Sometimes It Pays to Take a Low Paying Gig


I recently did a show where I only earned $75. It was for one hour on a weeknight at an apartment community. For a solo/duo set, I normally charge $100 or more per hour and I have a two hour minimum. Instead of earning $200, I earned $75 for the night. But I took a chance on this one and it paid off. We did a good job, the people loved us and I was invited back for another event. This time it was at full price for 3 hours. The people who hired me are part of a larger network of local event planners who plan several events every month for their communities. I almost didn’t accept the gig because it was going to be a pay cut. But I went ahead and accepted it for a few reasons:

• It was in the middle of the week. Most of my shows are on weekends. This gave me an additional earning opportunity for the week without sacrificing my weekend availability.
• There was potential for exposure to a larger network of event planners where there would be a real ongoing need for live entertainment.
• I wasn’t doing anything anyway.

I’m willing to consider every opportunity.  You just never know what can happen.  Whether or not to accept a show based on price is not always black and white.  I normally try not to leave the house for anything less than $100 simply because it’s not worth loading, unloading, setting up, breaking down, loading the equipment back into the car, and then unloading it again back in the house. This is not even the actual work of performing. Needless to say, there’s a reason why I have my standard fees. But I am willing to negotiate if the circumstances can benefit me in some way, or if it’s a friend/family member, or it’s for a charity I want to help. But, had I turned down the $75 gig, I would have missed out on a bigger gig, and I would have missed out on getting ‘in’ with the larger network. Sometimes you have to weigh your options and be strategic.

We had a residency gig with a restaurant on Saturday nights. Due to some traveling, we had to miss one week. We didn’t want to leave the restaurant empty-handed so we found a similar act that could potentially fill in for us. To make a long story short this artist turned down the gig over $50. The contract price was in the hundreds, but this artist turned it down because the compensation was $50 less than what they normally earn.  We mentioned to this artist that we also do booking for other artists and have built up some connections in our area with venues.  So, if all went well, this artist could have made some long lasting connections.  However, because the interaction left a bad taste, we won’t be calling on this artist again for any future inquiries.  So they missed out on some future opportunities as well. What’s $50 compared to a good standing relationship with someone who can get you future shows?

We had a client who turned down a string of shows because of money.  I understand that there is a real need to earn a living for a lot of us indie artists and hard decisions must be made. But sometimes we make the wrong decisions. One of the shows we had booked for the artist fell through. We had been in contact with the venues about this particular situation and what the needs are for our artist and was in the process of finding other options. In one day, this artist made a hasty decision to cancel the tour without waiting to see what alternatives we could find. So, we reluctantly informed the venue owners of the cancelation while proceeding to find replacements for all the other shows we had booked. Lo and behold, one of the venue owners had already arranged for our client to perform at two MORE spots which would have earned the artist double the amount. After finding out the artist cancelled, the venue owner no longer wanted to book him. If only the artist had waited one more day and had a little more faith! This would have put the artist back in the original position, plus there was more compensation and earning potential than what was originally booked.

These experiences affirm that there is a reward for patience and humility. Accepting the humble amount of $75, led me to a higher paying gig and in roads with a profitable network circle. Taking a pay cut of $50 could have still earned one artist hundreds more than they would not have otherwise. Being patient and waiting for just one more day could have saved an entire tour!

The lesson I’m taking from all this is that money isn’t everything. There are things more valuable than money such as strategic relationships for example.  Decisions should not be made based on money alone. There is so much more at stake here than your money.  Money is fleeting. It comes and goes. One day you have it and the next day you don’t.

If you want a long lasting music career you will have to rely on your relationships, especially those with your fans. There’s a saying that goes ‘It’s not what you know, but who you know.’ This statement couldn’t be more true for independent artists. A good relationship is more valuable than money, because the relationship itself can create money.

A relationship is more valuable than money, because the relationship itself can create money. Click To Tweet

A good relationship with your fans, can get you gigs, house shows, CD/merch sales, studio time, lodging when you’re on the road, the list goes on and on. Don’t be so quick to judge an opportunity by it’s dollar value. There is much more to consider. Under the right conditions, a low paying gig, can pay you much more than you could have imagined.


About Anitra Jay

Anitra Jay is an acoustic soul singer-songwriter based in Houston, TX. She tours regularly up and down the US from Vermont to Texas and everywhere in between. Her music is a sultry down to earth blend of soul, pop, and gospel. After being laid off from her job in 2007, Anitra decided to pursue a career in music. She took her educational experiences in Public Relations and her professional background in marketing and applied it full force to her music. She's found significant success in establishing a lasting fanbase using her special brand of marketing techniques which she shares freely with other artists. In addition to being a full-time performer, Anitra runs TheCraftyMusician.com, a blog for indie artists sharing actionable tips and advice on how to promote, develop, establish a fanbase, and more. Her passion is to inspire other musicians and build a community of like-minded independent artists to encourage and promote successful careers in the arts. She appeared on HGTV's Tiny House Hunters in May of 2017 to share her music story and her Tiny House Journey with the world. Follow Anitra on Twitter - @IndieArtistsDIY and @Anitra_Jay. Join the mailing list to get practical DIY tips and tricks in your inbox - http://buff.ly/2gSwptO.

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