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Top 10 Ways Musicians Can Get More Money From A Gig

Jun 6, 2008
You are an artist, it's true. But just because you're an artist doesn't mean you don't need to get paid. Money makes a lot of things possible, including time in a recording studio, new and better instruments, and paying your rent so you don't have to live in a cardboard box and burn your guitar for warmth. There's nothing wrong with making money from your shows, and if you're smart you'll try to optimize that earning power. You don't have to be a marketing genius or a public relations guru--just think outside the box and make the most of what you already have going for you.

1. Don't be afraid to ask for what you're worth.

Just because you want the gig doesn't mean you have to beg for it. If you've got experience performing, and you regularly draw a crowd, your venue stands to benefit as much--if not more--than you do from the show. So don't let them tell you that you're not worth paying as much as a "bigger name". It is also a good idea to go in and tell them exactly what you're doing to generate a buzz about the show. If they can see that you're working to get a crowd in, they'll be a lot more willing to pay you a good rate.

2. Don't run up a huge bar tab.

Take a lesson from the Blues Brothers. If you're buying your own drinks at the show, it's going to eat in to your bottom line. You don't want to end up owing them money for playing a show. A couple beers to keep you loose isn't a big deal, but when you start buying round after round of top shelf drinks you're going to rack up quite a bill. Not to mention that it's going to affect your performance. You might not think it's a problem...but then, neither does Amy Winehouse. Stay on top of your game while you're on stage. There's plenty of time to party after the show.

3. Sell T-shirts, bumper stickers and CDs at the show.

A small investment in your own marketing merchandise can help generate income. Make sure whatever you're selling is cool in design and functionality. You can't go wrong with T-shirts, as long as they don't look cheesy. Don't try to sell them for $40 each. You're not Pink Floyd (yet). The kids that are going to your show aren't loaded, but they'll gladly buy and wear your shirt around if it's affordable and looks good. That's free advertising. Stickers and other inexpensive items can also bring in some extra money. Remember, you're not trying to get rich off this stuff--just clear a little profit and get your name out there.

4. The Tip Jar

It never hurts to set it out there. And even if you only get a few bucks, it's a few bucks more than you had before. Make sure that you sincerely thank the audience for their tips before you close the show.

5. Generate a buzz to ensure a big crowd.

If you're getting part of the cover, you want to do everything in your power to get people in the door. That means going out and hitting the streets for weeks before the show, printing flyers and cards, asking friends and family to spread the word, and using your contacts to get people to the show. Even if there's no cover, the more people at your show, the more opportunity you have to sell your CD's and T-shirts and get tips. Don't leave it to chance--work hard to get people to the show and it'll pay off in more ways than one.

6. Make sure your venue will attract people who will like your music.

If you're an acoustic singer/songwriter, don't try to play at a club that is known for head banging. It sounds simple enough, but there's something to be said for playing up to the regulars that are used to going to the venue where you're playing. Go to a few shows at the same venue beforehand and hang out. See who's there and talk to some people about your upcoming show. People that are already at the venue are more likely to come back than people who've never been there before--even if they know who you are.

7. Look for different types of venues--not just the same old bar scene.

There are lots of places you can play to earn a few bucks. Big corporations often throw parties a couple times a year to celebrate holidays or sales performance. Schools have festivals and events. There are endless places where you can attract a crowd and sell your CD's. Think outside the box!

8. Make sure you have a website and blog--and a mailing list to remind people where they can see you!

This is such an important piece of getting recognition and money. Make sure people know how to find you online. Every piece of advertising or marketing you do should have your website address on it. Keep your site updated regularly and post information about upcoming shows. When your shows are over be sure to immediately post pictures and videos. Respond to inquiries from fans, prospective venues, and press. You can also sell MP3's of your songs or the entire CD on your website to generate income. There are literally endless possibilities, and with today's web tools, it is easier and easier for anyone to create and manage their own website. Most importantly, once you're on the web, people from all over the world can find you and hear your music. Think big, and make yourself available to an unlimited fan base.

9. Treat your booking professionally.

Make sure you keep track of phone numbers, dates, and venue contacts. This is going to ensure repeat bookings. Until you make it big and have yourself a real business manager, you're going to have to keep things organized. Some people are naturally good at this, and some people, well...aren't. Bare minimum, get a big calendar and scribble phone numbers and important dates and times on it to keep track. The more you treat your band like a business, the more money you're going to make.

10. Stick around after the show and work the room.

Don't just pack your stuff and high tail it out of the club when you're done playing. Unless it's closing time, spend a while chilling out with the crowd and talking to people. When you've finished your show, you've got a little bit of 'star quality' that comes from having been the center of attention for the duration of the show. When you take the time to walk around and thank people for coming, introduce yourself to people and tell them your CD is for sale, or hand them your card with your website on it, you are doing yourself an invaluable service. Try this for three shows in a row, and I guarantee you're going to see huge results.
About the Author
Music business expert David Hooper is host of the syndicated radio show, Music Business Radio. Visit MusicMarketing.com for more information on David and additional music business advice.
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