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« 6 Things You'll Learn Recording An Album That Nobody Will Tell You | Main | MusicThinkTank Weekly Recap: | 4 Ways Musicians Can Make Money »

How Musicians Can Get Higher Pay for Live Shows

I think musicians, more than any other profession, have this masochistic pleasure to accept god-awful pay for their talents.

In fact, most are BEGGING to play for free.

They say things like:

“It’s just the way it is”

“I’ve gotta pay my dues”

“I just do it for the music, man”

No one ever say these things again or I will shoot you.

If you go deeper, you begin to hear even more limiting beliefs.

“I’m just not trying hard enough”

“It helps build my creativity as an artist”

They fault themselves for the lack of success. They start to get desperate, load their car, move to LA and play in Hollywood under an alias with two middle names with weird spellings.

Here’s the funny thing though:

We don’t even realize how crippling these words truly are

We play it safe and because of this, musicians are taken advantage of.

We listen to how others describe our work and we self-perpetuate this hidden cycle without even realizing it.

We read from “experts” and they tell us to be thankful for zero pay because we’re getting exposure. Owners and our audience feed off of this energy and musicians begin to believe this as reality.

We feel that there is some exposure meter that once it fills up, it magically translates to a successful career. We’re talented but don’t know why it’s not happening yet.

I said these same things.

Why would anyone listen to my music?

Why would I charge people for my stuff?

This self-defeating concept spread into every other area of my life and I began to see myself as just another artist. 

After years of tested research, I’ve developed this 3 step plan to overcome these negative barriers, increase your value per gig, and close the deal, guaranteed.

Step 1: Position Your Mental Frameworks

You Have A Skill That You’ve Perfected Over Many Years, Like Any Trade.

You deserve to share it with the world or else you’re causing the world a disservice. 

NFL stars are paid insane amounts of money because their talent brings in large volumes of sales. However, before those sales occurred, they valued themselves as a high commodity worthy of high pay by putting in hours of practice.

You aren’t practicing, you are increasing your stock price for your company. Embrace this mentality before anything else and realize that you’re investing your time and increasing your value as an artist.

People Will Pay Higher If the Value Is Worth It

What stands the test of time and cuts through the noise are products made with the highest quality. The same goes for any company or startup. If the product’s price point is low, the mind automatically perceives and associates this product at a lesser value.

This mentality translates into everything else. Tours with high prices still do just fine because we perceive this value as being worth it. We know that by paying X price for a ticket, we will receive Y value in return. The same is also true for your music.

You Are A Majestic Piece of Art - And Advertisement

You are selling your services for increased profit for the company.

The venues invest in you just as much as you invest in it. It’s not a give and take, it’s a contractual mini-partnership. You are helping them make money, not the other way around.

Remember, you are doing them a great service and you should be compensated appropriately. Believe in your product and they will follow your lead.

Step 2: Know The Audience Better Than They Know Themselves

 Grab A “Mini-Auditor” 

For 5-10 shows, have a friend “audit” your performance like a normal company.

Have them chart how many visitors come, how long they stay on average, what they get (food, drinks, reorders) and overall show participation.

At the end of the show, sit down with your hidden auditor and add up the overall gross profit you brought in as well as the value of your entertainment.

What you’re developing is your gig value. As an artist, you document all transactions like any other business and this gives you weight for the next steps.

Meet The Owner For Coffee

In business, deals are made with friends. Owners want more than one-night stands. They want consistency, little risk, and more money.

They want their life better because you played at their venue. Meet the owner in person over coffee sometime. Understand them as a person and friend.

What are their goals and what can you do to get them there?

What are their fears? What would be their dream day?

What are some ideas that they want to try out? What previous ideas failed? Why?

What is the biggest burning pains the owner currently faces?

Go beyond the performance, get personal. A business owner may really love social media, but needs that extra kick to get a buzz going. Your music may be just what it needs.

Does he need help with pushing a new product? What if your show incorporated this new product within your performance? The possibilities are endless. Listen and you will separate yourself from everyone else.

Audiences Crave New Things

When an audience watches a live show, what is it that they truly want?

To hear the same tunes from their high school prom to relive nostalgic times of braces and bad acne? Nope.

Ironically, most audiences CRAVE original music. But no one plays it. People are afraid of being let down, so they take the safe route and play the same tunes.

But, by understanding your audience and what they truly want, you remove this fear.

Get deep by asking questions to your fans and audience such as:

What truly makes a good show?

Why do I play at certain venues and not the others?

What would you pay top dollar for?

What is my audience going to do while I play?

What do I like in live shows?

Read between the lines and understand what they actually want. Look at your local venues and research exactly who plays there and why. Talk to the previous artists and ask:

What was your experience like?

How much did you make?

What went well in your shows? What went wrong? 

What are your opinions about the staff? The owner?

What do you think this business needs to do in order to get to the next level?

From your research, develop your show, setlist, and agenda AROUND this, not the other way around.

You can use this knowledge to leverage your proposal in the next step.

Step 3: Close The Deal – Give Your Presentation and Proposal

Build Your Business Proposal, Not Your PR Kit

Use the answers from your previous meeting to craft simple solutions to help the owner’s burning pains. Build your presentation showing how you will come in and provide X value and with projected Y in return by doing ABC.

Venue owners will LOVE you for this. You did your research, have proven how you will be an asset, and how this can be a lasting relationship. Remember, this game is already won because of the work in the last steps.

You don’t have to make the venue a million dollars, only show the value of what you can bring. All you need to do is give them more value than what they currently have.

This can include options beyond money, such as exposure for the business, new audiences for the business to test their products on, or new methods of marketing their brand.

You are a hired consultant with the ability to test the companies new ideas on new customers. That is PURE gold and they WILL pay top dollar for it.

Set Up The Meeting And Close The Deal

Call the owner up and ask to meet with him for about 30 minutes to show your presentation.

You have de-risked all objections and are ready to close the deal. In this presentation, show your projected gross value that you hope to bring in along with the performance itinerary and your proposal.

Create a game plan of what-ifs for every scenario that may cause this itinerary to go off track. This is called a risk averse group. Everyone from Bill Gates to Shell Oil does this.

Be Ready for the Counter Offer

If they want a lower rate, say “That’s completely fine. We can do X rate in the beginning and if my results and predictions prove successful, we can do half now and half later or agree at a higher rate next time.”

You are proving that you are an investment worth the price every single time and you are in this for the long term, not short term. You are not being confrontational, but negotiable.

Owners will not turn down a proven investment to improve their business. This will make you light years ahead of your competition.

While other musicians are busy spamming their new single to their grandmother on Facebook, you are building real relationships that provide value instantly and in the future. 

You are laying down the foundation in a slow, methodical way.

But first, I want to hear from you. What’s the one thing YOU want when playing live shows? 


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Reader Comments (1)

Preferably an audience to answer your question

May 4 | Unregistered Commenteranonymous

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