What Should I Pay To Hire Live Music For My Event

Lately I’ve been getting a lot of inquiries for booking my artists for events like adult birthday parties, company Christmas parties, and other adult parties. Most of these are from people who have never booked a musical performer before. So they have no idea what their budget even should be!

This obviously makes it really difficult to dance around the “going rate” which varies based on the region, the expertise of the performer(s), what the venue or hiring person can afford, the level of specialization asked of the performers, and the negotiation skills of the booking agent.

Some people play for nothing. Some people play for over $8000 per appearance – whether that’s just one song or a whole 3-hour concert. The rest of us have to magically negotiate somewhere in between that, that’s still gonna pay the bills and make everybody happy.

When booking a musician or band for your event, you need to remember that you are not just hiring “music” for the event on that particular date and time, you’re hiring the skilled training and life experiences of living, breathing people who do much of their work to be good OUTSIDE of their “paid” work hours. One song can be the culmination of decades of study, practice, and live performances, as well as hours of rehearsal put into your song request in order to make your event the best it can be! There may be a need for sound check prior to the event to make sure the sound quality is good and the music can be heard through the whole room. All of this is rolled up into the fee that you pay for the performance.

Still, figured I’d take some of the mystery out of the whole process so that all of us have an easier time in that delicate negotiation process.

What Should I Pay To Hire Live Music For My Event?

Appearance Fee:
This fee includes stuff like the booking agent’s fee, transportation, food, and rehearsals. It’s often rolled into an extra charge for the first hour of performance, and is included in the deposit.

Hourly Fee Scale (per band member):

Talented: Your kid, your friend’s kid, your cousin in high school and they’re talented but not experienced or known. Hosting an open mic or playing a coffeeshop that doesn’t have a cover charge falls under this scale as well. Busking can fall under this scale but the low pay is offset by the ability to create your own schedule. Usually paid in gift certificates as a “thanks for making our free community event much cooler” kind of thing.

Unknown Professional: this is the low end of “gigging musician.” These are people who have performed at various coffeeshops and bars for open mics in order to hone their craft and be able to give a great live show. They may have busked on the street or in the subway to get that live performance experience. They just haven’t been picked up yet, and often teach on the side to make rent.

Career Musician: really good, been at it a while, experienced professional whose only career is music. This is the goal for a touring musician after tour expenses, where the concerts have a ticket price.

Stellar Professional: This is the very low end of “corporate gigs” and a good price for private events.

Rising Star: A popular, well-known soloist or music act who has appeared on national TV, has sung with other popular acts, and is experienced.

Superstar: Josh Groban?

Mega-Superstar: Beiber, Drake, Madonna?

As you can see from the scale, what musicians get paid still really varies.

Sometimes people look at these per-hour rates and assume that musicians must make a LOT of money! But if you’re performing 4 nights a month regularly, at 2 hours each, and that’s bringing in $2000 total, that’s barely over rent in Toronto and not even paying your bills. You often don’t get paid for the practice time, for the open mics, for the sound check, for the rehearsals, for the travel time which can take up several hours a day. Then there’s booking fees, venue fees, ticket fees. So it’s a lot lower for a gigging professional than it looks – we’re not getting paid for 9-5. Then there’s other costs – lessons, gear, clothing (costumes), practice space, insurance. It goes on and on.

If you’re looking for music for your event, Paperbag Empress Records can connect you to the right entertainers in Toronto and the GTA area for your particular budget. Please contact us and let us know which budget range your event requires. Then we can negotiate based on a solid understanding and affinity with each other and over mutual goals.

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