When I first started my band, as we already discussed, I had an agent booking all of my gigs. I was able to focus more on the music and tread around the ‘band leader’ waters for several years. But when I started booking my own gigs, there was a transitional period where promoters had to find me. Nowadays, with websites, that’s not hard to do, but back then it could be an issue.
Remember this, it’s important! I maintained a great relationship with my former agent, and because of that, he sent promoters to me. He still sends work my way after all these years on a non-exclusive basis. It’s a win-win.
Booking Gigs: Paying your band
When you’re booking gigs, you need to consider the cost of the band for a particular type of event. For example, you might pay your band members $50-$100 more per person for a private event vs. a club gig.
For an example see below:
Festival $100 per person X 5 band members =$500
(above numbers are simply for the example, you determine the amount you want to pay, numbers used were for ease of math)
Make sure that you have a predetermined amount for each type of gig that you play and take that amount into consideration when negotiating a booking.
Booking Gigs: Negotiate a booking
Determine what the market will pay for your services. If you’ve had an agent in the past, you will know, otherwise, you’ll need to do some investigating. But do not sell yourself short. I always bid high. That’s the name of the game. Don’t be the band that undercuts everybody else just to get a gig, appreciate your art, your time, your band, and yourself. Believe you are worth what you ask for.
When I’m talking with a promoter and he asks what I need to play his event, my answer goes something like this.
“My asking price is $ (fill in your price), sound is to be provided by promoter, lights, five single hotel rooms, and one hot meal for five band members day of show.”
Now remember, you bid high, you’re asking for a lot, but listen to the response. What if he says okay? That’s great! If not, be open to his counter offer. Ask him what he had in mind to pay you. Usually he will come right out and tell you. If you bid high, you can negotiate on the price and hopefully come to an agreement.
Sometimes if a promoter really wants you, or you need the gig, cut him a deal, BUT, ask for referrals and bookings on other events he is associated with. You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours, kind of thing. Most times you can end up booking more worthwhile gigs by compromising with a promoter in the beginning.
Some club owners like to work a deal like this:
Example: $1000 vs. 80% over $2000 (once again, numbers used for ease of math)
What does this mean?
You are guaranteed $1000 and if the door makes over $2000 you get 80% of the overage.
Let say the door makes $2500. You get your guaranteed $1000 plus 20% of the $500 overage.
$500 X 20% = $100 So you walk out that night with $1100.
Don’t forget to take into account the cost of the band for that particular event as well as the distance. With gas prices today, that can eat a chunk out of your take home pay, airline tickets, and rental cars can, too. Consider all the factors and agree to the terms only if it makes sense financially.
Booking gigs: Finalize the booking
Once you and the promoter come to an agreement, send your contract, rider, and stage plot immediately. I got my contracts from the local Musician’s Union and I require that all contracts be signed and returned within 14 days. I also ask for a 50% deposit to be mailed back with the signed agreement. Create a system to organize date holds, contracts due, and deposits due.
Most important advice about booking
When talking to a promoter, don't be in a hurry to give your quote. Talk to the promoter about their gig.
- Find out what the gig is for
- Date of gig
- Location of gig
- Length of gig
- Why? Perhaps this is a special event
- How long have they been having this event?
- What's the capacity of the venue?
- Do they have any sponsors?
One of the most important questions you can ask:
- Who has played their event in the past? You can tell a lot about an event by past performers. If it's a popular band, you know they have a decent budget. If it's someone you've never heard of before, well, you know what I'm getting at....
Ask questions, talk with the promoter, see how you can benefit the event. All the while, you're gathering information to propose an educated bid, hopefully, without leaving money on the table.
Do you have any tips for negotiating a gig? Is this a strong or weak point in your business? It can be intimidating, but practicing your spiel is helpful.