• How Much Do You Charge for a Private Gig?

    Tomy asked:

    Hi gang, Professional question: How do you calculate a fair price for private parties?  I'm sure wedding singers/DJs have got this all figured out. Performance is only part of it: Members of the group, Load up, Travel, Set up, Performance, breakdown, Load out, Travel all play into it as well.

    From Rod Deacy:

    I wouldn't be happy playing a private party for less than $100 -- more if for longer than an hour. The last party I played (2010), I made $200 plus some excellent food. I played a St Patrick's Day party in 2009 and made about the same plus tips, but child care (and medical stuff) has cramped my style recently...

    People who book musicians fall into two categories; those that know something about music, know what they want and try to pay musicians fairly, and those that just want music because they need noise at the end of the room and have no particular preference after that. The latter category respond better to material they've heard before, preferably many times... Even after that, though, they often consider paying more than $50 -- $100 to be unacceptable -- they know that there are a ton of people out there who will play for little or nothing -- they may be crappy, but so what? There are a lot of people putting on private parties who think they should be able to get live music for nothing... Never mind the years spent learning to play an instrument, or instruments...

    From Todd:

    In my opinion, it all depends upon whether solo or group. And if group, how many. What time of day, how long of a set, etc.

    One musician I know always charges a higher fee for weddings because they tend to be on Saturday's, so he has to take time off from work (commissioned piano salesperson) and potentially lose vacation time and income. Thus, his solo fee is $500.  Professional, polished wedding bands can charge from $2,000-$8,000, but they have 5-7 members, mega equipment, and they are usually top shelf.  It really all comes down to what will make it worth your while to take time away from doing something else.

    I don't think how much the booking entity (person, business, etc) can pay should enter into the equation.   Any fee(s) a performer charges should be well thought out, taking into consideration their (the performers) time, energy, drive time, equipment set up time, etc.  In other words, what is your time worth.  I know that I have different fees for different types of shows.  Coffee houses I'll perform in for tips, $50, $75, or what they offer.  I always ask the venue what they usually pay, before I give them my rate (their rate might be higher than mine).  House concert is $100 - $200, depending on whether my show is one, or two hours.  Weddings ?  Well, it's been many years since someone asked me to play one, but I used to charge $100 back in the 1970's.  Today's charge (solo) would be $200 ($100 additional for each additional member I'd bring in to accompany me).

    If I'm trying to get 'into' a venue and they seem stand-off'ish, I'll offer to play for tips only so they can get a feel for my music.  I've booked many good follow-up gigs this way.

    Truth be told, I love to perform.  Although at one time I didn't need my music income, it has now become part of my way to pay bills.  Just the same, I'll play for free or very little just to play if no money is on the table.


    From Ron Goad:

    Music and Money?

    It's often an expensive hobby. Or vocation.

    It's often hard for excellent, award-winning performers to be taken seriously. Supply outweighs demand. Sometimes a cheap, lousy musician cleans up.

    Fairness and showbiz....not a common mix, but that's always something to weigh.

    For a transaction to take place, both sides give something.

    Musicians who stand firmly on a dollar figure tend to spend a lot of nights at home. Do they watch TV with dignity and honor and pride?

    Flexible excellent musicians sometimes enjoy poetic justice when they take a freebie gig that leads to a lucrative one elsewhere. Of course good musicians deserve good pay. But that's not often reality.

    I got my first paying gig in 1956, singing "The Ballad of Davy Crockett" and a few other tunes. I rubbed and rattled those quarters together and liked the sound!

    When my wedding band Nightmusic plays, I tend to be paid at least $250. I charge one dollar to perform and $249 to wear a tux. Sometimes each member makes up to $400. Sometimes we spend money to do a benefit. Since '83 I've probably done 700 tux gigs with that band alone, and I'm still the new guy in the quintet. It's a great band, and all five of us have superior subs. That's why this band works.

    Any time a restaurateur shells out a Ben Franklin, that venue must sell a lot of food and drinks.

    Management and labor have to have a symbiotic relationship.

    I feel good sometimes about being underpaid. I am not a practical man.

    Ideally we find some venues that are our homes away from home, and we don't wear out our welcome...easier said than done.

    A heck of a lot of people are swamping the wineries now....that seems to be a good new source of gigs, but the conditions vary like the weather. Wineries, like the other venues, sometimes can't tell a good musician from a bad one, but they can tell a cheap one from an expensive one. If the listeners don't complain, the mediocre musicians do the gig, locking out the topnotch ones who sometimes cut off their own noses.....It's a beast.

    From Rick:

    One of the tricky questions to ask is "what are they able to pay?" For close friends and relatives you may have an idea of their level of income and what they might be able to afford. I always try to take this into consideration.

    The second aspect is from my own business plan point of view. How much am I trying to make this year from music? That gives me an idea of what I need to make each month, each week, each gig.  Balancing those two pieces is often difficult. So the third piece I consider is how many gigs I might get from doing this one. If I see this as an opportunity to expand my business, then I can charge less. If this is a one shot deal, then I need to charge more, even risking not doing the gig.

    Unfortunately, no hard and fast formula for figuring it out. Mostly a gut feeling and a lot of discussion.