Knowing your worth and valuing yourself as a performer is the single most important aspect of making money as a musician. After years of lessons, hours of practice, teaching, and getting your feet wet with small gigs here and there, there comes a time when you will be forced to evaluate yourself and what you offer the community. You aren’t getting paid for all the hard work, yet you deserve to be making money with your talents. Why aren’t I getting more gigs? Why was there a poor turnout at my last concert? Sooner or later these questions enter the head of any musician, and the answer lies in how you view the business side of your career.
Life Outside the Practice Room You could be the greatest musician in the world, but if your cat is the only thing to hear you play, you’re in for a tough time when looking for opportunities in a city where nobody knows you exist. Having confidence in your ability to deliver a truly great performance and the ability to communicate with your audience in a genuine, friendly manner goes a long way to securing a fair booking fee. Ask yourself – what would I pay to hear me?
Shoot for the Stars, Land on the Moon With performer based search engine sites like Gigmasters, GigSalad, and Wedding Wire, it can be difficult to book events as the new kid in town especially when up against longtime members. These sites are great for getting started; however, they are best used to drive traffic to your personal site. I’ve shared these same struggles and I’m going to share with you some of my tips to get the rate you deserve and book more gigs.
1. Know the competition
Whether you use Yelp, your own personal site, or a large event booking site like the ones mentioned above, take some time to view other musician’s press materials. Do a search in Google and type in things like “Piano wedding Baltimore” or “Guitarist for event” and see what the results are. Take a look at sites you like and don’t like so you can organize your webpage accordingly.
2. Know what types of events you’re interested in
This should be common sense, but don’t waste time with events you aren’t interested in. If you want to play weddings, contact wedding planners and do some research on many of the popular venues in your city for ceremonies. Don’t waste time in desperation trying to find a bar looking for music once every blue moon.
3. Charge more than the competition
This may sound insane, but if you truly know your worth, believe in yourself, and stand by your rates – you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the events that may roll down your pipeline. It all comes down to proper groundwork. If I was looking to hire somebody, I’d never take a musician seriously if they charge $100 for a performance or $20 a lesson. That’s just too low for all the time spent practicing and reeks of desperation. Yet, that’s the price range of the bulk of my “competition.” To top things off, with a rate that low, you’d need to land at least 10 gigs a month just to pay the rent – that’s hardly surviving. You want to be the Ferrari, not the Honda.
50 gigs later, after one year in a new city, I’m convinced that a large part of my success is due to my ability to set high goals. I moved from the East Coast to the West and came to terms with the fact that There’s always somebody willing to work for less. Rather than low-balling my quotes to potential clients and competing for scraps, I waited it out and laid down the proper framework to beat the competition. The first couple gigs were tough to book, but if I hadn’t been sure of my worth as a performer and the experience I offer in planning music for a wide array of events, I’m afraid I’d still be competing for $100 weddings and $200 background music events. Now, I have broken the $1000 barrier and am still looking to improve my results. Do I still do the occasional $200-300 event – absolutely if it is something I’m interested in! However, rather than scrambling for dozens of gigs, I can pay the rent and then some after 2 or 3 all because I trust my worth and what I offer as a musician and businessman.
Remember: You bring with you not just an instrument, but thousands of hours of practice, past performances, and the years of experience gained from honing an art.