Monday, November 15, 2010

At What Price?

I was having a conversation with some fellow musicians the other day about the state of performances and what we get paid. We know that you have to bend a bit but at what price do we do so. I've been a professional musician since I was eighteen years old and I've played in a variety of situations for different fees. I've played gigs for free and I've gotten paid really well but the issue is how to get what you are worth consistently. Now we play a lot of clubs and the truth is most club owners couldn't care less about our music. They just want to have live music as a draw to get people in to drink and/or eat. They will pay a small fee to the band no matter who you are and what you've done. Ironically we in the south, Mississippi in particular, make more in clubs than anywhere in the country. I mean you can pull $100 to $125 a man pretty easy in the south. That's actually about a standard but we can't get wealthy off of that. The club owner will pay the band $500 or $600 and they make $3000 to $5000 on the bar if not more. Now this is a great breakdown for the club owner because he gets class entertainment at a bargain price, which brings me to the real issue. What are we truly worth? What I started doing a few years ago was just promoting my own shows and partnering with the clubs and venues. I take the door and they take food and drinks. I started doing this because the club owner would say that he/she couldn't guarantee me a certain fee because he wasn't sure of my drawing potential and I refused to give him a $20,000 show for $600 so I put my money where my mouth is and partnered with him. This way there was no ceiling on what I could earn. I've never gone in the whole and it has helped my brand because people know that when you come to a D'MAR show it's going to be a real concert and not just another gig. This in turn helps raise my value and the perception of my brand in the market place. I've also formed a coalition of sorts with like minded musicians but the issue we are faced with now is how to set your worth. I had a mentor of mine tell me that your worth is what ever someone is willing to pay to see you at any given time and that worth may change depending on where you are. I mean in Paris you may be worth $10,000 a show but in Greenwood,MS you may only be worth $5,000. There are a lot of different factors that play into this scenario. As musicians taking charge of our own branding, we must be aware not to under sell or over sell our market. If you are playing a club that has a regular cover of $10, then when you do your show, you should at least try to stay within the price parameter of the club. If people are used to paying $10 and you do a show for $25, then you have over priced your show for the market. We have to think like business men/women all the time. When people come to see us, they are going to by a ticket, have dinner/drinks and if they have a date that doubles so we don't want to charge so much that they can't afford to add us to their plans. On the contrary, we also can't give ourselves away for free either. I believe strongly in branding ALL the time. If I'm trying to raise my worth, then I have to make the buying public value it buy placing a price on it. Now that price could be $5 but it's not FREE. When we play clubs that don't charge a cover the people are not forced to truly value our art. I'll bet you that the club owner is not giving away food and drinks for free so why should we be any different. Don't get me wrong, we all have to do what we have to do, it just depends on your goals. If you are really trying to build a brand, you have to make people value it and you can't do that by giving it away. It is up to us as musicians to stick together. Let's set a fair price point and if it is not met then we don't play. That's one of the things a musician's union is for. Remember if you get a reputation for working for pennies you will never make dollars. Also be sure to always give a performance worthy of people's time and money. No BS should ever be allowed. That to makes it harder for those of us that are giving our best every time out.

The Truth
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