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How To Negotiate Your Band Prices

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"How much does your band cost?" she asks on the telephone. So what do you say now?

You may be strong enough and established enough in your field and have enough work to be confident in telling her firmly the two rates you charge: the one for public events and the one for private functions.

Two principles in negotiating your band's rates are (a) not to quote a price until you receive answers to the questions below and (b) not to present your demands up front until you know their position.

For most of us, the answer we give will depend upon their answers to the following questions:

  • Is it a private or a public gig?

  • Will there be repeat business?

  • Which night of the week? Tuesdays are blank, Fridays are busy.

  • Will they cover the band's travel expenses?

  • How much do they normally pay? (You could ask her this while you dream up your answer.)


The following issues are obvious considerations, but it's best to keep your position close to the vest.

  • How much do you need the work?

  • Will you get extra publicity from the gig? Hollywood Bowl is good, lead band in the The Rat Catchers Annual Benevolent Society Ball is not much cop.

  • Might you get better paying work for this day later?

  • Is it an exotic location? An Australian tour is good, a gig in Toledo...

  • How big a band can you put in? Can you get away with another duo?

  • Are you willing to negotiate? They will be for sure.


Three steps to negotiating your price

Keep at the back of your mind the top price you would like and make sure you bring this easily into the conversation—also have a bottom price but don't go anywhere near this without a big struggle. You can bring it in slyly by saying something like, "The last time we did a gig like this I think we got $800 for it," and see what they say. You can always come off this figure later by saying that you normally charge a lot less.

  1. Stay with the truth and say "It depends on a number of things, can I just ask you some questions about your gig?" And just ask them the first five questions above. How much they normally pay tells you a lot about the price you are likely to charge. If they say it is a private function and they don't have any experience of hiring bands, you can be sure they have already done enough research to find out they they'll be paying between $800 at the bottom end and more than $2,000 at the upper end. Not the top end - that's a $5,000 figure.

  2. Tell them your top price allow a bit of room to come down. Ask them what they think. If they demur, ask them what they were hoping to pay. Ask them if the money they have suggested is negotiable; would they pay your expenses; will the band be fed, could you cut the band size to fit their budget and so on. All the while, you are listening and buying time to consider whether you want to do it or not. Ask for time to make a couple of notes, just ten seconds will do, choose the figure you want and go to stage three.

  3. Tell them what you want for the gig and ask them how that sounds. Just go firm, if you have to come down on the price, you might be able to grind out a bit more by asking them to pay for the petrol expenses in your cars. You can add in a meal as well putting on another $100 for a quintet.


If you don't like any of this negotiating stuff, then that's all right - just take what they offer. You'll be thought of as a nice person and you'll get gigs. No money, but lots of gigs. You'll have trouble holding the band together as well as your marriage.

Reprinted with permission from www.jazzenthusiasts.com.


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