What are you worth?

Setting a price isn’t easy. How much do you charge for a gig? I saw a Facebook post recently that targeted venues that went like this:


You BEGRUDGE having to Pay £200 for a gig.....
4pm,.. Load Gear into vehicle....
5pm... Travel to Venue.
6pm... Unload Gear and Commence Setting Up.
7pm... Sound Check and Final light Rig check.
8pm... Final Gear Check, Guitar Check String's etc.
9pm... GO LIVE.
10pm... Break for 10/15 Minutes.
10:15pm... Final Set.
11:15pm... End Set.
11:20pm... Encore
11:30pm... Finish.
11:45pm... Start breaking Down Gear.
12:45am... All Gear Broken down and Loaded Into Vehicle.
01:45am... Arrive Home.
03:00am... Exhausted Finally Crash Into Bed.
That's 11 Hour's.
That Work's Out about £18.19p an hour.
Sound's OK till YOU actually realise there are 5 in the Band.
THAT work's out about £3.64p an hour.


When you put it like that, £200 is ridiculous, no-one would work for £3.64 per hour. There are a few flaws in the logic (are there many people reading this get paid for travelling to work and their breaks for example?), but it makes a point. 


The problem is, as someone pointed out in the comments on the post, it will take the pub to sell about 500 pints of beer to cover that cost if the entry is free. That’s a lot of beer.


Does any of this help? Not really. When all is said and done, it is supply and demand. What are you worth? What someone is willing to pay. Doesn’t matter what job you’re in or what work you do. Being a musician is no different.


I’ve seen other posts where people are being absolutely vitriolic (that’s a great word – feel free to steal it and use it elsewhere) about bands that gig for free. 


“It’s stealing bread out of our mouths”…”Scabs”….”Ruining It for everyone” etc etc.


Give that stuff a really good ignoring.


I’m not going to tell you how much your worth or how much you should charge. That would be crazy on my part (or anyone’s for that matter).


What I am going to tell you is the two things you need to consider when you decide and then how to get there.


Economics 101

Boring right? No-one liked economics at school. Except maybe the drummer we all know about drummers. But it is important for your pricing.


If you sell your ‘thang’ for £700 a session and make £200 clear profit, then you’ve done okay.


If you sell your ‘thang’ for £900 a session you make £400 profit.


All else remaining the same, you’ll need to do your ‘thang’ twice as often to earn the same when you charge £700.


Gigging once per week at £900 makes more money than gigging twice a week for 50 weeks. Now it’s starting to make sense right? Maybe the drummer isn’t actually deranged.


If you charge £550 a gig, you’ll need to do 8 times as many gigs to make the same money.


The upshot of this is that all drummers aren’t deranged. Actually they probably are, so lets make the upshot of this is that the more you charge, the less gigs you’ll get (probably) but the less you’ll need to do to make the same money.




Marketing 101

Sometimes you have to play a long game. If you take everything one gig at a time, you’ll probably be hardscrabbling all the time. Sometimes you need to think strategically (this would be a good time to pull out your bullshit bingo card). You shouldn’t think of everything in terms of spondooleys. Not everything has a cash value.


Does it get you exposure? Are there other gains? Can you trade non financial benefits like promotion or extended merchandising (or just free beer!)?  Would it look good on your previous gig list? Is it just a matter of paying it forward in the hope of getting an unspecified nudge in the future? Or, let’s face it, is it just good practice?


Where you are in your career and overall performance maturity will decide some of your answers and they won’t be the same all the time or forever. These are dynamic questions. 


Don’t cut your nose off to shit in the woods. Or something.


Research 101

Do your research. You need to know what the going rate is. Ask around. Use forums, Facebook groups etc. Ask the people doing the bookings. Figure out what the range is for a similar type of gig, then decided where you’d like to be in that range. Middle? Top? Bottom? Again, where you want to be will be dependent on what you’re trying to achieve.


What are you worth (slight return)

In summary, there are a lot of factors that can be simplified by the three points above. Work them out and then make the decision that’s right for you. Ignore everyone else. 


And if all else fails, you can always just ask the drummer.


Lee Ness



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