What to charge….

What to charge….

A few of my friends and I have picked up a gig playing for a wedding. We have 2 fiddlers/dancers, a piper/fiddler, and a drummer. We have no idea what to charge. If anyone could provide us with any ideas, that would be great! Thanks!

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We charge 250 minimum, 175 each additional 45 minute set.

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We try to get $50 USD per musician, so $200 to $400 depending on how big a band the client wants or is willing to pay four. But we all have good day jobs, so the music money just goes for strings and cds and the like. In other words, it’s not paying the rent. And we do lots of freebie gigs too.

Make sure you’re absolutely clear with the customer how long you’re to play. Obviously, a three-hour gig should pay more than a one-hour gig. And it’s always nice to get fed as part of the deal (not to mention slaking your thirst with some bubbly or beer).

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One thing that hasn’t been mentioned here is that your price should also be based on your experience. If you are fairly inexperienced you shouldn’t command as high a price as someone who’s been at it for over a long time.

There’s a lot to know about what’s appropriate for ceremonies, having pre-ceremony music to properly set the mood, a good selection for the processional and recessional, and enough material to embellish the ceremony it’s self if necessary. Also, it’s good to have experience playing for a full Catholic mass if required, and having enough experience to make a ceremony go smoothly and sound professional.

Then you have to be able to provide high quality music for the cocktails and dinner if requested, and know how to vary the mood to compliment the experience. I’m not saying you can’t play for weddings if you’re a novice, but the price should reflect your expertise.

Personally I have spent many years honing my skills at providing music for weddings and I charge much more now than I did the first few years. Knowing how much to charge for incidentals and special circumstances is important too. You should also know how to put together a contract and have all the necessary bases covered so that there’s no confusion about what to expect from them in the way of food and beverage, performing area (sound electricity, chairs, shelter etc.,) and what will be expected of you (parking, how to dress, what part of the wedding you’re doing, if you’re doing a céilí dance and you need to hire a caller etc.)

Most important – have fun. I have enjoyed my experiences doing this, and I always look forward to it. Everyone’s happy, looking beautiful, and ready for a party.

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As a GHB player I charge about $100-$150 depending on what I play and how many tunes I play. For that many people I would charge $300-$500 depending on the factors involved.

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Wow jim, they must take wedding ceremonies very seriously over where you are. I usually tell the bride and groom to provide a script or at least an outline with the places they want music highlighted and an estimate of the time the music should go for. I tell them to make the final notes at the rehearsal so that their estimations are as accurate as possible. But invariably they will overlook something or change something at the last minute. And then somebody forgets to cue someone and the bride comes in too early or too late or in the wrong order and we end up playing the processional for five minutes while someone runs around trying to find the bride. These sorts of things happen when cousins or uncles are suddenly expected to be stage mangers you see. It always ends up with everyone laughing when it’s over though. And after a few drinks they’ll forget all about it until years later when they watch the video. hahaha

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Wow, this is a lot to think about, but thanks a million for all the tips! Now I just have to discuss it with the other 3 and see what they think.

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Don’t charge less than the going rate for professionals, $50 a man is derisory.
How much do you earn in your day job Will and would $50 dollars a day be enough for you to live on?
It’s hard enough making a living in traditional music without people like you taking the piss.
PP

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I can see your point PP but it depends on the circumstances. Perhaps, if you are playing/doing a favour for friends or people whom you know to have a limited budget or charities then I don’t see anything wrong with being flexible. Also, it depends on what you yourselves and/or the clients think you are worth. Not all good musicians would consider themselves to be professional and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

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Most ceilidh bands I know of charge minimum £50 per person for wedding receptions, often much more, depending on time, distance, time of year etc. £50 = approx. US$92.50 today.

They play for a couple of hours dancing plus breaks. I’ve don’t know about a wedding with incidental music, apart from a piper which is usually a separate deal. You really need to have a dance caller in the band at these things.

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I should have said "a person"; before you accuse me of sexism
Actual I play GHB and my back hole working perfectly (lots of fruit and vedge).
I don’t think Will is a "hopeful young musician" and should know better than to suggest to them that professional job should not get a professional wage.
I’m shore Twin fiddler knows that his or her band is up to the job and I think they should get a professional fee for doing a good job.
PP

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My band does a mixture of dancing and background music and we charge around £100 per band member plus a bit for travel and we expect to get some food and drink and parking charges paid if they apply. For this we are at the mercy of the punters for the whole evening altho we usually stipulate a "latest finish time". Its amazing at weddings how many times when you are waiting to do the "last dance" that the bride and/or groom run off somewhere and don’t return until 2 minutes before the cut off time. As I am usually the caller at these events I usually make sure the bride and groom know we need to start the last dance 15mins before the end. We are usually at an event from 6.30 (for set up time) and leave around midnight.

Don’t know if all this applies across the pond.

Cheers

Sarah

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You have to start with what do you want for a gig at the bottom of the street? Then charge on distance, bearing in mind whether its a church dance (no money) or a wedding (loadsamoney) and how many are in the band. Look after the people that book you 3 times a year as well.
Then there is agency work - if they call you at short notice, you charge accordingly.
With the cheap ones, you always have to bear in mind - are we going to get more work out of this or are they going to book us more than once a year?
Two £70 gigs a year are better than one £100 gig a year - and more exposure/publicity.

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We had an "ITM session" play during our wedding cocktail reception and dinner. There were four musicians - flute, fiddle, harp/accordian, and pipes. We asked them to just play. Nothing fancy. Just play. These are professional players. They make their living from music. Their price was $1000, and an extra $75 for the piper and harpist to play during the wedding ceremony itself. It was well-worth every cent - as it is a lasting memory of that perfect day for me.

This is a bit more than the $50-100/person that semi-pro, starting-out, or hobbyist musicians might charge, but this *is* their day job.

Amazingly, they chose to not eat dinner themselves, even though the catering was phenomenal and it was paid for.

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Sara - Wow! £100 per band member! You must be really, really good. I know a major-league Irish accordion player who has toured and recorded with world-famous bands, and is himself probably amongst the top five best players in the country who charges 50 Euro (that’s about £30 ish) for a two hour session! Now, maybe he has it wrong, but I really think some of the prices quoted here mean one of two things, either:
1) Some of you should stop work and sign a professional contract, because you’re too damn good to be playing a few weddings, or
2) The market has gone crazy and will crash very soon.

Dave

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This thread reminds me of a true story. A friend who fronts a band—fiddle, guitar, and bass—got a call one day about playing for a wedding. He told them that their price was $600 for a three-piece band, and $750 if they included the banjo player. The client said, yes, they’d like the banjo player, too. So the four guys played the gig, and afterwards, the happy, satisfied client handed our man two checks. One was for $600, with ‘band’ written in the memo spot. On the other check, for $750, in the memo spot it said, ‘banjo player.’

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$750 for the banjo player hahaha… that’s good Will, I’ll have to try that when we add on our harpist.

That’s our price as well for 3 people — $600 and then we add $150 - $200 to bring, set up, and run our sound system. If we have to travel far it’s $25 per hour, per member, both ways. If we add our harpist it’s an additional $200. If we organize a céilí dance we charge $100 (+ travel) for the caller and charge our over-time fee of $150.00 for the band. When you add it up the total often comes to around $1,200 to $1,500 typically, and if the travel is significant it can go beyond $2,000.

One time we were doing a wedding at a beautiful huge historic ballroom here in the city for 250 people. I had organized everything including 3 highland pipers to escort the bride and groom from the church into the hall. After it was all over I was settling up with the bride’s father and he told me we were way under-priced. He said that the car valets might be making more than us, and with that he got out his checkbook and wrote a check for an additional $1,000 tip. I still haven’t raised our prices though — that was a flook.

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$750 for the banjo?? There ain’t no justice!

*Sigh* it took that kind of pro-banjo prejudice to lure me out of the shadows and into my 2nd ever post. I’ll just go back into my lurking corner and mutter into the back of my Bodhran.

The only wedding I’ve played so far was for a bandmate, and that netted a flat $100 for a four piece group(One of those "flexible" fees mentioned above.) Talking to other players, the general rule for "semi-pro" wedding players around here seems to be 75-100 per person with a 3-4 hour commitment.

People who make a serious portion of their income through music generally start about $600 and climb up quickly.

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These days I’m getting $200/person, but that’s negotiable depending on factors such as the need of a sound system and distance to travel. If I only have drive for a half hour or so, and only have to bring my flute, bones, bodhran, and whistle, I come pretty cheap, but my partner does all the money stuff, and he’s good at getting top dollar. I used to always schlep the sound system, but I’ve gotten old and cranky, so now my partner has a new Bose (oooeee) system that he’s willing to tote around, so I’ve got it pretty good these days.

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I think the sensible thing in the UK is to have the MU rates as the minimum and work up from there.
Trevor

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Trevor could you post those rates, or a link to them?

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Hmmm. I wonder about that - the perception around here is that if venues had to pay union scale, nobody would get any gigs. Last time I looked they wanted $65cdn/hour for the band leader plus a bit less for the players, which is probably reasonable considering all the work we put into it, but realistically not practical.

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Bren, sorry, I’d better go back on my last post.
I think I had in mind orchestral rates. My perception of them is a bit out of date, but the figure that comes to mind is of the order of £35/hr - but as I said, that was a while ago. The MU apparently doesn’t publish its current rates (on its website, anyway).
Trevor

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Yes, at least in the US people seem to spend obscenely on their weddings, and obsess over every detail. I read on msn.com awhile back that the the average wedding costs $20,000 here!

I’m always intrigued by what rates are considered high or low in different circles. The harp world and the Irish music world are totally different in that respect. A major magazine for professional harpists did a survey last year on gig rates in different parts of the country, and the majority of harpists charge in the neighborhood of $200 per hr. In my area, I was told when I first started gigging here that to charge less than $225/hr was asking for trouble. (Union rates are even higher.)It’s extra if there are any specially requested pieces to learn, and on top of that we are supposed to charge $60-$75 cartage each way for moving the instrument, but I only charge that for pedal harp. There are those who will tell you it’s not right to charge differently for pedal than for lever, though. Whenever I gig with an ensemble I let each of the other individual players tell me their rates. If it’s thru an agency, I never even hear what their rates are; I just ask the agent to do a separate contract. That way I’m also not responsible if another musician doesn’t show up for one reason or another.

There’s also quite a lot of very heated discussion among harpists about whether amateurs even have the right to gig at low rates. Check this out:

http://harpcolumn.com/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg.tcl?msg_id=0001MW

Here’s an excerpt which defends PP’s point and says it better than I could:
"I lost a gig just today because the customer was used to a high school student who charged $75 for an hour long gig. I can’t compete with someone living at home, with a mom & dad to pay for insurance, wardrobe, gas, strings, music, van, memberships, advertising, phone expenses, professional development, repair, business supplies, etc….. Not to mention self employment taxes, which I doubt they are paying. I also have to compete with adult harpists who do gigs for a lark on weekends, and work a full time job during the week, so they have benefits & a good paycheck and don’t mind working for next to nothing. I had a call from a longtime area professional last week who was practically begging me for my leftovers. I wish I had any to give her. Ok, that is a long whine. My new rule is: if you advertise, charge full professional rates. If you play for a friend, it is up to you. If you are not good enough to charge professionally, then you should focus on developing your technique and wait."

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Ah - professional musicians worrying about amateurs queering their pitch(!)
Personally if I do a wedding I’d make sure each player gets at least £50 plus food and drink. That makes them feel it’s worthwhile coming out, but has nothing to do with protecting the rates professional musicians get, because we make it clear we’re NOT professionals. I’m a freelance commercial artist, but and in this modern world where anyone can buy a Mac and a couple of bits of software and call themselves a designer, I’m CONSTANTLY having my clients approached by people who are willing to undercut my rates. This isn’t a problem to me, because I know that in the long run, they won’t be able to cut the mustard, and my clients will come running back to me with their tails between their legs - as indeed they have at various times in the past. I think this is the wrong forum for professional musos to whinge about amateurs, because this music IS amateur music. It’s not classical music. The professional side of it ONLY EXISTS because of the well-spring of amateur playing, and those who seek to make a LIVING out of it had better be so bloody good that people beat a path to their door. The rest should stop whinging and trying to corrupt the music into just another commercial enterprise.
I’m sure this will get a few backs up, so rather than hang around to take the flak, I’m off to WOMAD. I’m quite happy to have paid the exorbitant ticket rate to see Ms. Shannon, and Ms. Dillon perform this afternoon - because they’re worth it…..
Love Mark

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…And what’s more - why don’t you aspiring pro musos have a go at the whole concept of sessions? Can’t you see how these informal, unpaid musical gatherings are undermining the opportunities for musicians getting paid to perform at the venues where they take place?
Stick that in your pipe and smoke it, bread-heads!!!

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How much do you charge for your artistic services Ottery? And how much do you make a year? Then we’ll se who’s the bread head.
God save us from rich dilettanti philanthropists.
PP

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Name calling again?

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I agree Zena calling us bread heads was out of order
PP

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Interesting — I don’t recall ever seeing you admit that you can be led, or at least baited, Pied. *grin* My name is spelled with an "i", by the way.

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PP, I’ve got no objection to anyone charging what they like for playing music. Just to people complaining that that they’re being done down by others not charging enough. As I said, if you are good enough, surely the world will beat a path to your door, and pay you to open it. It’s nice that you consider me a philanthropist, I wonder why, and if you know what that means(?) As for rich - I earn approximately £26,000 per year, much to the chagrin of my accountant, who considers I should be earning twice as much (I don’t work as much as I should). How much do you make? Do you think your earning should be any business of mine (money seems to interest you a great deal for someone who seems to consider the term ‘breadhead’ a great insult).

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Point taken about the nature of ITM as "amateur music." But I wish that it really did work that way, that all you had to do was be really really good and everyone would be "beating a path" to your door. The longer I play professionally, the more I realize that success in this business has as much or more to do with networking and who you regularly make an effort to hang out with than how good you are. I’ve noticed this within the Irish music world and the pedal harp world independently.


However, who you know relates mostly to the number of gigs one gets. The "quality" or the pay scale of the gig doesn’t much enter into it becausein general rates for all sorts of ITM gigs are universally low. This is happening because most of the pros are not demanding rates higher than what the amateurs get for weddings, pub gigs, etc. There are plenty of great musicians with big names that do weddings and such for cheap rates and then complain about how crappy the rates are. These are people with big enough names that I would think they could just set their own price and people would pay it, but as long as a client can get another pro for half price, how can any of us feel comfortable raising our rates? As a consequence some of these people are having to get day jobs so that they don’t have to play such an extraordinary number of musically unsatisfying, low-paid gigs. I only know for certain of one big-name musician who absolutely refuses to work for low rates, but I don’t know if he manages without a day job or not.




If this is ever going to change, the pros banded have to band together and agree on rates for sessions, lessons, etc. We’d all be better off, but I bet a big reason why people are just always bitching and never doing anything about it is largely psychological. We do feel somewhat guilty asking to be paid for something we should be doing for the love of it, and we feel awkward about the business side of it. After feeling burned enough times, everyone tends to give up rather than try to correct the problems.

Here’s another example: In the US, Comhaltas pays adjudicators in the regional fleadhanna $200 for what amounts to often a fourteen-hour workday. My understanding is that this rate is set by the bigshots in Ireland. It’s grueling work, and there’s pressure to keep everything running and not get off schedule, which often means you scarf your lunch in 10 minutes between competitions. Of course adjudicating is a labor of love to an extent, but as they always say, you can’t have the fleadh without the adjudicators…so what if they couldn’t find anyone who would do it for $200, hmm?

As an afterthought, winning the All-Ireland is great, but it’s not the free ticket to a great career that one might think it is, especially for Americans. What do you do once you’ve got an All-Ireland or two and you send out your demo and press kit and they tell you they wanted someone Irish instead, and the person they hired is someone you beat in competition? It happens…

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For discussion’s sake, I should clarify that I don’t advertise our musical services, we get about 3-4 paying gigs a year, we’re really the only Irish trad music in town. For every gig I’ve accepted, I’ve passed two or three others along to a band in the next town over. Often, we give them the best paying gigs.

Our minimum rate of $50/head is also the local going rate, sad to say. Even the local pros take that, and not because lots of amateurs are undercutting them to that level. It’s often all that’s offered.

If you look at it from a supply and demand perspective, obviously the demand just isn’t there if we’re the only local ‘ITM’ supply and people aren’t willing to pay much more than $50 per musician. In fact, I can’t think of anyone locally who makes a living off their music—we *all* have day jobs, including the cowboy bands and rock n’ rollers. That’s life in a small town in windbroke Montana. People tend to place a higher premium on paying their heating bill or keeping the car in running condition than supporting local full time musicians. That doesn’t seem unreasonable to me.

Like Mark, I run into amateurs and desperados undercutting my rates in my ‘real’ job as a writer and editor. And like Mark, I often see clients come running back to me when the cheap editor hands them a boatload of donkey droppings. I also get work from clients in big cities on either US coast. And because I know my market and can provide a professional service some people actually need, I don’t worry about the desperados and amateurs.

The same is true in our local music scene. Face it—a town of 26,000 people isn’t much of a market for a full-time musician. So the good ones leave—they end up in Nashville or LA or NYC. The ones who stay here don’t complain about having to work a day job to support their music, and they don’t worry about a group of ‘fringe’ Irish trad musos scraping a few dollars out of the local economy.

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Wow, Ostrichfeathers, you almost took the words out of my mouth. Of course, what I said about people beating a path to your door was a bit hyperbolic. I was going to post something to the effect that once you enter the commercial arena in any artistic endeavor, it has more to do with the quality of your networking than your artistic ability. I know mediocre musicians who make a lot of money playing barndances, and fantastic musicians who scratch around for pennies, and seem to always play before disinterested audiences. The commercial success of those in the Fine art-world testifies to the same thing. To my mind, the answer is not to try and make a living out of what you love doing, whether it be painting, music or fishing or whatever, but to do what you love doing simply for fun. This may leave me open to charges of ‘dilettanti-ism’ (sic) but then that charge could be levelled at the majority of people who live for this stuff, and I suspect, most of the subscribers to this website.
And now to bed….

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just to say that the m.u. rates over here are nothing like £35 an hour - it’s actually £35 per three hour session.

i’ve done a few ceilidhs and the money seems to be a lot better than the orchestral rates is all i can say.
plus you usually play with a better crowd and you get looked after more as well as getting to see people dance and generally have a good time.
as regards weddings, people don’t baulk at giving the photographer/video person about a grand so about half that amount seems reasonable for four people doing a basic three hour stint.
and it is possible for players to do both unpaid sessions and paid work elsewhere you know!