Negotiating on Price: For Musicians and Artists

It’s nerve-racking, right?

You work so hard to get bookings, and it can be a real uphill battle sometimes.

And then, finally, someone calls or emails . . . and they want you.

Awesome! Then comes the question.

What do you charge?”

Or maybe they say “we pay XYZ amount.”

Either way, it’s time for you to state your asking price.

You sweat, you ponder, and eventually you come up with a fee.

And what do they say?

“Oh, I’m sorry, that’s a little more than we have.”

What Do You Do Then?

We’ve ALL been there, dozens or hundreds of times. It sucks.

You’d like to do the gig, and perhaps you could really use the money, so what do you do?

Of course, how you answer that question is going to differ from gig to gig depending on things like:

  • how much (or little) you want to do it
  • how the gig or relationship with the booker might benefit you in other ways
  • how soon your next car payment is due
  • etc…

Two Recent Price Quotes

Here’s how I handled things recently in two situations where my asking price was higher than what they had to offer.

In both cases, I stuck to my price.

Guess what happened…

price negotiations for musiciansThey both hired me!

Of course, this doesn’t always work out, but I wanted to give you some first-hand inspiration – and perhaps a bit of courage – to try this approach next time the situation is right.

Because sometimes . . .

You Can Stick To Your Price

and still get booked!

In both cases, the venues were hosting a series of performances (one for adults on a historical topic, the other for children at a library) and they had a maximum dollar amount per week to spend on artists.

Each one asked me to be part of their series, but unfortunately, my asking price was (in both cases) 30% higher than their budget.

I had a few important things going for me:

  • I had a great reputation at both places
  • I didn’t really need the gigs due to a busy calendar
  • I knew I was worth what I was asking, and could deliver on that

I simply told them that I completely understood their situation, and if it didn’t work out this time, I would keep my fingers crossed for the next time.

I also offered one of the venues (a library two hours from home) a performance for their original budget if they were able to find me a second library gig that same day at an identical rate.

(They couldn’t, but they appreciated that.)

Then, I went back to other things I was doing. If it wasn’t going to work, I was OK with that.

Low and behold, both venues came up with the additional money over the next few weeks and booked me.

Delivering on Your Price

Now, this is only going to work in some situations, but let’s say you decided to stick to your guns and you got hired.

Then what?

Well, you want to make damn sure that you are worth every penny they pay you and then some.

Overdeliver with an outstanding performance or workshop that people will talk about the next time they come in to the venue.

happy audienceDo something extra, like:

  • promote the event to make sure your crowd is the biggest one they have
  • hang around an extra fifteen minutes at the end to talk with everyone
  • get a journalist to show up
  • take an interest in the booker and the venue and follow up with relevant articles or items of interest

Then, guess what? Everyone leaves really happy, and you’re worth the same amount (or more) next time.

What Has Your Experience Been?

Have you been in this situation and stuck to your guns? What happened when you did?

Or are you afraid you’ll lose the gig or turn the venue off?

There’s a “Comments” section just below. I’d love to hear from you.

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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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