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So, you’re about to book a show. Rad! As you probably know by now, there are a number of different ways that you can get paid for being awesome at what you do. We want to make sure you’re being paid fairly (and we know you do, too) so here is a bit of insight into four of the different forms of payment you can expect to encounter when you’re booking shows.
It’s not uncommon for venues or promoters to offer a door split deal when booking a show. Basically, what this means is that you’ll be splitting the proceeds from ticket sales with the venue/promoter. After the tickets are sold and the venue rental and promotional costs are recouped, the rest is set aside to be split. Generally, the promoter will give a bigger percentage of the money to the band/performer. It is most common to agree upon an 80/20% or 70/30% split (with the performer taking the highest cut). However, depending on the gig at hand, it can be perfectly reasonable and fair to split it 50/50.
Tip: Before agreeing to a door split gig, try to get an idea of the expected turnout and the ticket cost. Give the venue a visit or look it up online to see how popular it seems. Do they advertise their own events or is it your responsibility to bring a crowd? (Either way, bring a crowd! Each and every person who comes will put money in your pocket.) Once you know what to expect, you’ll have a better idea of how much money you are likely to make. It’s important to note that if the show doesn’t draw in enough of a crowd to break even, you won’t be getting paid.
Most of your gigs probably look something like this: The event planner finds you, loves you (of course!), and contacts you about the gig. You quote them a price, they agree, and you do your thing! The advantage of having a guaranteed set amount you’ll be getting paid is that you don’t have to worry about unforeseen circumstances. If the show doesn’t draw in a crowd, guess what? You still get paid!
Tip: Know your venue and audience, as well as all event details. Put a lot of thought into your price quote before you commit to anything. You don’t want to show up to play at a wedding, thinking it will be a 40 minute set, and find out that you’re expected to play for 4 hours! Make sure that all of the details are covered in the contract so that there is no confusion for either party (you or the event planner) and that you’re protected financially against cancellation.
Generally speaking, we don’t recommend paying to play. Pay-to-play is exactly what it sounds like. Venues or promoters may charge a fee for you to play a show at their space. Depending on the time slot and the popularity of the venue, this can get very pricey. You are likely to hear that you’ll be paid inexposure. Now, this is not to say that all claims for being paid in exposure are illegitimate, because sometimes playing for exposure is worth it. (It’s not exactly pay-to-play, but did you know that no one has ever been paid to play in the Super Bowl Halftime Show? Not even Mick Jagger!) If you find yourself an opportunity with a high level of exposure, like the Super Bowl (okay, that might be a stretch) or a large music festival, it could be worth it to pay-to-play. Just be cautious and spend your money wisely!
Tip: Instead of requiring performers to pay-to-play, some venues will decrease their financial risk by offering a pre-sale tickets option. How this typically works is that the performer will be required to sell at least X number of tickets at X cost prior to the event, to ensure that you will not be playing to an empty room, and that the venue will be able to recoup their expenses.
Many times, especially for charity functions, you may be asked to donate your talent to a cause or event. This is totally at your discretion! If you’re feeling charitable, looking to network/gain exposure within certain circles, or are interested in the event at hand, it may be worth your time to play for free. However, do not feel obligated to perform for free. You’re a professional and you should be compensated for your services unless you consent otherwise.
Tip: Most charity events will allow you to place a tip jar out for donations. This is not likely to put a lot of money in your pocket, but something is better than nothing! You may find, in some situations, that the event planner is hesitant to encourage tipping. This is likely because they are trying to raise as much money as possible for the cause at hand, and any money that may be given to you is competing with those funds. Again, it is at your discretion if you’re willing to perform under these circumstances. Only you can say what is right for you, so don’t be afraid to be assertive about your needs as an entertainer.
No matter which form of payment you agree upon, we can’t stress enough how important it is to sign a contract before you perform anywhere.Anywhere. Contracts exist to protect both you and the event planner, and are your safety net if you’re being treated unfairly or have been refused payment.
So there you have it, folks! Which is your favorite way to get paid for gigs?
JoAnna is a native New Englander with an affinity for soul music, cooking, feminism, portrait painting, inside jokes, and costume parties.This article originally appeard on GigSalad.com – republished here with permission.