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Negotiating fees

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by bspot, Apr 9, 2010.

  1. bspot


    Sep 9, 2008
    Charlotte NC
    QUESTION: How do those of you in Cover Bands negotiate the amount a new venue pays you?

    I'm in a cover band in the Charlotte NC area. We've started as a midlife crisis thing with 4 friends but have progressed to playing in a couple local bars. We've decided to attempt to branch out and find new venues to play in.

    The first bar we played at, we now play there regularly. We were recommended by another band, so we get paid the same amount as that band.

    We've been hitting the streets lately, visiting venues with press kits. Our lead singer was asked by a bar owner what we expect to be paid. He told them the same amount that our other 2 bars pay us. However, I dont want any new venue, who does not know us, to never call back because we asked too much. I would honestly take less money to simply get ourselves 'in the door'.

    I suggested to our singer that the next time he was put on the spot to push it back on the bar owner. Have the bar owner make the first move, so to speak.

    Any thoughts?
  2. jwbassman

    jwbassman Supporting Member

    Aug 9, 2006
    I always shoot for a min of $100 a man. I also would lay down the price that you think you deserve to get paid. It's best IMO to not low ball, and not to let the club owner make the first offer. Take the ball and try to keep it in your court. Start high and then lower the price if necessary. It's a lot harder to go the other way.
  3. MNAirHead

    MNAirHead Supporting Member

    Without knowing more details..

    If you have killer materials and a great set list.. price it 10-15% above market and then then spend the time selling.

    Most bands forget selling for a better gig is easier than volunteering for a turd.

  4. RustyAxe


    Jul 8, 2008
    I can assure that a venue owner will NOT place more value on your band that you yourselves do. When looking for a gig and negotiating pay scale, the venue owner wants to hear how many paying/drinking customers you'll draw because that's the determinant of what you're worth to him. While WE may play for the love of the music, the venue owner is out to make a buck ... period.

    Perhaps playing for less on an off night is an option. You'll still have to draw a crowd that pushes his bottom line above what he normally gets on those off nights.
  5. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    You can ask for anything you want, but what the owner/manager is gonna pay for is your marquee value, that is, how much having your name on the chalkboard is going to affect his business. If it doesn't matter who's name is on the board, you're not really gonna make any more than anyone else who plays there. If his business is pretty contingent on whose name is there, then you're gonna have to give him evidence that YOUR name is gonna be good for at least X amount of people. And he's gonna base his pay scale (and whether or not he actually hires you) on that.

    If it's not a music venue, but they just hire acts to give people in the joint something to talk over, then all you have to do is convince him you won't piss off his clientele by playing too loud or not loud enough or by playing the wrong music etc. And you need to give him some evidence that you can do that, too.

    But a couple of questions: do you think the other places you work are paying you too much? If not, why should a "new" place pay you any less? What does getting into this new place do for you that playing your current joints don't? At some point Joint A and Joint B are gonna find out that you're working Joint C for less bread and suddenly THAT becomes how much you're worth.

    It's mostly for touring musicians and jazz musicians at that, but I highly recommend Hal Galper's TOURING MUSICIANS GUIDE: A Small Business Approach. He's got a great section on "conversation trees" for booking discussions (you say THIS, if they respond A you say THIS, if they respond B you say THIS INSTEAD) and some ways to assess your marquee value and enhance it.
  6. bspot


    Sep 9, 2008
    Charlotte NC
    Our band is relatively new to the local bar scene. We've played 2 different bars, as well as some private parties and neighborhood sponsored events. The 2 places are really only giving us a gig every couple months....they only have live bands on Saturdays and we have to compete with other bands they also rotate in. Also, our main bar just got a new owner. The new owner is keeping us around as a courtesy but seems like he has a House Band already [probably a friend's band?], which puts our gigs in the future in jeopardy.

    Also, I'm not saying we're paid too much. I honestly dont know the local market value to know if we are getting paid to much or not. One person we spoke to in the music scene did seem to think it was on the high end. Basically we want to get more gigs than we already have and we dont want to overprice ourselves and miss out on opportunities to get our foot in the door at new places...which could open up further opportunities.

    I realize I'm rambling...I hope this makes sense. ;)
  7. JohnMCA72


    Feb 4, 2009
    Then you haven't done your homework. Treat it like a business, because it is a business - even if you're just a hobbyist.

    If you were digging ditches for fun, would you undercut all of the professional ditch-diggers who do it for a living? Maybe you would; I don't know. What you need to do is find out what all the other ditch-diggers are charging, & price yourself accordingly. As somebody who needs a ditch dug, I couldn't care less what your hourly rate is, what kind of shovel you use, etc.; I just want my ditch dug how, when, & where I want it. What you really need to do, though, is figure out some way to set yourself apart from the other ditch-diggers, & show me that your ditch-digging services are a better value to me than somebody else's. Maybe it costs me less for the same job as somebody else, or maybe it costs me more but I get more for my money! Give me a reason to pick you, not somebody else. You've got to know & understand what the other ditch diggers are doing for their money, not just what they're getting paid so that you can tell me why I should pick you.

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