A musician-for-hire is someone who provides a service to an event coordinator, talent buyer, or group of people that caters to the event’s specific needs and generates a notable yearly income.
You know, the guy that’s singing “Don’t Stop Believing” in the background of a picture-perfect wedding reception, or the guy kicking off “Hava Nagila” at the most anticipated Bar Mitzvah of the year. Even the cover band at the coolest bar in town is an example of musicians-for-hire work. There’s plenty of work like this out there for us to make a living from - but how do you set yourself apart from the rest of the bands trying to compete for these kind of gigs?
Well, although there’s no short answer, there are several steps you can take to set yourself ahead of the competition and create a “wow-factor” for yourself. Indulge:
Get your sh*t together
Sorry to put it that way, but getting things in order before you put yourself out there as a musician-for-hire is a must. Just like any other job opportunity, you want to be able to prove you’re fit for the job and qualified.
‘Cause I’m the Taxman, yeah, I’m the taxman
And you’re working for no one but me.
If you’re working as a band or an individual artist, you’ll want to solidify some kind of business entity to operate under for when tax season rolls around. In fact, unlike most professions with a single income channel, you could be playing at several venues that will be claiming you on their taxes for the year - so you’ll need a good way to keep track of it all.
Most will issue you a W9 form to fill out prior to you playing, and will send you a 1099 form at the end of the year with your earnings summary that they’ll be claiming. Form a business entity such as an LLC, or even a Partnership so that you can obtain an Employee Identification Number (EIN). This will serve in place of the individual’s Social Security Number, so the income of the group won’t fall on one individual’s shoulders. Remember to save all receipts (gas, food for the band, equipment, etc.) when you embark on a gig to write it off as a business expense from your taxes!!
You can form business entities easily online these days, but you should consult with a lawyer or someone with experience setting up businesses beforehand.
Put it on paper
Providing your talent buyer and/or event coordinator with a performance contract will give them the necessary information to plan accordingly for your performance. Your event coordinator may not be one that deals with performing artists on a regular basis, so a performance contract ensures professionalism on your part and can serve as a guide for the performance. Be sure to include the following:
- Agreed upon amount of time you’ll be playing - you can even charge for overtime if they ask you to play an extra hour!
- Your rate - Hourly, or for the night. Will you require a deposit?
- Details of the services provided - Are you just playing music, or are you bringing a PA system, lights, iPod between sets, etc?
- Technical Specifications - Nothing worse than showing up and only having 1 outlet to work with…
- Travel/Lodging info - If the gig is far from your city, what are the travel plans?
- Additional requests - Sunday Best Dress or Flashiest Flannel?
Any additional requests can be added in on a case-by-case basis. At the end of the gig (or before, depending on when you’ve coordinated), provide your buyer with an invoice summary of the services provided. This can act as their receipt for their expenses and will help you keep track of your yearly income.
If you are in need of a basic template for a performance contract, click here.
Your time to shine
When you’ve got the whole ‘kit and caboodle (pun intended) together and you’re ready to start soliciting for gigs, set yourself up on a platform that’s as kickass as your new group. Create a Presskit for the group, showcasing your press photos and past performance videos. Use the “Wins” section to serve as Testimonials from previous buyers/venues that have been happy with the service you’ve provided. Take advantage of the “Files” section to host performance contracts, invoices, and pricing sheets, and make them private so you can keep this sensitive information between you & your client confidential. This will provide any venue, talent buyer, or event coordinator with the information needed to book your act, so be sure to showcase your best material!
You’re finally ready to go out and play some gigs, so use your kickass Presskit to get you the work!
Mike Harmon is the Community Manager at Presskit.to. Aside from his work as Editor of the Presskit.to Blog, he holds an active role in customer support, content management and marketing initiatives. Mike actively performs as the drummer for several groups, including the Boston-based band Green Line Inbound, and is an all-around music lover.
Presskit.to is a simple yet powerful portfolio web app designed to enhance communication within the professional music & entertainment industries. Capable of delivering curated & protected content to any internet connected device with a single URL, Presskit.to makes it easy for you to pitch a concise message to anyone capable of advancing your career.