Today’s topic is something that makes us all uncomfortable unless we’re about to get a bunch of it: MONEY.
It’s true. For some reason, talking money feels icky.
By this point it should go without saying that any new artists (and oftentimes new managers) will have to do a lot of work for exposure (aka - fo freeeee). And this is legit. I know and use the saying “exposure doesn’t pay the rent” but sometimes you do have to prove yourself a bit initially to get to the next stage (the money stage). This post is really geared towards the non-newbies. The artists, managers, and freelancers who have done the exposure thing, been paid out on a few jobs, and now need to establish that this is a J-O-B that brings in the rent money.
We’ve compiled 5 guidelines for getting the money talk done easier.
Be up front. The earlier you talk money, the better. Not only for your piece of mind, but also the potential job-giver. If you establish your rate, don’t want to/can’t negotiate, and they can’t afford you, then no one needs to waste any more time. Talking money early also gives you the option to negotiate before you get too far into the project with them. It’s easy to feel backed into a corner for taking a cut rate when you’ve already dumped a bunch of time and effort into something.
Know Your Worth. Yes, we’re all special and valuable butterflies, but this is in regards to your actual monetary value for a “service” you provide. If you’ve been playing shows, brought people out, and have been getting $150 in guarantees, you probably have a good shot at upping your initial ask for the guarantee. For freelancers on the industry end of things, think about how long it takes to complete a project and go from there. What hourly rate makes sense to you? Then you can give a complete project quote. In all scenarios, having a proven track record is key to getting what you ask for. Keep final head counts from shows, keep a profile of projects worked on, and keep that website up to date!
Manager guidelines: It’s pretty standard to take either 15% or 20% commission depending on the band you’re working with. If you are growing them from the ground up and can definitely provide value, you should probably think about taking 20%. This seems like a lot, but baby bands take so much time to get off the ground that it will definitely be worth it. If you are both still growing, you should just do the standard 15% (or maybe you’re just really nice and want to keep the baby band a little more in the black while they are growing). If you land a more established act, 15% is the go-to. Ultimately, this is up to you and the band, but that’s the outline a lot of managers work from.
One note: some managers require some sort of retainer while they are laying a lot of the ground work. I’m not advocating for or against this method, I’m just saying it’s an option.
Have a rate card. Having an established set of rates is honestly the easiest way to work. You may feel fine negotiating from there, but being transparent about what you offer and money you expect to get the job done saves a lot of headache time. How do you apply this to musicians? We have rate cards for private events and one-off shows.
Know HOW you’ll get paid. We’ve talked to people that didn’t really have a clear cut plan on how they expected us to pay them. To me, as a prospective job-giver, that’s a red flag. What other areas are they not professional in? Figure out terms of when you need to get paid and what method of payments you can accept. We like to be as flexible as possible! We accept PayPal, Venmo, checks, wire deposits, and cold, hard, cash!
Be firm and clear that this is your job. In music, there are a lot of hobbyists and tourists. Some people are just stopping through because they said they’d make an album before they die (ha, but that’s true). Some people think they want to be a musician/industry player, but don’t really get all that it entails. These people don’t always understand that we’re not all playing dress up over here. I don’t even want to limit it to just them - a lot of times, you’ll find people IN the industry that don’t understand why they need to pay you. Sorry, bands, but you’re particularly bad at this. I get that you’re growing and establishing your career, but you have to pay people for the work they are putting in to help you.
At the end of the day, we’re all just trying to live over here! The world of music is a tricky ecosystem, but you gotta get paid! Go out there and GET THE MONEY!