How Much Do You Charge for a Gig?


This has come up, fortunately or unfortunately, a lot in the last few months.  Talking money usually freaks people out, especially if you're setting your own prices.  I've had my good and bad moments dealing with club owners, restaurant owners, wedding planners, etc., but what I've learned is that if you're upfront with people, guidelines are clear, numbers are concrete, deposits paid, and signatures signed, you'll feel much better after a gig and have very little keeping you up at night (like what happened to me recently).  

There are a lot of different roles you can play when it comes to financial transactions so, for now, we're just going to talk about if you're LEADING a band.  This process will be clear to gigging musicians, but I heard a local musician by the name of Billy Thornton explain this in a pretty phenomenal way that I'm going to outline here.

THE Roles

When booking a gig (that pays and usually involves playing music you DO NOT get to choose), it's not so much that each person gets an equal share (although you can work that out with your band), it's that each job gets an equal cut of the gig.  Here are some really common roles that anyone can play, sometimes multiple at once:

  • Musician (obviously)
  • Emcee
  • Band Leader
  • Sound Engineer
  • Production (bringing the sound and sometimes lighting equipment)
  • Booker

This is essentially the math everyone should take into account when chopping up money, but also when figuring out WHAT TO CHARGE so that your time isn't wasted, you're compensated fairly, and that you're not undercutting musicians you're playing with or the community at large (something that becomes quite the thorn in one's side the more gigs you play).

THE Split

Say there's a quartet gig that pays $1000.  If the money were split equally, everyone would obviously make $250.  But, if you're the band leader, you may have spent hours on the phone with the venue or events manager getting all of the details and scheduling right, booking musicians, etc.  So instead of each person gets a cut, it's each job gets a cut.  The gig that pays $1000, now gets cut into: Musican 1, 2, 3, & 4, Booker.  It's a 5-way split instead of 4-way split.  

Now, if your gig is 4 hours long on a Friday or Saturday night, $200/person isn't going to cut it.  If you booked the gig and played in it, you may be making $400, but it'll be tough to hire the musicians you want.  This means when you're talking to whomever is trying to book you, you can do the math quickly to give them the correct price and it may mean you need to charge more to cover everyone.

Boom.  A quick and easy way to decide what to charge, come to it in a fair way, and pay people appropriately for the work they've done.