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Do you know what you are worth?

August 12, 2013

If your goal is to become a professional musician, you need to do what every professional does: value your time and know what you are worth. Sometimes musicians get so caught up in the love of their music and the appreciation of any audience that these premises go right out the window.

How much are you worth?
KnowYourWorthHave you ever thought about how much you should be charging per hour for your services? This is a very straight-forward question. Doctors, lawyers, therapists, even plumbers and electricians know what they will be charging the public when services are rendered. Why should musicians be any different?

And if you don’t know your own rates, how in the world are you going to make a sales proposal for your band? If a venue gets the idea that you are willing to work for food and drinks, why should they bother paying anything else? If you don’t know how to ask for the appropriate pay, what’s to stop a venue from offering whatever the market will bare? Are these questions a pain in the rear?

Not really – not if you want to become a professional musician. The problem is that most musicians don’t value their time or act like a professional. Pay negotiations become games of Cat and Mouse, and the mouse is the one playing an instrument. So, what is your time worth?

Many pros will tell you that musicians should be striving for $100/person minimum when out gigging. The typical gig might be 2-4 hours. So pay might equate to $25-50/hour, right? But not so fast…

There is often setup and tear down involved with playing out. Perhaps you have to pay for a sound tech too, or bring your own PA. A 4 hour night might mushroom into a 7 or 8 hour commitment. Now you’re potentially making half of what you had previously anticipated.

Are you willing to dig a little deeper? Do you take into account time spent on:
Booking gigs
Marketing efforts
Schmoozing
Practicing for the gig
Travel time to the gig
Sound check time
Years of lessons
Band meetings and bitch sessions

And how about these tangible costs:
Gas
Buying food & drink at the venue (if it’s not offered)
Instrument expenses like: strings, reeds, amp tubes, etc
Non-instrumental stuff: gaffer tape, band aids, Ibuprofen – you get the idea…

Good luck attempting to amortize all of these business expenses into an hourly rate! And a damn good thing you love being a musician. But the main point is, recognize that you’ve done a lot to get where you are and you need to stick to your guns when asking for that rate (whatever it might be). Venues that know how to build a following get it. Agents get it. Now you need to get it!

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. August 12, 2013 1:13 am

    Yes, but a lot of that stuff can be written off at tax time, so at least the IRS somewhat believes what you’re worth. Sorta. 😉

  2. Graham Mueller permalink
    August 12, 2013 2:12 am

    Great article marc!

    • August 12, 2013 2:14 am

      Hello, Mr. Mueller! How are Roqui and the Bull?

  3. Pete Vriesenga permalink
    August 12, 2013 3:19 am

    Good luck writing off expenses at tax time unless you’re earning your primary living as a musician. After three years of claiming a net loss the IRS will declare that your life pusuit and career is just a “hobby.”

    • August 12, 2013 1:47 pm

      Pete, you are correct, sir. ANY business that doesn’t turn a profit within 3 years may be reclassified as a hobby – which is why it’s so important for musicians to strive to be viable businesses.

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