the jazz authority; random dubiously zappy rants about 'the musicians music'.: How To Get Paying Gigs

Monday, August 22, 2005

How To Get Paying Gigs

How To Get Paying Gigs

There are books written on the subject of how to be a successful musician, but I haven't seen any that address the subject of pay. Here, now, I will offer some tips on how you can get a gig, and get paid well.

Every band and their dog has a demo C.D. How excited would you be to get a copied low quality recording of some guys jamming in their basement? Not very. That's why you want to have a portfolio. This is simply said C.D., plus a professional band photo (8x10 is best... c'mon, you're friend has a 3.1 MP camera and you've got a color printer – Do It!), a bio including info on you and your band with history, and a letter to the specific establishment you are dealing with (to make them feel important). Put it all in a good quality folder – found at your local office supply store – and don't expect to see it again. Don't get your girlfriend to color it with sparkles around the band name; just put the stuff in there and take it to your meeting with the manager of the club. You did call ahead and schedule an appointment with the manager, didn't you?!? Oh yeah, and do a follow up within the week. Close that deal man, or get the portfolio back (if you can).
The sale for them here is that your band will draw more business. If your not charging at the door and there's no cover, then you need the venue to know that it's going to be worth it. Sometimes the public needs to know that it's a regular thing, so tell the venue that you're doing crazy promotion in the newspapers and postering all over town. They'll like that. If you do want to charge cover, don't go over $5.00 because people are cheap, and they want to spend their money on booze. $7.00 is the max, and if you are well known with a following, $10.00 is the absolute max, but be ready to see people go elsewhere for their music. Seriously, cover should be 5 bucks or less, so sometimes a cover plus base pay is a great way to do it. You can really complicate things here though. Say the club charges a $2.00 cover regularly, but because you want $100.00 per man, they're gonna charge 6 bucks for cover, and you're not getting any of it directly. You do the math. Or, they give you a minimum pay of , say, $25.00 per man for the night (not good), and a percentage of the bar sales. Hmmm... sounds tricky, and even if it looks busy, they can give you whatever they like. Stick to simplicity and get a flat pay deal. See below for the actual numbers.

You should look at the local musicians union, but I don't necessarily recommend joining one. You can accept gigs that pay less if you're not with the union, but if you are a member, you cannot play for less, unless as a sideman secretly, maybe... Just look into it.

Be Nice.
So the manager of the bar or restaurant is a jerk, and you want a gig there because it's a great venue. Brown nosing isn't the answer, and may in fact make him/her respect you less. Instead go in hard, with a 'business proposal' that shows why they want to hire you. If you are confident and pleasant, they will listen. If you are nasty, confrontational and insecure, they will smell the fear and piss on you.

Well, this varies greatly, and that's the whole point of this post. No one wants to work all night for 20 bucks only to have to pick up the $30.00 tab at the end, and we all dream of big money, so what can we really expect? Take a good look at the venue for an idea of what you'll get. This is where you have to think about the bands split. I truly believe that pay should be split evenly for everyone. Maybe, if you are the leader and you are fronting the cost of the bands' portfolio, and you are doing all of the promotion, then you can take a little extra. Let's see if I can break it down. Remember, I'm using Canadian funds.
You might get $100.00 per musician for a two set gig, with 45 minute sets & 15 minute breaks. That's pretty good, and I'd say it's a good starting point. You could also say, for the same band, same amount of work, 'X' amount for an entire show, and have them break it down. This can sound like more to the venue, as it's a lump sum, so be ready for a haggle. I'd go no lower than $200.00 for a four man two set gig, and the venue might want a third set thrown in. In fact, many gigs are three sets, so set your price higher ($300.00) and go from there. Try for a free dinner or a few complimentary drinks thrown in after the deal is inked out, but don't let that count as pay, unless you like to be pushed around. At the nicer popular spots start higher. $600.00 for a three set four man gig, or $100.00 per man with free dinner and a drink. That's a sweet deal. Give it a shot – you never know. If you've represented your band well, you'll get the cash, and maybe a solid weekly or monthly out of it if you're play well and put on a good show.

So there it is. Go get that gig and get paid.



Michael J. West said...

Hey Cam,

Just wanted to say that even though this I've never had a gig, I thoroughly enjoyed this post. You're a hell of a writer!


morislando0887 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Cameron W said...

Thanks Michael. I value your feedback. I'm having a blast maintaining this blog and I'm glad to see that visitors are enjoying their time here.


Anonymous said...

Hey, I'd like you to add this article to the Worldwide Jazz Knowledge Wiki, under the Business of Music section. It's pretty easy, but if you'd rather I cut and paste I can do that and link it back here. The wiki address: