events

Two Benefits of Playing Weddings

In addition to giving you the opportunity to make an impact on a couple’s special day, weddings have two HUGE benefits: Networking with day-of coordinators and venue staff. For the coordinators and planners, this is their livelihood and this won’t be the only wedding they’re doing all year. Do well and you’ll lay the foundation for repeat business. In the same vein, the venue staff likely does more than weddings. If it’s a winery they will host parties, tastings, and possibly a small concert series.

Day-of Coordinators and Planners

Ideally, you should already be proactive and in touch with the wedding planner well before the big day. If you’re primarily communicating with the couple, I’d recommend asking them for the contact info of their event planner and reaching out in advance of the ceremony. Even if it’s just to introduce yourself, it shows responsibility and makes their job easier. In your email you should:

  • Introduce yourself
  • Link your website
  • List songs to be played for Processional and Recessional
  • List estimated song duration
  • Confirm venue address and start time

All of this can be taken care of in a few sentences and makes coordination smooth. Not to mention, if you’ve already struck a favorable impression before the wedding, you’re well on your way to repeat business. Making the music portion of the event planner’s job a breeze is gigging with ease.

Venue Staff

At large venues you’ll come into contact with a variety of staff. Everyone from waiters and waitresses to the venue’s event team and managers. Always, always, always introduce yourself to everyone and offer to help out with set-up (you arrived early, remember?) Even if you eat free or get a bottle of wine on the house – tip the bartender or waitstaff generously. With venue staff you should:

  • Exchange contact info
  • Ask about upcoming events
  • Email a thank you a few days after the event
  • Send them your website/press kit

These are two massive benefits of playing weddings and need to be followed to a T. Experience builds momentum, which in turn puts you in touch with more and more people who are eagerly waiting to hire you for their event.

Happy Gigging

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Setting a Fair Rate

In my previous post I highlighted the importance of self-evaluation and knowing your worth as a performer. Now that we know the importance of setting a comparable monetary value for one’s work and how settling for low-paying gigs only brings more competition and frustration, this post will explore how to set a fair rate for an event.

Location plays a huge part in setting a quote that is reasonable to the client and fair to the performer. Having lived in major cities like Baltimore and San Francisco where cost of living is rather high, any quote for an event is going to be more expensive than it would be in a smaller city/town for an event of similar duration. For major cities like New York, DC, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, you’d be a fool to charge small town rates in the big city.

Flat Quote or Hourly Rate? There are benefits to giving a flat quote or using an hourly rate for events. Personally, I like giving flat quotes – it’s straightforward and I avoid itemizing charges in contracts like hours, breaks, travel, etc. I simply give a number and don’t hassle the client with minor details. This works great for weddings and gives the Bride-to-be one less thing to worry about. However, for a small concert or an event that needs background music for a specific amount of time an hourly rate may be more appropriate.

Part of setting a fair rate for an event is having a feel for how much you believe your performance is worth in the context of a reasonable budget. As I’ve said before, there’s always somebody willing to work for less. You need to command a higher rate to stand out – and also DELIVER THE GOODS! This means consistently playing your ass off, being social with guests/audience members, and being sure to take the time to thank the person who hired you – they’re providing you with work, and you’re providing them with an irreplaceable service: live music!

This link between the professional and social aspect of being a musician is part of why I prefer setting flat quotes on a per event basis. Breaking down an event to hourly rates tends to give the gig a feel of a transaction – paying for time as it is. Like putting coins in a parking meter. This can leave the performer feeling like a human jukebox and the client only concerned with putting enough coins in to keep the tunes coming.

To command a good fee, you need to go above and beyond simply playing for the allotted amount of time and this is something you want to make very clear to potential clients via your websites, emails, and phone calls. This is why I prefer to give a flat quote. Somebody emails me saying they need classical guitar for an event in a couple weeks. I email them back thanking them for their interest in my music and tell them I’ll happily play for them. I may only be playing an hour and a half, however, when I give a client a quote they know that also comes with my guarantee to arrive early, set up, provide my own amplification as well as set up a microphone if someone may speak at the event, plan the music program, and learn any song they may require for the performance.

This is where I differ from other musicians. In the same city for the same event, a lesser experienced guitarist may give that same event a quote based on their hourly rate. At $100 an hour for 1.5 hours total = $150. They may then include travel expenses or booking fees, all of which feels like getting a bill from Verizon or Direct TV rather than giving your client a personalized, all-inclusive musical package. It’s cheaper, may be easier to quote and convenient, but you’re basically selling yourself short. Lots of people may book you, and that’s not bad, but the main reason they book you is because it’s a cheaper option.

Breakdown This should serve as a guide for event price range and is my average of 75 gigs between 2012-2014.
• Short Wedding (less than 1 hour) $200 – $400
• Wedding and Cocktail Reception (up to 2 hours) $350 – 800
• Private Event (Wineries, Universities, Hotels) $400-1000
• Corporate Events – $400-1000 (my experience has been corp. event budgets are about 1k for music)
• Small Concerts, House Concerts – $300 – 600

These are the ranges that I use when quoting an event to give an idea of what is possible and as you can see there is room for flexibility. I was booked for considerably more weddings than anything else, and I’ve also had to turn down several events that didn’t align with my price ranges. When this happens, work with the client and their budget, however, if you can’t agree on a number you can always refer a friend who would love the opportunity.