what your goals are and where you are in the continuum of "demand".

If you are just starting out, exposure may be more important than revenue.

If you've been around awhile, with any number of various venues bidding for your services at the same time, you're free to set the rate you like.

Also, you may want to gig certain times just for fun, and/or the chance to be at some cool and memorable event.

Nothing particularly insightful here I know, just lots of other considerations beyond the financial.

Jul 5, 2022 - 6:43:05 PM

1918 posts since 5/19/2018

At a point that when you take into consideration the cost of travel, accommodations and food, you wind up being ahead. Ahead by how much? That depends on your own expectations and needs.

Makes zero sense to be hired for a gig, go through the expense of getting there, staying there and eating there, only to wind up having less money in your pockets then when you left for the gig.

Pricing is tough. It’s usually a function of demand. Folks really want to hear you, the venue will pay. Nobody knows you, then....

Lots of folks play for free to get “exposure”. I was fortunate enough when I was young to be in a band playing with older folks who knew the value of time and a dollar. They flat out refused to play any gig for free. Said it was unprofessional. Told me that “free exposure was less than worthless as you got tagged as a band that was not worth the money to see”. That was decades ago, but as a teenager and early 20’s something I felt the money was pretty good and I don’t think we ever did a job for free.

Others may feel differently, but if you are spending tens of thousands of hours to hone a craft, spend hundreds of hours with others rehearsing, why would you just give it away. Lawyers don’t do it, Doctors don’t do it. Plumbers and carpenters don’t. Musicians should not be pressured into doing it also.

Jul 5, 2022 - 7:06:20 PM

157 posts since 12/27/2019

Why would you just "give it away"?

Maybe because you love the music.

Maybe because you enjoy the experience.

Maybe because you're still "paying tuition", learning the craft, all that goes into playing live -- all that stuff you don't get from rehearsal.

All kinds of things we do in this life that aren't necessarily inteded to turn a profit.

Jul 6, 2022 - 9:34:44 AM



23022 posts since 7/6/2005

I price gigs on what we need to make. I have a sound system to maintain and transport. My band members all play high-dollar instruments. I supply matching shirts. We have gasoline, food, etc to buy. We have ipads for lyrics(if needed). Sound recorders. We all have bills to pay. We have hours of rehearsal time. Time is money.

I aslo base my price on who we play for. If we are doing a gig for a charity or a worthwhile public cause, we often play for free. If someone asks us to play "for exposure," i politely decline. I usually try to get $100 minimum per person for a local gig of a couple of hours. There is also "perceived value." You can get what you're worth, if you can deliver the goods.

“The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.”

? Benjamin Franklin

Jul 7, 2022 - 12:24:43 PM

465 posts since 10/8/2018

A musical friend had a good one the other day…

“Hooray! It’s the fortieth anniversary of the hundred dollar gig!”

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Jul 10, 2022 - 7:11:46 AM

298 posts since 11/22/2009

Very interesting topic.

No two gigs are the same. You can quote for a gig--say £400 for example--one client would say OK--same type gig to another would be client would be: 'You charge as much as that!!!!!'
Different gig rates for the type of gig it is--corporate / private parties / pub / playable times / size of band / travel / where the gig is.
Beware of these two terms used by a possible client: 'It will give you good exposure' and 'We working to a budget'.
Many people think musicians 'Do it for fun'. Little do they know it is a lifetime's learning curve.
A musician I heard when he got a call to quote for a gig--he quoted- the reply was something like: 'You charge as much as that!' The musician's reply was: How much would a plumber charge to come out on a Saturday night to fix your leaking tap!'
A charity gig for a good cause that's OK for no fee.

Jul 10, 2022 - 11:19:50 AM

303 posts since 1/1/2016

My band, the Peninsula Banjo Band of San Jose, CA, has been a 501-C-3 non-profit since 1973, so I am answering from that perspective. We have donated the majority of our income to various charities over the years to the tune US$300,000+ including the New Orleans Musicians Relief Fund after Hurricane Katrina, the 911 Fund, and many, many local charities.

Having been the band's booking agent for a 6 year span, this was how my "donation schedule" was setup.

First off, we never based it on how many of our band members showed up, but the amount of time that we played with a 1 hour minimum. Even if the client only wanted a 30 minute performance, they still paid for an hour.

The first hour was always the most expensive since it involves travel time and setup. Subsequent hours were less, by about 20-30%, to encourage longer bookings. If we are booked for more than an hour, there is a 5-10 min break built in, sometimes this is VERY important on a hot day or if there is no shade.

Our longest gig was us playing for 4 1/2 hours with breaks each hour as background music at a family reunion and BBQ. I think we went through our ENTIRE music book, even the stuff we almost never played.

We also take into consideration the ZIP code if the gig was for a private group and in a nicer neighborhood and charged a little more.

Based on average travel time, setup, performance, and then travel back home, AND an average attendance of about 8-10 band members at each gig, if I could not get the equivalent of minimum wage for all of that effort, I simply turned down the gig.

Think about it, even if its donation to be written off, your band members time and energy is worth AT LEAST minimum wage. This is usually how I would respond to the corporate run rest homes who offered something like $50 or $75 because that was "all they could afford in their budget".

There are also considerations like does the band get a meal. This came into play for things like fundraisers. It was never expected, but maybe we would play a little longer than booked or really make the effort to play most requests if we're being fed.

Parking is an issue too, don't forget to ask about that. At festivals or large events, it was not unusual for me to ask for "band parking".

It's been over 10 years since I was our Booking Agent, but ask me questions if you'd like. I can usually remember what we did in most instances.

Edited by - cebracher on 07/10/2022 11:20:31

Jul 10, 2022 - 11:27:18 AM
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711 posts since 2/14/2007

You get treated by the buyer commensurate to the rate you charge. Fundraisers are case-by-case but be aware that bigger acts get paid top dollar to play them. I learned the hard way about pricing when I got a call from a lady for a low-budget "backyard" wedding. When we arrived, out front was the high-end catering truck and in the back, the $10,000 tent. Needless to say, we paid an unpleasant "educational fee" for that one.

Jul 14, 2022 - 5:13:34 AM
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654 posts since 2/16/2005

Originally posted by Hot Club Man

Very interesting topic.  No two gigs are the same. 
Beware of these two terms used by a possible client: 'It will give you good exposure' and 'We working to a budget'.
Many people think musicians 'Do it for fun'. Little do they know it is a lifetime's learning curve.

Actually, we like it when a prospect gives us their budget number first.  Then we have some idea of what they are willing to pay and what they think the gig is worth.  It usually saves everyone a lot of time, and their number is often higher than what we might have quoted in the first place!   

So if that information isn't forthcoming, that's why we'll also usually ask if they a budget.   About 75% of the time they will give me a number, so I don't have to fish around in the dark for a price and hope I've made a good guess.   On the other hand, if their number is lower than my quote would be, but not too far off, I can usually get them to come up to our quote.  That's because people will sometimes lowball their budget number, and they actually do have a little more money to play around with.  But this way, they are having to negotiate up, instead of you negotiating down. 

One more thing --- when I do quote a price, I don't add "but it's negotiable" or "but we can be flexible."  Hey, when you go to the supermarket to buy groceries, do they say "Here's the price, but we can be flexible"?  Of course not, the price is the price!  So you shouldn't do that either, and you're just inviting trouble by saying something like that.  If they don't like the price, you could always agree to play for a shorter period of time, send fewer band members or make some other accommodation.  But if you're always agreeing to lower your fee, you'll get a reputation for doing that which will be hard to shake, or you'll be known by buyers as well as other musicians as a cut-rate outfit.  Neither result is good.  That said, we've always had a "non-profit discount" for nursing homes, charitable fundraisers and the like, but we make it known upfront that it's already a discounted fee, and so no further negotiation is contemplated or expected. 

I also agree that most people have no clue when it comes to the amount of time, effort and money that it takes to become a polished musician.  And I'm also sure that plenty of other people enjoy their work, whatever it may be, but they still get paid for doing it!   SETH 

Edited by - sethb on 07/14/2022 05:20:26

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