Money surely wasn’t the reason why you started creating and performing music. You may even consider it beneath yourself to discuss it, and find it demeaning to negotiate your fee. But just like everything that lives and breathes, you must sustain yourself. Even more so, you must assign the right value to yourself and your art. So, let’s take the bull by the horns and ask: what should you charge for a gig?
What’s your fan following worth?
When you’re starting out, you may be playing to near-empty venues and won’t generate much food and liquor sales. Venue owners, programmers/curators and organiser will find it hard to justifying paying you a fee, simply because they are in fact losing money on such gigs.
Many musicians find it hard to connect the dots on how the gig circuit works. We came and we played so we should be paid what everyone else is getting, is something you might hear said passionately (even indignantly) in closed circles. The angst is misplaced, though.
This is a time for you to work hard, play as much as you can for whatever you can get (yup, it’s called the grind).
The time to start negotiating and raising your fee is when you are filling up house at every gig and your fans are buying food and drink at the venue. In other words, your gig is making money for whoever hired you. Before that, you can throw all the hissy fits you want but all that will ensure is that you don’t get gigs.
What does it cost you?
Whether it’s the question of how much you have to travel for the gig or what kind of vehicle your gear needs, expenses have to be factored in. There could be other things that stretch the purse strings. If you’ve added a sound guy or another band member to your line-up, or if you’ve recently added a light setup to sass things up, you may want to negotiate a higher fee. Be judicious in your analysis about what this hike I fee should be. Also be aware that whoever had hired you for the gig may request you not to use the extra equipment or personnel if it’s going to cost her more. You have the option of convincing them that this is something you need to deliver a better experience. Or dropping the gig.
Gauge the market
Let’s hope you live in an artistic environment where this kind of conversation can happen easily. Ask musicians from your city or town what they are getting paid at the venues that host your kind of music. The most relevant information will come from bands that are at a similar stage of their career as you.
Aside from where you are in your career, get a sense of what venues in your area can afford to pay.
Got something up your sleeve?
Have you recently launched an EP or an album? Or a music video that’s caught the imagination of people beyond your regular following? If it’s something that’s catapulted you to some amount of fame, then you can up the ante and ask for more.
Similar hikes could be justified if you’ve been felicitated for a major achievement, got amazing media coverage or have struck a new collaboration that you feel has changed the game for you significantly.
Do you know of better ways of gauging what you should be paid? Please share your insights in the comments section.