Independent Rockstar

Insight for Independent Musicians

Musicians – If You Believe This You’re Going to Have Problems

I came across this image more than once on my Facebook feed, apparently first posted by No Treble. No disrespect to them, but I actually think posts like this only perpetuate dis-empowering misconceptions. Check it out and I’ll explain on the other side…

Hiring a Musician or BandI don’t buy this premise at all. In fact I think it hurts musicians to believe it.

It’s telling us that our value is based on our costs. If you believe that then you have problems.

The club is ultimately paying the artist for one of two things: delivering value to their customers or bringing them customers.

If you inherited a Ferrari, would you turn around and give it away? I don’t think so. Why? because its value isn’t based on what it cost you.

If a house cost $400,000 to build but only had a market value of $300,000, who’s going to pay $500k for it? No one!

Just like your value to a club, or whomever hires you, isn’t based on what it costs you to perform. You get paid based on the value you deliver.

If someone isn’t willing to pay you market value for the value you deliver for them then don’t take the gig. That’s your leverage.

If you need the gig more than they need you then you don’t have any leverage and you’ll get paid accordingly.

If you want to get paid more then you first need to know what you’re being paid for and then you need to deliver more of it.

If you can clearly demonstrate that you can deliver more value than others in your category then your demand will go up and you’ll have the leverage to get paid more.

This has little to do with your expenses and a lot to do with delivering the goods.

About Scott James

Musician / Blogger / Web Designer / MBTI Nerd living in Hollywood, CA
Scott James

17 Responses to “Musicians – If You Believe This You’re Going to Have Problems”

  1. Robin says:

    I agree with what you are saying Scott! The often overlooked issue is to do with opportunity.
    By taking a gig with other people you are able to promote to a new audience, sell CD’s and merchandise and gain true fans who sign up to your email list – which you can then market to directly. If you weigh up the opportunity to expand on these fronts – then your initial fee is irrelevant in the short term. Once you gain and convert this extra audience into motivated fans who will see you play – then you are in the position to leverage a higher door fee, or book a venue yourself and take all the door money! As long as you provide true value (entertainment and heads through the door) you will be in demand. Use your email list numbers to show the venue owners you have a good reach to help promote their venue too. Often, the venues only can trade for a set number of hours in the evening. But their costs go on throughout the day and night (rates, heating, staff, promotion, equipment etc). They need to maximise their take in these small windows of time. By being seen to help them, they will be more greatful and you can get a regular spot, cheap hire at a later date, special appearances or be their stand by support for bigger acts who play. The opportunity is there if you look, you just have to weigh up what you want to get from it. Sometimes it’s cash to pay the bills, and sometimes it is about playing for free to open up a world of possibility.

  2. Teresa says:

    Brilliant, Scott. As usual.

  3. Scott,

    Well stated! This mirrors what I tell musicians all the time. In fact, I wrote a career manual for I.T. professionals and say something similar. A job is just an agreement between two parties trading value.

    If you are unhappy with the agreement, either a) change it or b) find a new agreement.

    Additionally, looking at average pay for a particular job is not very helpful. Your value is subjective to the employer.. ie: I can program/automate all sorts of things but I cannot expect a sole proprietor, with 1 computer, to pay me “what I’m worth” – because to him, I’m not worth as much.

    You need to find the employer/gig that sees you as valuable, or as close to as valuable, as you see you. If you cannot find that.. you are not that valuable… yet.

    Of course, lest someone’s feathers get ruffled, I’m speaking as a commodity, not as person. As a person you are infinitely valuable.. too bad that is not what employers or clubs pay for. ;-D

    • You are certainly in the right ball park………….there are so many variables…………,,,,,,,,talent……….owner’s
      i am a “haggard” country type songwriter and ole very ole performer……….most saloons owners want more and pay less…………the sad thing is musicians cut each others throat at any give time………. if we respected each other more,,,,,,,,well thats a dream
      but some where there is a venue for all of us

    • Right on. Thanks Matthew!

  4. Good toughts as asual Scott!

  5. Mark says:

    Very well written Scott, I am a musician out here on the coast, and I have seen that same sentiment on my FaceBook feed a number of times over the past week. Valid points on both sides of the coin, but you are correct, it is about the value we provide as entertainers, not what we have invested… it is like a university grad asking for $120K for their first year employment because it is what they invested in their education.

  6. Beckster says:

    First time reading your article and being a “retired” musician can really appreciate your insight. Really enjoyed reading it and I’ll be back for more.
    Rock on….

  7. Kris says:

    Nice blog and good responses. As an agent I have to work with both the venues and the bands. In our area, northeast Ohio,many venues don’t even want to pay $300 for a full show. A 4 piece band, light show, full PA, set up tear down and sound man, for 9-1 show, plus drive time, the artists have a hard making any money. As musicians and agents we need to consider the cost of the gig, and not so much the time and equipment invested into the craft as you state in your post. Still the type of show I gave here as an example for a good band should at least get $800. Maybe back down to $600. Figure at least $100-150 per musician and $100 per crew. And as musicians we need to stand on ground on our value and not undercut each other. If the whole market comes down, we all lose.

    Just some more thoughts to ponder….

  8. It is best that you should make arrangement prior to take the gig and perform so that everything will be clear and just. Nice blog though…

    Merlin Moon