Written by Ted Goslin
Getting someone to pay a large sum of money for a performance is not easy. There are a cavalcade of factors the client must consider, from the number of players, to the distance the performers must travel, to having or not having vocals. But how do we charge for those services? What dictates how our rate should be higher or lower from other performers with similar acts?
The answers to those questions are generally centered around one sole concept: you. The more we focus on our individuality as performers, the easier it is for the client to see the differences, and the easier it is for them to recognize fair pricing versus unfairly inflated rates. Here are some elements to use to help you define your rate so you can make both a decent wage and impress the client with your value.
Regional Demographics– Each region in the world comes with it different challenges. As you assess what kinds of clients you’re getting, keep in mind how they respond during negotiation. Initially, tips can’t help you if you’ve never gigged in your area before. The best way to learn is by trial and error. As you learn the who represents the demographics in your area, you’ll know how to speak to them about rate. For example, a female senior citizen calls you for a retirement party gig in an affluent neighborhood, you have a good shot that they have money and are willing to pay top dollar for entertainment. Be willing to bend slightly if there is a budget, but test the waters with a high price first. You never know what will happen.
Number of Players- While there have been plenty of debates in pan circles over whether or not being a solo-only player is ethical to the other musicians out there who need work, the fact is it’s a choice we all have to make. For some, playing solo is just easier. It means not having to worry about additional tax forms and keeping track of everyone you need to pay on each gig, among other thing. But for those who do enjoy having companions on their pan misadventures, the way to convince the client is the same way you convince yourself: they are more fun. Adding additional players highness the energy of the event naturally. If the client is having a backyard party and wants background music only, they might try to say that only one player is needed. The way around that is finding out how many guests will be at the party. Anything less than 50 likely won’t get the client’s support unless you’re a smooth talker. Pressing for two or more above 50 is reasonable and if you’re not pushy, but are confident in the recommendation, client’s will likely hear you out. Emphasize the “fun factor” and offer vocals for no extra charge (if you do them and feel comfortable) if the client needs an extra push.
Musical Style- If you’ve marketed yourself as the standard “island” player or band who uses the standards like Soca, Calypso, Reggae and using those styles for arranging Pop tunes, aligning your style to a client’s needs is easy since you stick to those style. But if you have expanded your musical selection to include various Latin styles, modern Pop, 80s hair metal or original compositions, client may have specific requests for you that you can charge for. If they are on the fence on rate to begin with, you can throw in the idea of learning a song or two, if you have time and feel comfortable. Either way, utilizing the musical versatility of the instrument to your advantage for the client’s benefit can be a powerful tool in enhancing your payout.
Vocal Competency- If singing isn’t your bag, don’t worry, it’s not a deal breaker for most clients. But if you want to add to your skill set and enhance the experience for clients who don’t know what they want, it helps to learn vocal parts to a few songs. They allow you to offer an extra element to the client, which often times impresses them and their guests. It also makes the experience more personal when they can hear your voice. It makes you more of a person than just a hired musician.
Additional Services- Sometimes clients want more than just musicians and want a packaged deal. As you traverse the local landscape in the gig life, make contacts with various vendors you encounter. You never know when they could give you a referral or vice-versa, creating a synergetic relationship that helps you build your client base. These vendors can include caterers, dancers, DJs and other musicians, among others. The next time you run into another vendor, make sure to hand them a card. You never know where it could lead.