Fact: Musicians deserve to get paid fairly and on-time for their performances. As bandleaders, it’s our responsibility to make sure we create an environment for our bandmates (and ourselves) to get paid. But for many musicians, this can actually be difficult and confusing to do that they just wing it.

“Winging it” means not being clear about how you want to get paid. It effectively tells your clients, “getting paid is not something we care about. We hope you figure it out so that you don’t become one of the stories we tell other musicians.”

Trust me, being unclear and hoping for the best is not something you want to do – especially when there are people relying on you for that money.

  • Do you want to risk not getting paid at all?
  • Do you want to get paid late?
  • Do you want to get short-paid and not receive the full amount?
  • Do you want to get paid in gift-cards to a restaurant you never go to?

These are all real examples of things that have happened to musicians, and there are many more possibilities if we’re not clear about payments ourselves.

Use a Performance Contract

You absolutely must use a contract for every performance you play. This is definitely easier to do in the private events world (versus the bar scene), but if you can send a contract to your clients, you will dictate your payment terms (when you get paid) and acceptable payment methods (how you get paid).

Stay tuned for a separate blog post specifically about contracts!

Collect a Non-Refundable Deposit

In the private events world, clients are used to putting money down to reserve services. In the music world, I’ve seen anything from a flat $100 due upon contract signing, to 50% of the total performance amount. Requiring a deposit signals to your client that you are serious about what you do.

It elevates their perception of you, and will turn away clients who weren’t serious about paying you in the first place. It also incentivizes you and your bandmates to reserve their performance time on your calendars. If for any reason the client has to cancel, you can use the deposit to compensate yourselves for the opportunity cost of turning down other gigs during that time.

Collect the Rest of the Money Before the Gig

Yes, you can and should get paid IN-FULL before you play a single note. In your contract, be sure to add wording that indicates that 100% of payment is due before the performance date.

This is common practice in the private events industry as well. Similar to collecting a deposit, it protects you and your musicians from getting taken advantage-of. It also benefits your clients because they do not need to worry about bringing cash or checks to their event and have the flow of their event interrupted with a transaction.

Choose Your Payment Method(s)

There are hundreds of ways to get paid. I’ve heard of bands getting paid via cash, check, credit card, PayPal, Venmo, Bill.com, Quickbooks, Visa Gift Cards, and even Bitcoin. In your contract, make it clear which of these you accept – and keep it simple. Here are the ones that my group accepts:

  • Check
  • Cash
  • Credit Card

BookLive offers integrated Credit Card processing that’s automatically set up for each group that joins. We call this BookLive Pay, and it also helps bandleaders direct deposit into their bandmates accounts after the gig.

Send Invoices

An invoice is basically a bill that you can send to clients. It summarizes what you’re providing, and lists out how much they’re expected to pay. Many corporate events require you to send an invoice to get paid.

BookLive makes it easy to automatically generate and send invoices for each performance, so you don’t have to worry about downloading a template and filling it out with gig details. It also emails it directly to your clients for you.

Record Your Payments

When you receive a payment, it is absolutely necessary to record your payment. You can do this in a spreadsheet or your favorite accounting software. You’ll want to do this so you know which clients have paid and which didn’t. You’ll also want to keep track of how much the group earned, how much you will still earn, and how much taxes you’ll need to pay (check back for some posts on musician taxes in the future!).

When you receive a payment via BookLive Pay, the app automatically records this payment for you.

Money Makes the World Go ‘Round

Having a healthy attitude about money will go a long way towards the survival of your band. Let’s face it, asking for money isn’t easy. But with the right mindset and systems in place (contracts, payment methods and accounting), your group will not only be musically satisfied, but financially healthy as well.

May all your performances be spectacular.