Have you ever wondered how much you should be charging for gigs in order to actually make a sustainable living wage?
I’ve got a great new tool for you to try out…
This Might Just Blow You Away!
I know it did for me.
Teaching Artists Guild has just created a really powerful calculator to help us get right on what we should be charging.
Don’t be put off by the name.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re someone who works as a teaching artist or not – if you’re a performing artist of any kind, prepare to get knocked over.
This tool is essentially a living wage calculator, and it’s going to tell you (I’m guessing) that you’re not charging enough.
Here’s How to Use It
Simply substitute “playing weddings” or “performing in clubs” (or whatever) if the “Teaching Artistry” label doesn’t fit.
And if it’s an individual hiring you for a private or public event of some kind, I guess that makes them a “Small” organization.
IF IT DOESN’T WORK FOR YOU – The calculator works with 620 pre-defined metro regions, so make sure to select the nearest metro area to your location.
This calculator will NOT tell you what others are getting, or what price point would increase your chances of getting the gig.
It tells you what you NEED to be making in order to live sustainably.
Ready to Try It?
After you’ve used the calculator (link below), I’d love it if you’d return here and post your results in the “Comments” section below.
Are you already charging enough for your work? (I am!)
Do you need to find a new path? (I have some ideas.)
Let’s talk about it below.
Here’s the calculator – Performing Artist Pay Rate Calculator
About The Blog
Since 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.
The links above to the performing calculators are broken and take you to some spammy foreign gaming site, FYI.
Thanks for this resource. I played around with it a little and that for my metro area, I should be billing at about $50. I also was able to figure out that they seem to be figuring on 25 billable hours a week. This info, and your comments below about who you market to, will be helpful moving forward.
Good news: I’m actually charging much more per hour than what the calculator suggests. I factor in travel time, loading and unloading (I bring hand drums and percussion instruments for the audience or class.), etc. Bad news: My yearly income is nowhere near their suggested amount. I could use more events…and a roadie…and a drum cart. 😉
I’ll be your roadie…. it probably pays more than being a musician in Nashville lol
I felt it was fairly accurate although it gave me slightly higher than what I felt I was worth. Sadly I live in Nashville where the reality is half that lol
It looks high at first glance. But it would appear to be reasonable if you have to consider ALL cost of being self employed including unpaid time necessary to run your business.. Then it could start to seem low. For example, if you include:
> transportation to gigs/work (assuming you have to go to locations)
> equipment, materials, musical instruments or whatever tools your trade utilizes
> travel time (unpaid time)
> planning time (unpaid time)
> mileage cost (e.g. 54-cents/mile or whatever IRS allows)
> travel meals
> personal income tax
> self employment tax
> medical, dental, optical insurance
> professional liability insurance
> computer, web, office etc.
> vacation time
> professional conference attendance
Doesn’t work for Canadians, too bad!.
God bless that little calculator. $154-195k/annum for the Albany area? I didn’t make that when I worked corporate. A girl can dream, though. 😌
I didn’t get far. It rejected every city I tried, including NYC. I ended up with an unresponsive screen after each attempt and had to start over from your link.
Apparently I cannot earn money. Or work with web pages.
Very interesting. But, now, that brings up an ever larger quandary – one I’ve been dealing with for quite a while… How do we handle the mismatch? The rate I need in my area, according to the calculator is approx. $84 an hour. However, many of the libraries, schools, and venues I query find $200 for an hour program too much to pay. When adding in the fuel and lodging to many areas in my state I could only clear a profit of approx. $50 at the price point of $200. That is certainly below the calculated hourly fee needed. Plus, the actual time for that one hour show is really 4-6 hrs. of round trip travel, 1 hour setup/cleanup, and at least 2-3 hours of booking/clerical to get one gig to commit. If I average some of that, I should be making $600 for one show on a particular day. Occasionally, I do. Often, I am turned down due to asking too high of a price. Dave, can you speak to how we should handle these mismatches in hourly rate needed vs actual pay that say, libraries, can commit to?
Very good question and I’d like to see the responses. I think a lot has to do with people seeing/understanding the value of what you (we) bring as artists. Does someone just want a warm body to fill a time slot during a festival? If that’s the case then yea, 200 or 600 ain’t gonna fly usually. However, and I am really typing this for my benefit because I am beginning to see this myself, if there is value added to the event then I think (hope) people are willing to pay for it.
I am digging into the kindie/kids and family music scene and I am finding a lot of people don’t see the value b/c it’s “kids music”. Well…it’s more than that….it’s an experience. I can play a song about a hot dog and kids will like it but I wouldn’t want to pay someone 400 bucks to play hotdog songs for an hour. I have to bring more than that. And I am not in anyway shape/form saying people on this forum aren’t doing that.
I think, for me, I just really have to look at what I can offer and if I want to make 400 a gig then I better give them something that separates me from someone who’s cheaper. I think Dave has a blog about that somewhere on here! 🙂
So yea, the calculator is off and isn’t a hard/fast tool to use to gauge how much we should make….but it’s a start. It would be nice if it did include all the extra stuff like travel, setup time, etc.
Nathan – 100% agree when you say it’s more than “kids music” – it IS an experience they are buying. An experience for their audience. Find places to play where they spend good money for experiences, and become one of those that they love to book.
BTW, I would use the calculator for travel, set up time, etc too. If it’s an 8 hour day door to door (to do a 45 minute show that’s 2.5 hours from home), I would bill that as 8 hours of work.
Hi Aspen – thanks for the great questions. I think how each of us handles this is going to depend entirely on our situations and needs and inclinations, so I wouldn’t say there is one way we SHOULD handle these situations.
I can tell you how I handle them though – I decided long ago that there will be a segment of the market that I just can’t play for because it doesn’t make economic sense for me. I don’t stress at all over a library, school, arts center or other venue having a small budget and not being able to hire me – I simply stop marketing myself to them once we’ve had the conversation, UNLESS they express an interest in writing a grant for a future project (at my regular rates). In those cases, we stay in touch, and I’ve booked many many gigs like that over years with places that had very small budgets and couldn’t afford to hire me through their normal channels. They are grateful for the help (or at least the encouragement) in securing the grant, they get the opportunity to host the performance that they wanted but couldn’t otherwise afford, I make my going rate, and it’s a win-win for everyone.
Well, the Calculator is a much-needed tool. In the future I’d like to see Calculators for Arrangers, Orchestrators… you get the idea.
The only problem is that this one doesn’t work! At least for me. After 4 tries, carefully entering data into the fields exactly as it prompted, each time it accused me of leaving out information and helpfully suggesting that I grow a brain and go back and try it again.
Jerry – one glitch with the calculator seems to be that your location needs to be one of their pre-defined 620 cities/metro areas in order to work, but the error message doesn’t tell you that. When you start to type in your location, it should auto populate as a choice which you then click on. If it doesn’t, then start typing the name of the closest larger metro area to yours and it should appear.
In Los Angeles you’re not adding in the cost of Equipment, miles to and from or Gas etc…. Or the client(s) or gigs ability or perspective(s) of paying for such gigs which are in the neighborhood of oh…. $50 … Or. $150 for a whole band! So there needs to be a REALITY calculator that starts at the point and then musicians can calculate whether they want to be professional pan handlers…. Working for TIPS or professional musicians and get paid little to nothing or get a paying day job!
Thanks for sharing! Nice to know I wasn’t far off.
When you book how do you add up hourly charges? Do you charge hourly for just performing or also travel time too?
I always build in for travel expense AND travel time.
$114.62 per hour, according to the calculator. Still much less than what my lawyer charges and I have much more time invested in learning my craft that he has in learning his.
It’s funny, though, when you see everyone advertising guitar lessons for $25/hr in the area. Some charge even less
Exactly Rich. Tough to make a sustainable living at $25/hr.
Everyone thinks they can teach.
I get students every day that have
very bad habits.
Thanks for posting that. It was really interesting. Here in Iowa, it turns out I am right on in my rates.
This calculator omits too much to be useful. Each performer must calculate the time required per booking. Marketing, travel, preparation. My rule of thumb adds shows about six hours per booking. Also, I factor in the ineffable. My experience. I’ve been a career fulltime storyteller since 1989.
I’ve fees posted on my website reflecting the minimum I need to take an engagement. It varies for schools, libraries, charitable and corporate groups and time of year, I often break down and charge less. My fees I see are less than most sharing my level of experience and expertise. Given all the years performing, with a full calendar, I still find it exceedingly difficult to turn people down due to a high fee. I do tell prospective clients my “high fee” guarantees quality and makes it possible for me to offer enchanting performance programs.
Hey Jonathan – you won’t get any arguments from me in terms of there being a host of other factors that we need to consider when quoting a rate for our work. I thought this would be a good starting point for people, but it should be used as just that. And it’s very interesting that your rate is a mere 1/3 of the rate it came up with for me, even though I know you have loads of experience and are considered a master of your craft. That probably has everything to do with how many dependents we each have at home (I have 4), and NOTHING to do with what our work is worth to the buyer. I think the calculator is best used as a quick gut check to determine “if I keep charging my current rates, could I ever do this full time and sustainably given my present situation”
The calculator did not return any results, (Google browser/android phonr)Not to worry, I already charge way more than that so I’m good. Thanks Dave! 🙂
You’re the second person I’ve heard from Tina who said they couldn’t get it to work – perhaps there’s a glitch with certain browsers/devices. I know the tool is still in “beta” mode, so that’s possible. I’ll let them know.
If someone’s location isn’t one of the prefilled metro areas it will return an error. Have to choose closest metro in your market. I was a dummy and put my zip first lol. Then my city and state and if still wouldn’t work. I had to choose next biggest city….I’m basically in an in-between town.
Thanks Nathan – I’m going to add that to article right now!
Very interesting tool!! Oddly enough it wasn’t that far off what I try to get. I mean…it was more so that’s always good!! My general rule of thumb is that I want to AT LEAST double what I make per hour at my day job. If nothing else, I feel at least it’s worth whatever I run into from that perspective. The tool gave me a little more than that…about 2.5 times so good to know I am not super undercutting myself.
I tried the calculator and it showed that I’m close (maybe 15% low) to what I should be charging. Of course, that only applies to when I get ‘full price’. I sometimes reduce prices for special circumstances. I think I might actually restructure my fee after seeing this. I don’t expect it (a $5 per hr. bump) would have an effect on the number of gigs I play. I charge by the event so, no one sees my hourly rate. If I charged the same hourly rate for set prep, rehearsal and travel time, however, I’d be asking for considerably more. I’ll be interested to see what others find out and report.
Sounds like you’re in the right ballpark Jim…