Getting the Gig (Try This!)

Do you ever get asked for a price quote – from GigSalad perhaps, or your local summer concert series – when you know they’re also getting quotes from other performers?

I’ve been using a new approach to this lately – maybe you could try it too.

booking gigs for artists and musicians

In situations where someone is “shopping” for a performer, and they don’t know you personally, price is usually one of their main considerations.

So, whether you’d normally ask for what you really need in these situations or “dumb down” your price quote to try to be competitive with everyone else, you need to be able to differentiate yourself in some other way.

Why choose you?

(Especially if you’re more expensive.)

Try This!

Instead of – or in addition to – explaining how great you are, tell them what’s NOT going to happen when you’re there.

Example: The Wedding Gig

“Dear Sally Smith,

Thanks so much for reaching out to us –  we’d love to help make your wedding the perfect day for you, your groom, AND your family and friends.

When we come in (on time!) and set up our world-class sound system, your relatives and guests will never complain about the volume.”  (continue from there with the rest of your pitch)

Do you see what just happened there?

Let’s break it down:

a) in the first sentence, we said we’re there to make it great for them – it’s always about them

b) in the second sentence, we established that we are concerned about being punctual and, perhaps more importantly, we planted the seed that artists have a less than stellar reputation for showing up on time

c) also in the second sentence, we planted another seed that they probably weren’t even thinking about – older relatives can be really uncomfortable with loud music – and then we solved the problem for them

So, what’s not going to happen in this case is 1) the band shows up late and “ruins everything” or 2) the band plays too loud and “ruins everything.”

What does all of this say about you?

Well, it seems pretty obvious that you are:

  • tuned in to their needs
  • really experienced at doing weddings
  • able to avoid unwanted issues

Now, will you get the gig?

I’m not sure.

But will this put you toward the top of their list?

I think it might.

Getting the Gig: Bottom Line

This stuff is not always necessary; in fact, usually I’m asked for a price quote based on something specific and unique that I do, and for which I really don’t have much competition.

In those cases, there’s no need to go into what won’t happen when I’m there.

But whether you work as a storyteller in libraries, or a rock band in clubs, or a songwriter in schools, there are those times when you know you’re being “shopped” on price.

In those cases, take the benefits of hiring you and turn them into a few snappy statements about what they can avoid by hiring you, and be sure to include those in your pitch.

I’m doing the same!

The “Comments” section is below.

About The Blog

The Largest Online Gathering of K-5 Classrooms for Connected Educator MonthSince leaving a white-collar marketing job in 1992, Dave Ruch has been educating and entertaining full-time in schools, historical societies and museums, folk music and concert venues, libraries, and online via distance learning programs.

Along the way, he’s learned a great deal about supporting a family of four as a musician.

The Educate and Entertain blog provides articles, tips, encouragements, and how-to’s for regional performers (in any region) interested in making a great full-time living in the arts.


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18 Responses to Getting the Gig (Try This!)

  1. I had to chuckle a bit Dave, as I had literally just sent off a bid to a corporate client, and always mention the fact that we’re able to provide happening music, without ever drowning out the conversations of their guests! I began doing so, many years ago, as I experienced both playing with some groups who had a tin ear to that aspect of performance, as well as the many comments my group would get, dealing with how they had hated the band from the year before, because they were way too loud!

    I’ve never understood how so many bandleaders could see their client’s guests having to shout in each others ears, cringing in their seats, or literally moving further & further away from the bandstand, yet not get the message the music’s too loud. I play with some great musicians, and any really good player is able to play with intensity & emotion, at any volume, no need to ever go beyond the decibel level each particular venue or event calls for, it’s called “playing the room”….

  2. Hi Dave. I’ve been to business conferences recently where they absolutely warned us off scaremongering as it potentially gives the client a negative feeling coming away from you (even if the whole point was to reassure them that’s not what you’ll do). Any thoughts on that?
    Best wishes from across the pond.

    • Hi Chloe – thanks for bringing that up, and I think it’s all a matter of degree. There’s a big difference between saying “be careful with cheap or inexperienced groups because they could ruin your event” (NOT recommended) and “we always show up on time and never play too loud” (nothing scary about that in my mind).

  3. Hi Dave – thanks, your advice is very helpful. My question is, how does one backtrack on a price? I’ve stupidly under quoted by $200 – didn’t consider set up time and travel for a wedding. Your advice on how to approach this would be very welcome.

    • Mmmmm….that’s a tough one Felicia. I’ve probably done it a few times over the years, but never very artfully I’m afraid. I’ve definitely “sucked it up” a few times too and decided to honor my too-low price quote.

      • Thanks Dave for your reply. 🙂 Yep, I reckon sucking it up will be the answer. Funny, I’ve done several times and one would think that I would’ve learned by now… oh well, onwards and upwards. 🙂

  4. Hi Dave,
    Guess what, your sample email is exactly what I do with my initial response, try to plant the seeds of doubt as to the competition. Then I follow up with phone calls & maybe more emails (” I just left you a message, when would be a good time to call?”).

    However, what do you do when your area has an over-abundance of (in my case) wedding musicians, some of whom are college students willing to work for non-union wages?

    Add to this, most of my inquirers have a ridiculously low idea of what professional wages are….so, they gravitate towards the college students who will work for any wages.

    I just can’t leave my house for under $200, and I just can’t pay my co-workers under $150. That is expected rate for my colleagues! I’ve spoken with many clients who retort to me, “Well there are several other groups that will do it for $100 a person”. They absolutely do not care about my 15+ years of experience and my Full-Time musician status!

    Do I just lower my price, and work for less? Last time I did that, I ended up regretting it when multiple other work for same date came my way!

    It’s tough to be in the event music business. I wish the college kids would just go away, or start charging real wages! But the truth is, the work seems to flow to the lowest bidder…….

    • mcm – that’s a tough dilemma for sure, and only you can decide whether working for less makes sense for you. While I don’t think your potential clients should necessarily care whether the musicians are full-time or part-time, what they do care about is a great experience, so (as I’m sure you do) I would go out of my way to highlight the benefits of hiring you – the things that make you the better choice – and pack your promo materials and website with powerful testimonials for real clients who have hired you. If you ever talk to someone who regrets having hired an inexperienced group, I’d go out of my way to get a quote from them about the pitfalls of doing that. Word of mouth would have to play a part in this as well, as would savvy marketing – your college students won’t have the time or wherewithal to market themselves as well as you can.

      And my final thought is that if they fish aren’t biting, go to another lake. There are so many ways to make a good living with music, so if weddings feels like a dead end, put more of your eggs in another basket. That’s what I did some 20 years ago, and I’m still refining my mix every year.

    • The thing that has changed everything for me has been getting busier, and less desperate for each individual gig. With a busy calendar, I have more confidence that if this client doesn’t want to pay my rate, there will be another client coming along who will be happy to.

      Case in point — I had a potential client asking me several months ago about a Memorial Day Weekend high-school graduation party gig. Negotiations kept dragging on, and every time they came back, they we asking me to provide fewer services at a lower rate. Negotiations dragged on so long that before we reached an agreement, another client came along with a conflicting rehearsal dinner event in a nearby town. I contacted the first client and informed them that I was no longer available at the original scheduled time of my performance, but could show up at a later hour if they wanted that, or could help set them up with a different performer who could still show up at the original time. They got back to me right away asking to confirm the deal with me at the last price/level-of-service we had discussed, and I told them I was no longer available at the time and price they wanted. They didn’t want an alternative performer, and that client moved on.

      After booking the rehearsal dinner gig, another gig (a church camp retreat) came along later in the same day. I could not have done this gig if I had booked the high school graduation later in the day, but could just squeak it in with the earlier-in-the-day rehearsal dinner. Now instead of doing one event with a client who clearly wanted to squeeze the price down as low as possible, I’m doing two events, each of which pays respectably, and I will go home very happy.

      I felt badly about abruptly ending negotiations with a client after we had been discussing their event for a while, and I would never have done that if I had signed a contract with them, or even entered into a verbal agreement to provide specified services at a specified price. Their delay in signing with me allowed another client to come along and make my time more valuable. (Usually my time becomes less and less valuable as a date approaches, because the odds of another client coming along in the ever-diminishing time before the date is over keeps decreasing until the date passes and is “spoiled,” as they say in the hotel industry about non-rented rooms.) The irony in this story is that the first client (the graduation party client who I dropped) is a real estate developer and sales agent, and most certainly has advised property-selling clients to dump potential buyers on multiple occasions over the decades because another buyer came along offering more money.

      My take-away that I want to emphasize is that it doesn’t matter how good you are at what you do if you don’t have clients. Without clients, you can perform for free in your living room to the sofa and chairs. Time and money put into marketing outreach will pay itself back to you over and over again. With clients, you can stand firm on your price, and have confidence that if this client walks away, another client will show up to take their place. Once you have clients, then it DOES matter how good you are. You have to build your reputation by delivering on your marketing hype. But just being good isn’t enough to make a viable business.

      • Hey Andy – thanks for this, Getting busier and “less desperate for each individual gig” is a great formula for getting paid what you really deserve.

        • Before quoting any type of price on a wedding get details first. I’ve made this mistake on numerous occasions. Be sure before you quote someone a price you know exactly what that includes – what time you’ll start and stop playing, what time you need to be set up by, any special music required, etc. I say this because once you’ve quoted a price, the client probably won’t be very happy with you if you have to tack another 25%-33% on top of your original quote.

          • Brad Allen, you are absolutely correct, Do not ever give a flat rate without first specifying the location/date/time frame and “scope of work” to be provided. In my work for weddings, I have a Basic Rate for Ceremony (let’s say it is 800) and if they say they want that rate, I email them a Contract, which is very specific to what is included in that Rate, and also (here is the important part) right in the Contract there is a list of “Additional Services” such as custom sheet music arrangements, accompanying a vocalist, providing PA services, etc. I also include in my Contract a stipulation ” Additional Work not specified herein may incur Additional Charges, and will require Addendum to Contract.”
            If you think like a Home Renovator, pretty soon it becomes clear–you have to charge by the board, nail, and electrical outlet, otherwise you will end up working too much for too little pay.
            Do not let customers “overwork” you. Unless of course you want their friends to hire you to “overwork” and their friends, until you feel frustrated at being so “overworked.”
            DEFINE what your work is, in writing, and stick to it.

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