[Dixielandjazz] Economics of OKOM
Larry Walton Entertainment - St. Louis
larrys.bands at charter.net
Fri Mar 13 18:32:51 PDT 2009
I guess that there are a lot of factors that decide what you may charge for
a gig. One is how much you value your time and how much you want to
This seems to be what separates the hobby players from the pros. Personally
I value time off occasionally and I'm not hungry to appear anywhere but by
the same token I know that every gig can lead to more. Typically I do not
turn down paying gigs. Although I did this weekend because it was out of
town and didn't pay enough.
I think you have to ask yourself how much are you worth? While this is
really subjective you can tell if you have a steady influx of gigs. Mine
tend to bunch up around the Mini holidays. I did two gigs yesterday and
have one for Monday and two on Tuesday for St. Pat's. I could have squeezed
in that other gig over the weekend but why? I typically make $500-$650+ for
each of the mini holidays depending on the number of gigs.
You will see on almost every musician's card, "music for all occasions".
That's usually so much B.S. but with 15 different shows I really do it and
so far as I know I'm the only one who does in this city. That's why I
command the prices I get. This week I was O'Larry and the Shamrock band
with appropriate green trappings, music stands and all Irish music. In
October for Oktoberfest I will be Ach Du Lieber Larry and I will be a polka
band. I have a new one celebrating the Gaslight Square jazz era of St.
Louis. The band is called Gaslight and another new one is a C&W show called
Ragtime Cowboy Larry complete with cowboy hat and cap gun. Come on guys
quit laughing, it's Show Biz.
I play a lot of one hour gigs and for that I make $125-$175 with most in the
$150 range. I pay side men $50-60 for the hour. This is by the way over
the top for most people in this niche. That is playing for Senior groups
and homes. Remember this is against a whole lot of people that think $30 or
$40 is great for an hour or who flat out perform for free or a small token
donation to their group.
There are about 120 senior venues in St. Louis and I work about 15 of them
on a pretty regular basis. Some have no budget at all but some are pretty
How much am I worth? Valentine's day I talked to the customer and since it
was so close to Mardi Gras she only wanted me as a single for $125. I
performed and got my check. I got home and discovered that it was for $200.
I sent a check to them for $75. They returned the check with a nice note
saying they appreciated my talent and that their guests liked my show. Does
that make me worth $200? Well maybe, but if I charged that I would work a
whole lot less and I like what I do so I don't want to play fewer times.
Fewer gigs equals fewer people that hear you and want you back or for new
gigs. It's kind of a tight rope we walk.
Now to turn the page. I have a seven piece (with a girl singer) Dixie band
that I can't give away. I just can't find a market for it even cheap. The
sad thing is the band is pretty good and may eventually blow apart due to
inactivity. I have just a real hard time suggesting to the members to play
for free or very little. Yet I want to hold the group together. This part
of my music is hobby because it just isn't paying for its self and has cost
me a bunch for charts and other things. I figure I'm about $2000+ in the
hole on that band but dang it's so much fun.
You have to find your niche and every band has one where they can work as
much as they want and make money at it but it does take work and doesn't
Sometimes you have to think out of the box and reinvent yourself. Today I'm
nothing like the same musician and performer that I was in my college days
or for many years. I have changed so much that I'm not even the same guy.
Today I am an entertainer that plays a horn and not just a horn player
waiting by the phone.
I try to always think ahead to the next thing or to avoid a bump in the
road. A long time ago I got in an argument with one of the band members and
I told him to just wait until we were all 60 and look around to see who was
still playing. Well I am and they aren't. It's only because I change and
About 15 years ago the band I played with folded and I was the typical side
man who worked at the whim of the leaders in town. As things dried up most
guys made the choice of becoming a member of a hobby band or just quit. The
DJ's had bitten into a lot of the wedding business here and I was headed
down the road of so many older musicians. I really didn't like the "new"
music and wasn't keeping up very well. As a sax player the number of bands
that would use me was drying up.
So the choice was do something I didn't want to do or come up with something
different. I started computerizing my act and now I don't need a band or
have to depend on less than good rhythm players. I can now do singles where
that was the domain of the keyboard player forever. The result is that I
make more in one hour than most side men make in three to four. Around here
that is usually a once a week gig on Saturday night where my gigs are during
the week and now I'm starting to get weekends off and I book multiple gigs
on some days and usually 6-8 around Mardi Gras and some of the other hot
days. I did 11 Veteran's day shows last year. I also do a lot better than
most single acts too.
I have already planned for the next change that I can see coming in the next
year or two and it won't even cause a glitch.
My formula is pretty simple. Play well, be colorful, be versatile, connect
with the crowd, find your niche, advertise, sell yourself, use new
technology and don't be afraid to change. Above all don't sit back and
expect your phone to ring because it won't. I always try to give them
exactly what they want.
Evolution is based on the willingness or ability for a species to change
over time or not. It's the same in the music business. It can come down to
change or die.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Stephen G Barbone" <barbonestreet at earthlink.net>
To: "Larry Walton" <larrys.bands at charter.net>
Cc: "Dixieland Jazz Mailing List" <dixielandjazz at ml.islandnet.com>
Sent: Thursday, March 12, 2009 11:23 AM
Subject: [Dixielandjazz] Economics of OKOM
> Here's what happens when music is viewed simply as a commodity and not as
> something that will enhance the event. <grin>
> This was sent out to about 50 bands. I've deleted the name and other
> contact information, but if anyone is interested to do this gig for the
> exposure, write me and I'll supply it. Caveat, if in an outdoors venue,
> it is likely to be about 45 to 55 degrees.
> I did reply with our band information and our minimum charge for a three
> hour gig, during the day, and/or night (indoors only) which far exceeds
> their stated pay scale. <grin>
> I don't know how BSJB got into their data base as we have never performed
> at this Wine & Dine Festival, though we have performed in several venues
> in Newark, including several at the University of Delaware and the Iron
> Hill Brewpub.
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