What Should I Charge For A Special Event Gig?

So one night after your band plays a set at the local club, a fan comes up to you and says: “Hey – I love you guys! I’m having a BBQ/birthday party/wedding and I want to hire you to play – what’s your rate?”

If you are not making a living playing GB (“General Business”) gigs you probably have no idea what musicians-for-hire in your local area are charging. Here’s a quick way to get a rough idea:

Gigmasters.com is a US-wide entertainment booking service. Musicians pay to be listed (sort of like a band Yellow Pages). Since the goal is to have customers hire the musician/band for an event you can search on the site to find listings in specific geographic areas in a specific genre for specific # of musicians.

Once you’ve done this, you are presented with a list of musicians/groups who are in (or will come to) the area. The handy part of each listing for you as the “what do I charge?” newbie is the link next to “Pay Range”: click on it to open a pop-up window displaying how much the band/musician charged for various types of gigs, for how many hours and how many players.

For example, suppose my 4-piece Irish band is asked to play a 4-hr gig on St. Patrick’s Day in the Cambridge area – how much should I charge?

1.  Search for live bands

2. On the resulting genre page I select “Irish Bands” under “World”

3. On the resulting geographic location page under “Massachusetts Bands” I select “counties” (or I could have just selected “Boston” as close enough)
4. On the “All MA counties” page I select “Cambridge” as the principal city in Middlesex county.

5. I’m now given a page listing Irish bands that will play in Cambridge MA. At this point I start selecting the “Pay Range” pop-up window for each band to see their rates for various types of gigs. Here’s a sample:

Using Gigmasters.com to find GB gig pricing

Here you see a band called Rogues charged $800 for a 2-hour show with 4 performers for St. Patrick’s Day this year. You also see that for a 4-hour gig with 4 performers they charged slightly less, $1500.

By looking at a few sample bands in your area you can make a judgement that on average a band in this area for this type of event is charging $100 per hour per band member. From this you can choose your rate confident that you are not asking ‘way too much, or worse asking far too little!

Also, some GB tips:

– “One hour” of performing = a 45-50 minute set with 10-15 minute break each hour.

– Get a written agreement for how long you will play for what rate. Note in writing what your fee will be for additional playing past that time (most people are so happy to have live music that they may want you to stay longer).

– Require payment by check at least one week or more in advance of the event, to make sure the check clears! Otherwise require payment in cash when you arrive before you start playing. If you think getting paid by a club at the end of the night is bad, try finding the intoxicated host and his buddies!

tip o’ the hat to Pete W for asking me this question :-)


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