How Much Should you Charge for a Gig?
Deciding how much to charge for your work can be one of the most stressful parts of being a professional performer (apart from, perhaps, the performances themselves!). Charge too much and you may lose the gig, but charge too little and it may not be worth it – so how much should you charge for a gig?
You could use the Musicians Union hourly rates to work out how much you charge for gigs, from local pub gigs as a band or solo artist to corporate and New Year’s Eve events. Also, try talking to performers in your area and ask them for advice.
Remember that your rate can easily increase as you accumulate experience, skill and popularity. The better you get, and the more renowned you become, the more people might be willing to pay. The type of event you play can also be a big factor in adjusting what you charge so let’s learn more about established rates and how they can vary.
How much do pub gigs pay?
There is a good chance that you will start getting your first paid gigs by performing at a pub. There are a lot more pubs than venues so these gigs are often easier to get and can be a good bit of extra income on the side.
Most pubs won’t have massive budgets to pay you or your band but the general consensus on musician forums is to expect around £200 – £300 for a couple of hours. However, be aware that some pubs will put their offer around the £100 mark and it’s up to you to decide if it is worth it or not.
Think about the kind of audience in a pub as well. If you are young and performing originals, a Sunday night pub crowd might not be your target market and performing for ‘exposure’ won’t really go far. If you are doing covers then this may be better suited for the audience and you might be able to negotiate a better rate.
Check out Ed Sheeran’s advice for musicians starting out playing gigs:
How much to charge for a solo gig?
If you are performing as a solo musician then you should expect the be offered less than you would if you were in a band. However, the payment could end up being more than the split fee you would share with other band members.
For example, a £300 fee for a 5 piece band would give £60 per band member. Pubs and venues will take this to account and may offer something similar, therefore it is up to your judgement whether you feel comfortable accepting offers around or below £100 as a solo performer. Make sure you take into account your experience and what other acts on the night are being paid.
The Musicians Union’s casual stage rates are the best reference you can use for working out how much to charge. These cover any casual engagement that involves performing on a stage, including one off public performances, commercial touring tribute acts and any independent artist or musician without a record or management deal.
Musicians Union hourly rate
The Musicians Union is a respectable trade union that represents thousands of musicians across the country. If you are considering a long career as a performer then it is heavily advised that you consider joining. They are there to help offer you advice and intervene if things go badly ie. if you agree a fee to perform and don’t get paid.
There are a lot of resources online from the Musicians Union such as draft contracts and the Fair Play Guide, which covers unfair deals, things to avoid and expectations from other types of performances like competitions and showcases.
They set advised minimum hourly rates that can be a great tool to use when working out how much you should charge for gigs. Also, if you are offered less than the rates, you can give them evidence that they are charging below the Musicians Union standard and hopefully bring the fee up.
Performance fees for musicians
A single performance fee of £142.50 is the Musicians Union’s advised fee per musician. It covers one performance in a venue with a capacity of under 200, plus a rehearsal on the same day with both being no more than 3 hours long. If the capacity of the venue is over 200 then this fee rises to £158.50.
If you are offered to do two performances and include a single rehearsal, this fee per musician becomes £250 for venues with a capacity under 200 and £278.50 for over 200. Any time longer than the 6 hours covered by both performances is considered overtime, where the advised fee is £20.25 per musician for every 15 minutes.
A musician is entitled to add 15% of the fee for each additional instrument. This is because these fees are based on how much you need to charge to earn a liveable income, factoring the hours you put in to train on your instrument (or instruments).
You should also consider transport costs to the venue and the expense of bringing your equipment. The Musicians Union transport and porterage guidelines say that you should charge £10.50 per hour of travel time, £27.50 for electric and bass guitar transport (including amplifiers) and that drums and keyboards should be subject to negotiation.
There are a few final fees you should be thinking about charging when performing. One is a late fee of £22.50 if your expected return from the performance is between midnight and 02:00 am. If you return later than this then you could charge an overnight fee of £99.40. Also, if you are expected to be feeding yourself then there is a subsistence fee of £44.90 to cover meals and expenses.
These are all advised rates and are by no means bound by law. What it does provide is a great reference for negotiations and figures that can help you anticipate your expenses, as well as value the worth of your service as a performer.
How much to charge for New Year’s Eve gig?
Performing on New Year’s Eve can be a great opportunity to charge extra and start the new year with a bit more cash in your pocket. It can be difficult to know what to charge though and you have to consider what it is worth to perform on a public holiday.
While there is no set guideline for New Year’s Eve performances, there will generally be more demand for and less supply of performers, which will naturally drive up the price that people are willing to spend.
Think about the Musicians Unions performance fees and doubling them for a new years eve performance. While this could look quite high, you can probably justify it as a starting point and maybe work your way down from there. At the end of the day, it depends on who you are dealing with and who knows, someone might think this rate is a bargain!
How much do corporate gigs pay?
Corporate function work could end up being a lucrative avenue for performers as large companies have bigger budgets and can end up paying thousands for a performance.
Corporations may be reluctant to book artists independently, especially larger ones, as businesses usually prefer working with other established businesses.
It is good to look for live music agencies with an office near you that specialise in function work and have corporate connections. Get in touch and find out what it takes to get corporate gigs and work out what you need to do to get to that stage.
How much should I get paid to host an open mic?
Instead of performing, have you ever considered hosting open mic performances? This is a great opportunity to run an event for the first time and get to know the musicians in your area better, hopefully finding out about their paid experience with the venues and promoters you know.
Venues make money by getting people through the door and to the bar, so the more people they get in, the more money they are able to make. Hosting an open mic can be an attractive proposition for businesses because if you are able to bring in a full schedule of performers, they will probably bring their friends and the venue will be packed with far more people than usual.
Therefore, you should be entitled to some of this extra money that is coming through because of your hard work. It is typical to ask for an hourly rate to be hosting the open mic. You will be working throughout the night to make sure that performances don’t overrun and that there aren’t any technical issues so it is the least you can expect.
Before negotiating an hourly rate, think about your experience of running successful open mics in the past, how much you would like to be paid per hour of work and how much other hosts have been paid.
Pay to play gigs
One big thing to avoid is a relatively new, and harmful, practice called “pay to play”, where a performer pays a corporation to play at their event and get exposure. Avoid this — don’t let corporations play you for money, and certainly don’t set a precedent for other performers in the future.
Be very wary of promoters that are offering pay to play gigs. This is usually in exchange for tickets that you will have to sell, which is the promoter’s job.
Some promoters may just give you the tickets to sell and for some people, this can be seen as an acceptable deal. However, if you consider the amount of time spent on selling tickets, performing and the amount you make, this could very well be significantly under minimum wage and maybe even put you in the red after expenses are deducted.
Unfortunately, some artists and bands feel they have to take these gigs to help them become more successful. Be careful if you are offered something that sounds like a pay to play gig. Know whether what you’re doing is truly worth it and how this affects the value of your time spent as a performer.
Read what other performers have to say about pay to play gigs in this BBC article.
So, what factors decide your rates?
Chris Holder, a professional performer, asserted in his Decent Buck method that any prospective performer should decide on their desired income for the year and add on expenses, factor in sick days, taxes etc.
This method can be found in the book, Storytelling Professionally, but although it’s thorough, it can be quite complex and doesn’t necessarily factor in how rates can change over time.
Try asking these 5 questions to help you decide your rate:
#1 Are you hoping to make a living off performing?
If you’re planning on paying the bills by performing, your rate, and how often you perform, has to reflect that. When considering all the other factors listed here, think about whether you’ll actually make a profit.
Adam Hughes, a pianist-for-hire, has said that if he were to perform as his only job, he would reduce his fee slightly (from his usual £300-£400 per gig to about £150-£200). This way, he would be more likely to acquire gigs at a reduced rate, whilst still being able to make a healthy profit.
#2 How much will travel cost you?
If you pay £50 to get a return train to the gig, or spend £50 on petrol to get there, and then only charge £50 for the gig, all you’re getting is exposure.
You aren’t limited to accepting gigs within a few miles of where you live, but if the gig is too far away, it’s okay to turn it down, or even to charge more!
#3 Have you invested money in your equipment?
Though some gigs will have their own PA system, others will not. If you’re prepared to invest in one, do so, but then make sure you’re charging appropriately. You want to be able to make that money back, or else it wouldn’t be worth it.
The same goes for instruments, effects gear, and even small things such as re-stringing guitars or even replacing lost plectrums. It all costs money, so make sure you’re eventually going to earn that money back.
#4 What is the event like?
If you are performing for a corporate event, anything from an awards show to a company Christmas party, the budget will probably be sizeable, since the corporation is paying for it. Therefore, don’t charge too low.
Private events, such as weddings and parties, will obviously have smaller budgets, but don’t be afraid to make them pay for quality either (within reason – if you’re good but not great, don’t overcharge, or you might get some bad publicity).
Speaking of other performers:
#5 What are other performers getting paid for similar gigs?
Ask around and get some perspective from others doing similar work. Last Minute Musicians, for example, have created averages for different types of performers, including singers.
This would be particularly helpful for a corporate event, especially one where several artists are playing. It would be irritating to find out somebody got paid more than you for the same work!
How much do you charge for a gig?
Hopefully, you have a much better idea on how much you should charge for a gig and performance. We would love to hear more from you about what kinds of rates you have been offered and what you charge for gigs!