As a performer it’s really important to collect your full value. As we all know, money isn’t easy in this business, so we’d best get it when we can.
Many musicians have even lower earnings simply because we aren’t so good at getting the full amount that people were actually willing to pay.
Let me tell you one of the things that always makes me kick myself as a performer. You’ll have been in this scenario at some point I’m sure.
The booker asks “what’s your fee?”
So I announce my fee (sometimes awkwardly).
They then say (in a surprised / delighted voice): “Oh! Okay then, great!”
Oh no, they said “Ok great!”
Do you know what that “okay then, great” means?
It means they had budgeted for more than you asked for, but you’ve surprised them by going lower. So now you won’t get the full amount that they’d put aside for you. Aaaagh.
A notorious issue that musicians typically face is the booker who hasn’t budgeted for the music at all. Yet here we are, faced at last with a booker who has a music budget, and we’re leaving a chunk of it on the table.
You see, counter-intuitive as it is – sometimes, a quick yes is a bad thing. A quick yes can simply mean that you were too cheap.
Worse still, you’ll never know what they would have been happy to pay, so you gain no sense of your market value on the circuit.
How can you make an income as a musician if you don’t know what you’re worth?
Pricing low is a poor teacher. You only learn one thing. That their budget was at least the price you agreed on.
If their budget was $1,000 and you asked for $100 – all you know is that their budget was $100 or more. That’s not a lot of learning.
When it comes to pricing yourself, the best way to get your full worth is to price high and then negotiate.
I don’t like a quick yes when pricing myself for a show.
I much prefer a booker to give me a pained wince. That face where they want something but its a bit too expensive for them.
Then I know I’m over their budget, and that’s a great starting point for having a conversation with them about price.
Flipping The Conversation
You may be getting anxious at this point and think you’re at risk of losing the gig altogether by doing that. And sure, if you had walked away as you gave your high price, then you’ve likely lost the sale.
But if you stay with them after telling them the fee, you are then in a discussion on price.
Given that we’ve established that your fee is beyond their budget, you enter a space where you are both trying to make this thing happen somehow. So it’s valid to now ask them directly “what is your budget?”
And they will almost always simply tell you.
It’s a question that few are happy to answer at the start of the conversation. But in this place of co-creating a solution, they will happily tell you.
Can you see the difference between pricing low and pricing high?
When you price low, you learn very little.
When you price high, you learn exactly how big their budget is.
You can now come to the rescue and be the hero of the hour! How? By offering to do them a massive favour.
Tell them that you love the idea of playing for them so much that you just want to make it happen! So (if the money on offer is okay with you), you agree to play for what is in their budget and everyone is happy.
As a result, 3 great things happen for you:
1. You’ve learned what they were happy to pay for you, so you understand your market value better which is great market intelligence.
2. You’ll be earning the most that was possible from this gig and if you do that consistently then your earnings will go up significantly.
3. Your booker thinks you are a great person because, in their eyes, you’ve just offered her or him a discount so they feel like they’ve got a really great deal.
So here’s your 6 steps on how to earn the most you can as a musician:
1. Resist the temptation to go small on price.
2. Give a price you think will be just beyond their budget.
3. IMPORTANT: Stay with them when you give that price – keep a conversation going.
4. Make it clear you want to make it happen, so ask what their budget is.
5. If that figure is good for you, agree – but frame it as a “huge discount”.
6. Build that figure into your market intelligence for next time!
Please leave your thoughts and comments in the box below. I love hearing from you, and your take on things. Plus, I reply personally to EVERY comment.