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  1. #1

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    My friend and I were asked by a couple to play for their daughter's graduation party. I called them up and this was what he told me:

    "Pick a minimum amt. of time you're going to play, as well as a maximum amount of time also. Oh, and tell me how much you want to get paid."

    I have two hours to decide. I think I'll go for 1 hour minimum and 3 hours maximum. 3 hours is a long time to play though! I don't know if I can keep it fresh for so long.

    Anyways, I'm stumped on pay rate. I don't want to abuse of the right, but want to make some decent bucks. What do you guys think its fair. How much do you usually charge? Answer quickly please, I have two hours to decide.

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  3. #2

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    if it's a friend, $100 per man. If it's not a friend, $50 per man, per hour.

  4. #3
    Okay, 'twas all the confirmation I needed. I was planning on telling them 100 per person, but I wasn't sure if that would have been unjust. Thanks tim

  5. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by timscarey View Post
    if it's a friend, $100 per man. If it's not a friend, $50 per man, per hour.
    that's very fair, and exactly how i charge for solo gigs.

    unless they only want me for an hour. i tell 'em, two hour minimum. i'll gladly only play for an hour, but you're making it worth my drive.

  6. #5

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    huh? is there a reason why it's more expensive for your friends to hire you than for strangers to hire you?

    my (little limited) experience watching and playing jazz gigs here, there tends to be a consensus on 45 min sets, separated by 25 min intervals, with 2-3 sets per gig. Is that a lot different to how gigs go in America? Wondering...

  7. #6

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    naw, i'm assuming tim is saying (and i am saying) 100 bucks flat for friends, 50 an hour for non-friends, assuming 3 hours.

    the three set thing is standard, yes.

  8. #7

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    ah, okay. that possibility dawned on me about five minutes after I pressed "submit". Head's a little somewhere else right now.

  9. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by mr. beaumont View Post
    that's very fair, and exactly how i charge for solo gigs.

    unless they only want me for an hour. i tell 'em, two hour minimum. i'll gladly only play for an hour, but you're making it worth my drive.
    That's about my going rate.

    My experience is that restaurants and pubs are more apt to try and lowball you on that rate (not to mention, flat out stiff you...lol), than someone putting on a party or a wedding.

  10. #9

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    Me and Spanky played for Mr. Olsen's retirement party, and all we got was a sack of oranges and some ice cream.

  11. #10

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    On the subject of gig prices, does anyone else use the strategy of giving a ridiculously high bid if you don't want to do the gig then doing it if they agree to your price? If not, you should try it. Either way, you win.

  12. #11

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    haha.. I love it..

    I haven't got the balls to do it though!

  13. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by bkdavidson View Post
    On the subject of gig prices, does anyone else use the strategy of giving a ridiculously high bid if you don't want to do the gig then doing it if they agree to your price? If not, you should try it. Either way, you win.
    Well, yes, very often.
    Only, of course, when work is already plentiful.
    For those with no work, the low bid is better. Later when you have a name, fans, and steady gigs, the price goes up as a matter of course.
    If the gig is outdoors in cold weather, then no, I don't really want the gig, but if they pay me the big bucks, then I will endure it. Sure, I'll do it - how about 600 schmacks USD?
    On the other hand, Aunt Betsy is having her retirement party - maybe I don't do it for free because I think it's bad luck to play for free, but 50 bucks would be fine - plus the food.
    In between is whatever I think the market will bear.

    Pretty much everywhere I have lived there has been an unofficial average rate per musician for your average gig - different rates for restaurant / bar gigs as opposed to private parties, but known to the local community of musicians. Ask around locally. (We have folks on this forum from different countries, languages and currencies... there are wide variations between countries and regions, including in some countries separate unofficial rules and rates for street musicians versus house musicians.) If you play consistently for less than the local going rate, you risk pissing off some of your local colleagues sooner or later, or if you are overly generous with your time. However, for those with both developing chops and developing careers, the benefits of this strategy are in gaining fans and performing experience (and endurance). Except in large cities, the musicians union is dead, but even so many musicians believe, I think (tell me if you disagree with this) that there ought to be an unofficial fraternity among musicians so that we don't undercut each other and steal each others gigs. (I have had guys tell me their opinions on this in so many words.) There is no penalty for charging too much, though, other than not getting the gig.

    How you view this issue may depend on how dependent you are on your fellow local musicians for gigs and referrals. When you get big-time, the rules change -- I presume, ha ha! -- or you may find that you end up joining the union (like, you move to LA or NYC) and then you play by their rules.

  14. #13

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    I only reserve that for when work is plentiful, as well. But for instance, I was called on once to play a wedding (strike 1) in a town about 30 miles away (kind of strike 2) and be set up by 10:00 am, but not start playing till 11, and play till 1. I told them $300 and they didn't bat an eye. I was also was contacted through the music store I teach at about playing a 50th birthday party for about 15 or so people for 2 hours. I told them $150 or $175 and they went for it. However, after the experience I had with them I'm never playing a birthday party again. At least not solo for that small of a crowd.

    One of the other teachers where I work also does financial planning, and says that you should use the 'blink method' for pricing. Someone asks you the rate, and you say "$150." If they don't blink, you say "per man." if they still don't blink, you say "per hour." and so on and so forth.

    I do agree with you about the "unofficial musician's fraternity." It's also a good idea for those of us in a big enough city to have a musician's union, but still too small to really have enough work through that for everyone. For instance, here in the St. Louis area, there's definitely a union presence, but as far as guitarists, there's about 2 or 3 guys who get all the union work, but there's quite a bit of non-union work to be had.

  15. #14

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    Back in the early 90's the going rate was $25 per man for a coffee house/ bookstore gig, $50 a man for a restaurant gig (3-3.5 hours) at a place that didn't sell liquor and 75-100 for a place with a liquor license. The size of the band also had something to do with pricing as well as what night of the week, etc.

    Here we are 15-20 years later and the prices are the same , if not lower. I remember having this discussion many times. It always came down to the same thing. Local college kids looking to score a gig so they play your $50 gig for $25-35 or some guys that don't need the money and are just looking for a night out to play and make a little 'pocket change'.

    At first a lot of owners thought how great it was that these college kids had their friends come down and check them out until the club realized that these college kids din't have any money and were just ordering a coffe and desert while tying up a table for an hour or so.

    But it was too late because now the club had this for leverage by telling pros things like " hey , I can always get those college kids for $35 and they bring their friends" of course never mentioning that those friends didn't spend. Damage done.

    So here we are years later and the going rate is still the same. Actually lower when you figure in for inflation. It hasn't kept pace.

  16. #15

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    I just currency converted that to UK £ - I'm pretty sure there are few musicians gigging in pubs and restaurants locally who make that kind of money per hour, if any. When you also consider that music gear is generally more expensive bought at UK prices than US prices (again, straight converting the US prices), the picture looks even bleaker...

  17. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by Scrybe View Post
    I just currency converted that to UK £ - I'm pretty sure there are few musicians gigging in pubs and restaurants locally who make that kind of money per hour, if any. When you also consider that music gear is generally more expensive bought at UK prices than US prices (again, straight converting the US prices), the picture looks even bleaker...
    The figures in my post are per gig. Not per hour. So you would have to divide each one by 3-4 to get the hourly wage. That doesn't include travel/set-up time either.

    Figure a bookstore /coffee house gig is 2-3 hours of playing and a restaurant /bar gig is 4 hours. So your'e looking at $8 - 18.75 per hour. depending on venue. ( a $75 gig is a good gig)

    Again that doesn't include set-up and breakdown time. The minimum wage here is $7.25. So you're probably getting minimum wage or below when you figure set up for those coffe houses.


    What does a pub pay?

  18. #17

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    As low as £10 per person for the night, going up at other venues. Tends to depend a lot on venue, £10 is low. Think the average I've seen (not received personally - I'm not good enough to be gigging jazz yet) is between £20-40. Restaurants may pay higher tho - the top rate I just quoted was £40 per person for a trio in a coffee shop. Some places its a band rate, band size irrelevant, some places it's based on band members. But there's also a lot of places where people play without pay. I'm not happy with that at all, but I know a drummer who's got a week of gigs for a band he plays in doing originals and no pay all week. He's doing it, tho.

  19. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by Scrybe View Post
    As low as £10 per person for the night, going up at other venues. Tends to depend a lot on venue, £10 is low. Think the average I've seen (not received personally - I'm not good enough to be gigging jazz yet) is between £20-40. Restaurants may pay higher tho - the top rate I just quoted was £40 per person for a trio in a coffee shop. Some places its a band rate, band size irrelevant, some places it's based on band members. But there's also a lot of places where people play without pay. I'm not happy with that at all, but I know a drummer who's got a week of gigs for a band he plays in doing originals and no pay all week. He's doing it, tho.

    That's about 30-60 usd. About average.

    I did that original band thing in the late 80's. I wound up playing some pretty prestigious joints in the Village and actually appreared on some local TV (the Uncle Floyd Show).

    We got as far as doing an EP. We were just about to get to the next rung on the ladder (distribution to college radio) and some internal 'personel' issues came up and that was that.

    Never made a dime at it.

  20. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by Scrybe View Post
    I just currency converted that to UK £ - I'm pretty sure there are few musicians gigging in pubs and restaurants locally who make that kind of money per hour, if any. When you also consider that music gear is generally more expensive bought at UK prices than US prices (again, straight converting the US prices), the picture looks even bleaker...
    The fact is, with this kind of work you have to carve your niche for yourself.
    From my point of view - (curmudgeon) - jazz is a toolbox, not a style for performance. When I was twenty, there were plenty of non-musician folks in the audience still asking for jazz standards. Now they are all dead, and the gray-haired set asks for the Beatles or John Denver or whatever. There are several jazz clubs in my town, but I'm not trying to compete there - I do our own thing (I'm half a duo), directly for audiences, and I have worked my request list for a long time, and there are some things on it that are pretty miserable material, but I regard that as an opportunity for creativity. I want to hear "Wow, I never heard it played like that!" accompanied by a fat and spontaneous gratuity.

    The music business, and people's tastes, change really fast. By the time you know something, it's obsolete. Creativity rules. You want a gig, somebody had better like what you do. It may take a few years to catch up. Ottmar Liebert hit the scene with that rumba-flamenco sound in about 1985, and I started getting asked for it when I went back to music in the mid-90s, and it took a few years for me to get it together. Now I have a representative set when I need it. But along the way I lost a few gigs for lack of it (that hurt enough to make me practice.) Club owners usually don't tell you specifically why they aren't keeping you - they just say, hey I can't use you any more. They are used to it. If folks aren't calling and asking if you're playing that night before they make the reservation, the owner knows nothing's happening. Or, of course, if you promise to bring in customers, and all your friends come in and have a glass of water. The owner is not interested in trying to explain to you, a musician, why he thinks your music sucks or doesn't, because the last time he did that he got an earful of whine from the last guy. He may even like your music, but if it's not bringing in paying customers, he has to consider his business. And restaurant and club owners have plenty on their plates already - if they don't like one little thing, you're out, no explanation required.

    (End of rant.)

    In choosing a gig, when you haven't got one, start with a tips-only gig in a friendly cafe. I've done that many times in my life. I learned to play for people instead of for myself. Now I can actually consider the merits of a venue: The food's too cheap, nobody will tip. The food's too expensive, our crowd will only come once a year instead of once a month. The place is too noisy - we'll have to crank it. The dining room is too small, can't get enough tables to make any money. Whatever. We have one perfect gig where we make tons of tips and sell cds like crazy. The other two suffer from drawbacks as above. Our tips and cd sales in a good venue may be two or three times what the house pays us.

    Put on a show, interact with people. That means make eye contact, smile, and ask what they would like to hear. (Keep a request list and work on it.) I've heard great guitar players being ignored because they sit there with their heads down, nose to the fretboard, shredding away. Learn to play without looking, so that you can look around and stay tuned in.

    (End of second rant.)
    - jack
    Last edited by jack_gvr; 03-30-2010 at 04:39 PM.

  21. #20

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    No rant there - some useful stuff I'll bear in mind as I progress towards gigging more. Thanks for sharing it, fam.

  22. #21

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    Are you making a living at it Jack? You sound like it. I always enjoy finding people that actually can. It's tough. There was nothign I hated more than talking to a club owner or booking agent.

  23. #22

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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnW400 View Post
    Are you making a living at it Jack? You sound like it. I always enjoy finding people that actually can. It's tough. There was nothing I hated more than talking to a club owner or booking agent.
    Yes. I also confess to having had a day job from 1980 - 1997.
    However, since '97 I have done only music. That includes teaching - currently about 15% or less of gross, formerly 30% or so. We live modestly, and we have lived for the last 6 years in a tourist town in a less-developed country where our expenses are low, and the tourists arrive with full purses in their proper season. It was an accident of fate that we ended up here. Or destiny.

    When I was in my early twenties, I tried to make a living as a musician, but I was terminally clueless, and also hampered by inherited musical prejudices (classical training) which prevented me from responding sensitively to the real world as I found it. So I cut and ran, and later returned to music after I got tired enough of the day job to be willing to make realistic decisions.

  24. #23

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    Quote Originally Posted by jack_gvr View Post
    Yes. I also confess to having had a day job from 1980 - 1997.
    However, since '97 I have done only music. That includes teaching - currently about 15% or less of gross, formerly 30% or so. We live modestly, and we have lived for the last 6 years in a tourist town in a less-developed country where our expenses are low, and the tourists arrive with full purses in their proper season. It was an accident of fate that we ended up here. Or destiny.

    When I was in my early twenties, I tried to make a living as a musician, but I was terminally clueless, and also hampered by inherited musical prejudices (classical training) which prevented me from responding sensitively to the real world as I found it. So I cut and ran, and later returned to music after I got tired enough of the day job to be willing to make realistic decisions.
    i hope all the students in the crowd read this carefully, because this cat knows what he's talking about.

  25. #24

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    Is there another thread dealing with contributions from other gigging musicians? You know, like tips, styles to know, best songs to have on the reportoire?

    Have any of you guys been in a position where all the songs requested you couldn't play?

  26. #25

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    I think it's a bit chalk and cheese comparing gig prices here in Ireland with America. You guys get tips, I believe? At least, many of my musician friends in America tell me. I'd be scared to play for a small payment plus tips!! Average over here depends-we earn 300-500 euro per man for 2 1/2 hour weddings/parties for a 4 piece. 2 hour solo gigs in pubs/hotels I do for 200-250. I do really small pubs solo for 150. Duo in a pub works out at about 150 a man- 2 hours. 4 piece in a pub/hotel-600 for the band-still 150 a man. No tips though, and no free drinks or food. The only type of music that people get bad money for over here is traditional Irish stuff. They seem to be willing to play for next to nothing!! Joy of playing, I suppose.

  27. #26

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    Live music is only for losers who can't afford to hire a DJ. Pump up the jam...

  28. #27

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    Quote Originally Posted by Silence View Post
    Is there another thread ...?
    dunno - probably... on some other forums, undoubtedly...
    Quote Originally Posted by Silence View Post
    Have any of you guys been in a position where all the songs requested you couldn't play?
    Yes, there is no end to the obscure tunes people will think of when they get on a roll and start the request game.

    There really do have to be a lot of requests for something to convince me to get my tail in gear and actually learn it. There are a few tunes I have sitting around (on the frequently requested list) that I just haven't ever gotten up any enthusiasm for - "My Way" comes to mind.

    But some items become predictable, and if you can get four or five in a row, it can make somebody's evening.

    Also, I can play a few things now that I wouldn't have been caught dead playing when I was younger - that's a factor in the request thing, too. Like, consider how it's popular among some musicians to make a big deal out of refusing to play "Chica from Ipanema" - like you've insulted them - well, hmm. And a buddy of mine used to include in his act pretending to shoot himself when "Piano Man" was asked for -- big laughs all around. See, he got some mileage out of it anyway, cuz then he'd go on and play it, but do something creative with it. (But nobody ever actually insisted on Melancholy Baby, in my life - that's a joke from the distant past, now.) Anyway, being a serious musician is one thing, and being an entertainer is another, and sometimes the line is not necessarily always in the same place; Liberace was the highest paid musician in history - you can decide whether you want to starve with principles, or how much to compromise for the sake of giving up your day job. It's an interesting question that comes up often enough in a musician's life. I had a day job and I like what I'm doing better - and if somebody wants the "3rd man theme" and I can make them happy, I'm available, yes. I could finish the thought with a pungent metaphor, you get the idea.

  29. #28

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    I was googling for information on this very topic and found this thread among the results.

    For years I've played in bands where we struggled to determine a fair price for gigs. I can say with some confidence that we ALWAYS undervalued the gig and settled for less than what we should have been paid.

    Now that I'm older (I'm not saying I'm wiser, just older), I recently revisited this topic with a fresh approach. Although there are many factors involved in pricing a gig, you can get a BASELINE by visiting:

    gigcalc.gehwokka.com

    The site is free (ad-supported, so clicking ones that are interesting to you is appreciated) and should help in determining a price to start with (AT LEAST). You don't even have to register or anything...

    It's a work in progress, so if you find it useful I'd find it helpful to hear your feedback (and if you DON'T find it useful, then I'd really LOVE your FEEDBACK!)

    thanks,

    gehwokka