Posted by jaredjudge
October 28, 2019
As musicians, one of the hardest things we have to do is put a price tag on our art. Our creativity and love of music for the sake of music makes it really difficult to boil all of our passion down to a number.
That being said, if we don’t price our services before being asked (perhaps by a bride, a corporate event planner, etc.), we are shooting ourselves in the foot. You might stumble around and throw out the first number that pops into our heads. Or if you’re a seasoned pro, you might ask for what you got the last gig. But did you really do the math and figure out if that number makes sense?
Throw out a number that’s too low and you risk multiple problems – coming across as inexperienced, not covering the cost of getting to and from the gig, not covering the cost of additional expenses (such as sheet music purchases, equipment, etc), not factoring in marketing costs to help you get that gig (WeddingWire subscriptions, etc.). Throw out a number that’s too high, and you might not get a response.
This problem is even worse if you’re leading a group of musicians. If you set a price without asking your group members what they’re ok with, your group might fester some resentment. And we all know how resentment stifles a creative and collaborative group experience!
The best approach to a financially healthy group is to create a Price List that details out the many variables that go into a musical performance and puts a price tag on each of those variables. If you’re in a group setting, spend some time with the entire group to discuss these numbers to make sure everyone is happy!
Time spent playing your instrument or singing should be the highest-priced item on your price list. The Musician’s Union (AFM) has defined minimum pricing for various types of performances, and listed them out in this (somewhat dated) wage scale: AFM 2014 Wage Scale. For most single-engagements (e.g. a wedding, a corporate event, etc.), the union defines a $120/musician minimum for 1 hour of performance.
After 1-hour, however, the union scale tends to only provide small increases in price. Whether you decide to charge more is up to you (and your group).
Here are examples of the different units of time my String Quartet has priced out:
If your group is flexible in your group size, then you’ll have to create additional prices. This is advantageous because not all event budgets are created equal, and if you have a smaller group option that still sounds amazing, you can play more gigs.
Be sure to discuss this with your group BEFORE getting a gig so you don’t unknowingly piss one of your members off if they don’t get asked. We also charge more per-musician for smaller groups because the job does get harder with fewer people to rely on.
Here are the group sizes my group offers:
I try to encourage my clients to go with the Quartet because it’s simply the option that sounds (and looks) the best.
After pricing for the amount of time and the number of performers, you’ll want to think about and set prices for any add-ons for your performance. Do you want to charge for sound setup? Lighting? Learning new songs? For each of these possibilities, think (and discuss with your group) about how much extra work each of these involves, and also factor in any additional costs you have to lay out. If you offer a lighting package, do you need to rent lights for each gig? Factor that in your price.
Here are some possible add-ons you might want to add to your price list:
Traveling to a performance is a fact of life for musicians. Gigs rarely happen in your own backyard, so you’ll need to spend time loading in and out of your vehicle, spend money on gas, and spend time getting to the gig.
The Musician’s Union has put together a pricing table for travel, but unfortunately, it falls short because the calculations don’t follow a mathematical formula. It’s also confusing because you need to keep it clear in your mind if the mileage is one-way or round-trip.
I recommend thinking about all travel as round-trip. The Union recommends only charging extra for travel after the first 60 miles round-trip. This works for me and my group, but I highly recommend charging a per-mile rate instead of using their table. The current federal mileage reimbursement rate is 58¢/mile, and my group uses this as our standard.
But, instead of throwing the venue in Google maps, multiplying the distance by two and multiplying by 58¢/musician/mile, I simply click on BookLive’s Travel Fee Calculator and it does all the legwork for me.
We’ve put together a PDF of one of our group’s full Price List. This will show you how a real group established a list of prices that factor in performance times, variable group sizes, add-ons, travel and more. Simply enter your email address to receive the PDF!
By setting up a Price List before getting any bookings, you’re setting your group up for financial success. You’re collaboratively deciding what your time is worth, and you’re able to build in a profit so that you can re-invest in the marketing you need to do to get more leads which turn into gigs.
If you sign up for BookLive, you’ll be guided through an easy-to-use group setup process which helps you create and use your group’s price list. You’re able to setup your time-based pricing, group-size-based pricing, addons, and travel, and once you have a lead, you’re able to very quickly use this price list to calculate how much to charge for a gig.
This helps you land gigs faster, and makes you a much more professional group to work with.
May all your gigs be spectacular!