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« 5 Things They Don't Tell You About Being A Booking Agent | Main | MusicThinkTank Weekly Recap: Self Publishing on YouTube »
Wednesday
Apr232014

How To Get Gigs That Make You Money!

As many will agree, getting and performing gigs are an important part of most musician’s music careers. Aside from giving fans the opportunity to meet you in person, live shows can be a good source of additional revenue from your music.

That said, not all gigs have the same earning potential as each other. Some gig types have a few revenue sources you can tap into, while others tend to be hard to make money from. So today I’ll give examples of which gigs you should and shouldn’t get booked for if your main aim is to make money from them.

P.S. This guide doesn’t look specifically at how to get gigs, but more at which ones you should be aiming for if you want to make money. I’ve written a guide detailing the steps to get gigs, so if you’re after the actual process, you’ll want to check that out as well.

Some gigs are better for making money than others, so choose wisely - Tweet This

Should You Ever Play Gigs For Free?

Before we go any further, I want to address something. I often here those in the music industry saying you should never play gigs for free. I disagree with this, and I’ll tell you why.

If you’ve never played a gig before, you’ve no proven experience getting up on stage and entertaining a crowd. In this instance, it’s a risk for an event organizer to book you. You may not turn up, you may get on stage and not be very good performing live, or you may get stage fright on the night and run out of the back door when you’re supposed to go up.

You wouldn’t expect someone to hire you for a job if you’ve no experience in the field, and it’s the same with gigging. So if you’ve never gigged before, I’d suggest you get a few gigs under your belt before you start asking people to pay you for this. If they’re willing to cover your expenses, fair enough. If you’ve asked around and no one is, take the loss out of your own pocket and get your experience. Just think of it like a uni fee; you pay to get the education!

Once you’ve a few gigs under your belt, time to start looking into money making gigs. That said, you can still make money from these ‘free gigs’ as we’ll look at below.

Three Ways To Make Money From Gigging

There are three main ways I recommend people aim to get paid from gigging:

  1. Up Front Pay. This is where an event organizer pays you a set fee for you performing at their venue. If you can get a percentage of the door fee on top of this, this is beneficial. Door fees alone aren’t ideal, unless you get a % of everyone who comes in, rather than just those who quote your name on entry.

  2. Merch Sales. You’ll find that a percentage of people who enjoy the whole live music experience like to get something to remember their night out. You should take advantage of this by offering merch of yours, whether it’s a CD, t-shirt, digital download card or other. This is one of the ways you can make money from gigging, even if you don’t get paid up front. Bring in your merch and sell it after you’ve performed!

  3. Royalties. Every time you play in a licensed venue, you earn money in the form of royalties. If you’re signed up with a royalty collection company such as BMI in America or PRS is the UK, they’ll keep track of the money you earn, and pay you your earnings a few times a year. This is another way you can make money from gigs, even if you’re not paid up front to do them.

Which Kind Of Gigs Earn Best?

As I mentioned, not all gigs are made evenly. Some you’ll find it easy to make sales of your CD in, while others you’ll find it an uphill struggle.

It’s more or less impossible to sell CD and merch in raves and night clubs for example. People go there to dance, drink, and talk to the opposite gender. If you’re there performing, you’re only a side act to them. Most people will have disposable income in their pocket, but they’ll rather use it to spend on drinks or their cab home.

If you’re performing in night clubs, it’s often best to get paid upfront for it and use it as a way to collect royalties in addition.

On the other hand, showcase events or shows where you’re the main event are great for merch sales. If people are there to see you, they already know about you and what you can do. Furthermore, they like you enough to actually come out and see you in person. This makes a much easier job when it comes to selling your merch to them.

While some of them may have some of it already, there will be people who will be just a short conversation away from making a purchase. Not everyone will buy, but some will. If they came to see you and you’re at the merch store after the show, there will naturally be people coming up to you to have a chat. When they do, that’s your opportunity to sell to them. Let them know it’ll be something great to remember the night by.

A good idea is to have things at different pricing options. Some won’t have much spare change, so sell them low priced items. Others will have more money to spend and be more willing to spend on the more expensive stuff (you’ll probably want to sign things for anyone who buys to make it more valuable to them). So cater for all types of fans to maximize sales.

Festivals aren’t as good for sales as show case events and concerts, but they’re better than raves and night clubs. While people are there for music, again it’s a social situation, so they’re not always as keen on buying merch. Your best time to sale this merch is near the end when people are heading home (on the last day) as during the event they don’t really want to worry about carrying things around too much.

That said, many have often run out of money by the end, so still try and sell throughout to make the most sales. Selling right after people are seen you on stage is another one of the most profitable times too.

Overall, upfront pay is often best when it comes to festivals, although you can make money from royalties and merch too.

Here’s How To Get Gigs

So there you have it, the kind of gigs you should be playing if you want to get paid for your live performances. If you found this useful, you should get on my newsletter to be informed when I give more related advice in future. You’ll also get a useful free ebook for signing up. :)

If you want even more help on how to get gigs, you should check out my guide on the subject.

So, which of the above tips are you going to implement? Or if you use them all already, which one do you feel works best for you? Share your experiences in the comments.

Shaun Letang.

P.S. If also looked more at earning from gigs in another guide I did on Music Think Tank, you can check that out here.

Reader Comments (4)

Thank you for this article. I think the title is a little misleading though. I think the title should've been titled the "Gig Business, which gig is best for you?" or "Do you know what type of gig you should be playing?". This wasn't necessarily a howto.

April 24 | Unregistered Commenteraondoe

When I first read the title of this post, I thought it was about Fiverr. :)
Well this will work if you're a musician, and as far as I know, it's really hard to find gigs nowadays to make money.

May 14 | Unregistered CommenterJustin

In my experience, the bands that get the best gets are the ones that can pull an audience.

September 24 | Unregistered CommenterDean Hailstone

Well, I guess this works too. but I just heard of this platform (tunegigs.com) that's coming for freelance musicians that seems an interesting development for this day and age.

Bidding on music gigs worldwide... sounds like a good deal to me!
If you ask me, this will be the way to make money for musicians in the future.

October 17 | Registered CommenterMartin

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