[Dixielandjazz] What do you charge?

Steve barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Fri Oct 8 12:47:59 PDT 2004

Like Kash says, a difficult and challenging question.

Easy answer is whatever the market will bear. Like market price is what a
willing buyer will pay to a willing seller. Couple of thoughts:

1. Do not undercut the existing market, if there is one, in Toronto.

2. Our six piece band has played for as little as $300 and as much as $5200
for a local 3 hour, or less, gig. Our current "steady" minimum in a local
venue is $420 ($70 a man, no leader fee) on a weekday night, for a small
venue, or the cover charge if there is one, which ever is greater.

3. We don't formerly rehearse, except on the job and so if a small place
will book us during the week and we can rehearse new tunes (two or three a
night) then we do it for $420. When starting out, we did that for $300.
Beats rehearsing free in somebody's basement.

4. What can the venue realistically pay? If it is a small joint, pizza
parlor, jazz club, etc that seats 100 or less, they can't pay much because
they don't make much. Unless they have a music cover. If $5 cover, and they
get $500, play for that. Etc.

5. In our area, most restaurants budget $300 for bands. We won't play for
that (6 piece) but I'll offer to put in a trio and play straight ahead jazz
for that. 

6. The trick to making money in the jazz business is to know when to take a
low pay, but neither below union scale, nor market undercutting gig, and
when/how to get those high paying gigs. Remember, the high payers often come
from someone who saw you at a small joint somewhere.

7. Our guys don't like to go out locally for less than $100 on a weekday and
$175 on weekends. But they get a lot of gigs a year with me, some paying
extremely well. So they consider the average.  By the same token, I do not
hold them back if a high paying casual outside gig comes their way and will
encourage them to take it. I'll get a sub for the lower paying gig. Why?
Because the guys in the band make their living, such as it is, from music
and every dollar counts.

Bottom line, money does not motivate musicians to play better music, but it
is the way they keep score. And so most musicians follow the money. The
"starving musician who plays jazz for art's sake", concept is pretty much a
myth except perhaps, among amateur musicians who do not make their living
from playing. 

Conversely, the working jazz pros may say "it's not about the money", but by
and large, they don't mean it. ;-) VBG.

Steve Barbone

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