"We want to hire your band for our office party! How much do you charge?"
Ah, the eternally awkward question! Is xxx$ too much? Too little? Should I ask for per diem? What is a per diem? We, at MNB, often get calls from emerging artists who are just not sure where to start.
We all wished there was an easy formula we could input their info into and it would spew out a nice round number everyone could agree on. In the meantime, here can be a starting point. Decide your hourly rate which includes:
Practice (2 hrs)
Admin / Promo / Socials (3 hrs)
Load in (0.5 hrs)
Set up / Sound check (1.5 hrs)
Performance (2 hrs)
Teardown / load out (1 hr)
Just with this, we have 10 hours. At minimum wage, that's 100$ for one person (the admin). While some might think this is a lot for an hour of performance, it's not. The more experience you have, the higher your hourly rate. And of course, this doesn't account for the more subjective part of what you do, your music. This is the variable that only you will be able to answer.
So that's your base fee, but it doesn't stop there. Do you need to travel outside your immediate region (more than 50-75 km)? If so, you should add between 0,30$-0,45$ x km to cover gas and wear & tear on your car. Will you need to eat at a restaurant? A typical per diem in New Brunswick will be 10$ for breakfast, 15$ for lunch and 20$ for supper. Will you need to rent a hotel room. Add around 60$ x band member x night (a reasonable hotel room will be 120$ per night and can accomodate 2 adults). Getting the client to cover meals, accomodations or other expenses will help the bottom line.
You should also be prepared to offer options. If you're typically a 7-piece band, can you also do a trio format? An acoustic set?
Other questions you should be asking which could raise or lower your fee
- Are you just background music?
- Are they selling tickets at the door?
- What's the venue size?
- Do you need to provide your own backline/sound equipment?
- When is the performance time? If it's an afternoon private gig, you might be able to book a public show later that same night and split the per diem/km between the 2 venues
You'll get ask a lot to play for free (and/or exposure), and especially when you're just starting out, it's difficult to say no.
Not all exposure is created equal, and as we always say, people die from exposure! Playing in the back corner of a dimly-lit restaurant = bad exposure. Playing at an industry event, where festival bookers will hear you play = good exposure. Playing at a 300-guest wedding = medium exposure. If you do a good job, you may get asked to do another wedding. You never know who is in the audience. Make sure you have business cards with you!
As for playing for free, consider picking one cause your band feel strongly about, and only saying yes once or twice a year for that particular cause. That way, if asked to play for the Firemen's Knitting Club, you can say 'Thank you for asking, but as a band, we've decided to support the Knitters' Firestarter Association."