Why don’t we all just work for free?

There is definitely, a divide among musicians regarding the subject of fees. Seasoned musicians, usually, understand this part of the business better than the newbies; so here is my attempt to inform. All you veterans feel free to straighten us all out.
Some argue the “business” side of things and try to “compete” with the more established acts by charging less. This goes directly against all business sense. Here’s why:
By undercutting the competition; you are ruining YOUR future business.
First, you don’t know what I get paid, so you will probably guess.  Now if you are trying to undercut me by guessing what I charge, you’ll likely go too low.

Then again, you could just ask the bar owner. Now, the bar owner has a vested interest in telling you that I play for less than I actually do, doesn’t he? So, he’ll know whatever my normal fee is, and subtract $50, and tell you, that he only pays THIS much. You are just DYING to play out so you’ll take it; AND THE BAR OWNER EQUATES YOU WITH THAT PRICE. While the economy is down, he may hire you often. But when the economy picks up, you won’t get called for the weekends- If he calls you at all. If you’re a full band charging the same thing I am, (as a solo act) then, in the bar owners mind you look like chumps. No talent chumps.

Now, put yourself in the bar owners shoes for a moment. If this Friday night, he has a band of no-talent chumps coming to play, WHY WOULD HE ADVERTISE? He knows that new customers are going to see this no talent band play and assume it is par for the course in this bar. He knows that those new customers won’t be back. He also knows that you NEED this gig, so he’ll make YOU ‘bring a crowd’. His logic is that, anyone you bring will like what they hear from you, so it will give those people (your friends) a favorable perception of his club. “This bar let my friend’s band play here. This bar is cool!”

Now you don’t have to believe me- But think about it- How many times have you played for ‘a little less’ and the bar owner DID NOT PROMOTE THE SHOW AT ALL? OR, if he does any advertising, he will do it the CHEAPEST WAY POSSIBLE…..He’ll put out flyers on colored paper that his 3rd grade daughter threw together before soccer practice. He probably won’t even get a free posting in the Eleventh Hour, or The Telegraph. It is because he understands that you are a ‘shade tree businessman’, and he is going to use your inexperience and your misunderstanding of business to his benefit….Which is a nice way of saying, he looks forward to taking advantage of you.
You see, if you charge less, it means there is no demand for you. Isn’t it simple logic? The supply (you) remains the same, so if the price is low then the demand MUST be. Also, he has no incentive really to promote the show: It won’t take very many of your friends to cover the cost of you. Not that it matters-He will inevitably argue that you didn’t draw enough.

 I know, I know. You’re probably thinking “Well, this is temporary. We are just doing this to build a following.” Wrong, again.

How exactly are you building a “crowd”? The only people who are going to hear you play are the bars regulars (they aren’t going to follow you ANYWHERE) and the people you bring (these fans have been around since you started). You will get to play for the occasional new person, but rarely will they return regularly.
 This is not working, is it?
Here’s an alternative….Be warned. It is a harder sell, but totally worth it.
Charge the bar more than the average band gets.
Yes, it sounds crazy, but here’s why :
The bar owner wants to be sure that the night you play is successful because he has to recoup the expense of hiring you. (You charge a lot so you must be in demand).  So he will be sure to promote it.He knows that success requires investment. This means he will tell everyone how great your band is and how people should come out to see you…Specifically, on the night you’re playing at his club.
 You need to look like someone wants you

You can do this with your promo materials, pics of your gigs on facebook, or by having a presence on Itunes or the like….Promotion is not just tshirts and koozies, but those would be a good start.( I’ll give some tips on this later, but for now just get creative) So, if you want to play to larger crowds; Raise your prices,
and invest that extra money in promotion.

Building a following
Now, we all know that some people are not loyal to one bar. The advertising will get their attention and they’ll show up. If you’re any good, they’ll stay, and if they have a good time, THEY WILL COME OUT WHEN YOU PLAY SOMEWHERE ELSE.

WHO are the most expensive acts in Middle Ga.? Now, are they expensive because they are in demand, or are they in demand because they are expensive? How did they get to be “in demand”  in the first place? We all know how hard it is to raise your price once it has been set, so this is definitely something to think about.
Booking a gig is not the same thing as selling yourself. ANYBODY can book a gig. You need to learn how to get the venues calling YOU. The only way to do that is by looking like you are in demand.

So when they ask the question- “What do you charge?” Maybe you should answer the real question…”What are you worth?”

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