How to Set Your Rates as a Musician

No Typical Fees

In the music industry, there are no typical or set rates for pricing yourself as a musician or band. A fixed rate gig is generally determined by the venue owners budget, which can differ vastly from venue to venue. For private functions, and depending on your relationship with the client, you would normally negotiate a different rate in comparison to a club owner.

The exact same is true for determining your price as a freelance musician. In a sense, it’s not determined by a single gig, but rather what you can make in the long run by playing a succession of gigs. For example, a certain project that is just starting out may have little funding but show promise for future success. On the other hand, a distinctively high paying gig may have little to do with a supportive audience.

Quantity over Quality

We’ve all heard the saying “quality over quantity”. The exact opposite is true when it comes to getting hired. Your rates as a musician and band is determined by your audience base, in other words, how many people you can attract to the event. The reality is that most venue owners do not have a built-in audience. They attract people to their venue through live entertainment, namely you. If you can’t bring a venue new customers they will have little interest in booking you.

In the club scene, it’s evident that quality of customer is more important than quality of music. This is a result of thousands of unknown bands competing for paid gigs. By inviting large groups of friends, they are able to temporarily sustain themselves in the spotlight. Then there are artists that have cultivated a following through radio, album sales and other mediums. For these artists or bands, it’s relatively easy to get great gigs as venue owners are guaranteed customers.

What Are Others Making?

A good way to determine your rates as a musician is to compare yourself with other similar artists. If you’re a band that’s interested in performing at a specific venue, it might be a good idea to find out what other bands are making that play at this venue. This is actually a common exchange amongst musicians, and you shouldn’t feel bad in asking.

Based on my own experience for pub and restaurant gigs, you’re likely to average at around $40 per band member . If you’re playing as a solo artist you will have the opportunity to make more, as much as three times that amount.

There are certain venues that may offer you the “door fee” instead of a fixed rate. In these instances, the venue makes money from the bar and you get whatever was earned in total from the entrance fee. If you have a cultivated a large following then this may be a good option to explore.

The Formula

There is a general formula we can apply for determining our value as a band or freelance musician.

(Total value of tickets sold + Contribution from sponsors) – 50%

1. Tickets sold

This refers to the total number of people you have attracted to the event. If you’re playing in a band, this will refer to the entire clientele of the night, however, you would still need to divide the final amount by the number of members in your band. If you’re acting as a freelance musician, this will refer to the specific number of people who have come to watch you and not the other members of the ensemble.

2. Sponsors

In many instances event organizers will need the aid of a sponsor. It’s a tough industry, and you should consider that the organizer is oftentimes trying just as hard to make some money as the musician. I’ve heard many cases of the organizer losing out or just breaking even. For bigger events, sponsors are often needed to help with the financing of booking entertainment. If this is the case, you should take this into account when determining your rate.

3. Subtract expenses

I know what you’re thinking. Fifty percent is a large chunk out of your paycheck. Unfortunately this amount (if not more) goes to approximate venue rental and all other expenses.

Corporate Events

Corporate gigs are likely to originate from booking agents. You are hired as the professional entertainment for a particular function. They are generally private events with an audience that isn’t necessarily there to watch you perform.

In other words, these type of gigs are generally based on the skill of the musician and not how many audience members they can attract. The trade off, is unfortunately, an unresponsive audience most of the time.

We can generally expect to quote much higher amounts for corporate gigs as they are usually financed by corporations with large sums of money on hand.

Building a Following

Your personal following is your most valuable asset as an artist or band.

In reality, you build a following by actually not focusing on the money. If you put the music first, you are likely to cultivate that much needed following.

A nice tactic, and one many venue owners employ, would be to book multiple bands for a show. If you can book 3 bands and each brings 10 people, you end up with 3 times more people than what you would have otherwise achieved. The pay cheque for these gigs might be lower, however they can work great for building a following. This is especially the case if the other bands on the same bill are very similar to your own. This means that their fans are likely to become your fans (and vice versa).

Don’t forget to subscribe so that you can pick up tips in future posts on building and interacting with your audience.

Dean Hailstone

Dean Hailstone

Dean is a professional guitar player, recording artist and touring musician. He has over 20 years of playing experience, and has performed hundreds of live gigs during his career. Read more...


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