Category Archives: Engaging Fans

How to Earn Money Teaching Music – Even With a Busy Schedule

[Editors Note: This is a guest blog written by Gfire Mayo. Gfire is an Austin, TX-based music teacher with TakeLessons.com, offering lessons in guitar, singing, piano and more to students of all ages. She has been teaching and performing music full-time for more than 17 years.]

I have been singing, writing songs, playing the piano and guitar, and recording music since I was three years old. Being a singer/songwriter is my life’s work, but it can be helpful to have additional streams of income to make sure the bills get paid! For many professional musicians, teaching music is an ideal side job to have while still pursuing your creative goals.

At a bare minimum, you should be able to get an entry level position at $20/hour or more at a local music studio. If you’re teaching private lessons, you can set your own rates. With enough experience, you can command $40-$70 an hour or more, depending on the norm in your current market.

Beyond making money, teaching may also expand your fan base! Many of my students and their families come to my shows. And they’ll respect your advice even more when you show them that you, too, have to practice just like they do.

The best part, though? Teaching private music lessons allows you to create your own schedule. But it is a balancing act you’ll need to master.

Here are some tips that have helped me balance a busy performance schedule with teaching on the side:

#1. Align yourself with a reputable service to help you market yourself. 

I work with TakeLessons.com. They handle the marketing side of my business, to help me find new singing, piano, guitar, and songwriting students. I keep my availability updated so that they know when I can and can’t teach music students. I can also arrange in advance to have no students when I am touring out of town.

With music services like these, you can also offer online lessons, which I recommend. By doing so, you can expand your roster beyond your hometown. I have worked with students in Washington, California, Colorado, Maine, Florida, Ohio, Maryland, and Iowa, and have even taught folks in Switzerland and New Zealand! You may have skills to offer as a teacher that your students cannot get locally.

There are also local music schools and after-hours programs at schools and universities where you can teach classes. You can sometimes find students by posting on Craigslist or on your local neighborhood online bulletin board, like Nextdoor. Encourage happy clients to post reviews on Yelp, since people use that site to help them make purchasing decisions.

#2. Make sure to schedule your own practice time and touring time from the beginning. 

I like to get at least an hour of singing and piano playing in before I start teaching, so I schedule students from noon to 9 pm. Usually I have breaks during the day for lunch and dinner and some further practicing.

If I have gigs out of town, I ask my students if they would like a make-up lesson either before or afterwards if their lessons fall during my tour dates. Just remember, you’ll need to stay super organized! Write down all of your gigs and lessons so you don’t forget anything, and keep everything up-to-date.

#3. Similarly, make sure to schedule one or two days completely off from teaching, practicing, and performing. 

Your creative self and your physical self will fare much better when you schedule in some down time. I call it “the lazy girl’s way to practice” – while you are off watching a movie or playing sports or whatever you like to do in your free time, your subconscious is working on all of your musical skills!

#4. Offer performance opportunities to earn more.

I put on a spring recital and a fall recital at my studio, and at Christmas we go to a local nursing home and perform for the residents. I charge $15 per student for my expenses and I usually make at least $100 for myself. It’s a win-win for both me and my students, who learn how to prepare for a performance.

And by the way, it’s just as important for the adult students to perform, if they are able to, as it is for the children. Performing is a valuable musical skill for all students to learn!

#5. Think about teaching as an investment in your own skills, too.

You may find, like me, that teaching music not only helps your students, but it helps your own music practice. For example, you might end up describing ways of practicing that are even more creative and worthwhile than you used before! If you’re trying to decide if it’s worth putting in the extra time to teach on the side, consider it an investment in your own skills.

Teaching music has been a great way for me to earn income while still performing and doing what I love. You, too, probably have a ton to offer aspiring musicians! Keep these tips in mind, and you can build a successful studio and make a difference in the lives of many students.


Learn more about how TakeLessons can help you build your teaching studio, and create your profile instantly!

The Dos and Don’ts Of a Copy-and-Paste Music Bio The Media Will Love

[Editors Note: This is a guest blog written by Shaun Letang, owner and editor of Music Industry How To – a site dedicated to offering music career advice to artists/bands, managers, producers, and anyone else involved in the music industry.]

If your bio isn’t regularly opening the door to new opportunities in your music career, it could be that it isn’t as polished as it could be.

Musicians tend to underestimate the value of their bio. They know that they should have one, but they don’t know that it should be more than just a list of accomplishments or a boring, “we started in a basement” type story clichés.

A finely-tuned bio should make people go, “gee, I wish we could bring that band out to our next event”, or “I’d like to hear what that sounds like!”

Before we get into the specifics of developing a great copy-and-paste bio, let’s take a look at how it benefits you.

Why A Copy-And-Paste Bio Is Useful

Everyone is pretty crunched for time these days. Journalists, bloggers and media people are constantly under the pressure of deadlines to complete their latest news piece, which means they don’t necessarily have a lot of time to hunt around for information.

And yet, many musicians shy away from comparing themselves with other known acts. “Our music is 100% original,” they say. Well, if you’re using notes, chords and scales in your music – sorry to have to be the one to break this to you – you’re not 100% unique!

Don’t make any assumptions about what the reader may or may not know about your influences and style of music. They might love what you’re doing, but not have the right words or comparisons to describe it. You can see how that might be a problem if they’re interested in covering you in an upcoming story, but don’t have the necessary information to do so.

If you can tell a great story as a musician, media people don’t have to. It might sound lazy, but if you want to get the most leverage out of your bio, you should consider making it copy-and- paste ready.

What A Copy-And-Paste Bio Is

In essence, it’s just like any other bio. The key thing to remember is that you’re trying to make it easy for the reader to gather relevant information quickly and easily. They should be able to get a good sense of who you are and what you’re about just by scanning your bio.

Think about the keywords to include in your bio: musical style, genre, influences, instruments, names of the band members, and so on. When you think of it this way, it’s not unlike writing a search engine optimized blog post.

A copy-and-paste bio should also be well-written and free of errors. Check your spelling, punctuation and grammar. If the bio isn’t literally ready to run in a magazine or the paper tomorrow, then it still requires some attention.

Don’t forget to tell a story with your bio. Nobody wants to read off a list of facts. You know how most people react to your accomplishments? “Good for you.” Yes, you can highlight that awesome Gene Simmons quote you got, but avoid going on and on about awards, quotes, radio stations, and notable concerts you’ve played. Sprinkle them throughout, but don’t make them the focus.

Copy-And-Paste Bio Do’s And Don’ts

You should have a pretty good idea of what to do to develop a copy-and-paste bio already. However, here is a list of do’s and don’ts to help you in case you aren’t sure what to do.

Do: include all relevant information. Names of band members and the instruments they play, what known acts you sound like, what genre of music you play, where you’re located, and so on. Include contact information at the end so interested parties can get in touch with you.

Do: tell a story. Feel free to interweave quotes and notable achievements in your bio, but only within the flow of an engaging narrative. You can dramatize a little.

Do: proofread. Eliminate spelling, grammar and punctuation errors. Make sure you wouldn’t be embarrassed if your bio ran in the papers tomorrow.

Do: talk about influences, bands and artists you sound like, and what genre of music you play. This is absolutely vital to a successful cut-and-paste bio.

Do: create multiple versions of your bio. Have a tagline, a one-paragraph version, a medium length version (two to three paragraphs), and a long version. For most applications, the medium length bio will do the trick.

Don’t: merely list off the “great things” you’ve done in your music career. Yes, it can help with credibility, but it doesn’t tell a story. Media people are always looking for stories.

Don’t: settle. Work on your bio with your band members and invest a good chunk of time writing and editing it. Have a few people look over it and ask for feedback. Or, if you have a budget, hire a professional to help you put it all together.

Don’t: use too many adjectives. They can make your writing interesting, but music is subjective. You aren’t “the best”, “the most brilliant”, or “the most beautiful” anything, though you might be in someone’s eyes. Let your fans do the talking.

Don’t: deviate from your core purpose, message and communication style. A proper bio should fit right in with your character and image. A professional tone will serve some, while a casual tone will work better for others.

Don’t: expect instantaneous results. Yes, if you do it right, a great bio should make a big difference to your music career, but as with anything, it still takes time and effort to become recognized.

Final Thoughts

If you’re looking to impress the media – and for that matter event organizers, music directors at radio stations and music venues – then having a professional cut-and-paste bio will make a big difference.

I hate to say it, but when you’re trying to break through as an independent artist, appearances really do matter. A fine-tuned bio can make you look a lot bigger than you really are; and that’s what you want!

A great bio has more uses than you might even realize, and can be re-purposed in a variety of different ways. You can get a lot of leverage out of it if you do it right.

If you want to learn more about music marketing as a whole, but sure to check out Music Industry How To’s ultimate guide on the subject.

Now, are you planning to create a music bio? Did the above help? Let us know in the comments below.

Top 10 Keys to Success For Independent Hip Hop Artists

[Editors NoteThis blog was written by Hao Nguyen and it originally appeared on Stop The Breaks, a digital marketing and promotion platform focused on showcasing independent hip-hop artists.]

The independent route is a tough, long grind, no doubt about it.

People look at the top independent hip hop artists in the game today like Tech N9ne, Nipsey Hussle and Currensy and see how they’re balling out of control, but they don’t understand just how much work these artists put into building their lifestyle.

Tech and his business partner Travis O’Guin have been building Strange Music, Inc. from the ground up for close to 20 years. Nipsey got dropped by Epic Records before starting his independent grind. Spitta was hustling and learning about the rap game from No Limit and Cash Money since 2002.

It’s never easy and takes a special type of person to succeed in the independent music industry. Someone who has the entrepreneurial spirit combined with the gritty fortitude to keep going no matter how hard it gets.

As a digital platform focused on showcasing independent hip-hop artists from all over the world, Stop The Breaks has had the opportunity to talk with hundreds of artists about their grind and really get an understanding of what creates success in this industry.

Here are our top 10 keys to success for independent artists. Or as Future would put it “I got the keys, the keys, the keys.”

1. Understand effective marketing

In its simplest form, marketing is raising the profile of a brand and its products or services in the public’s mind. So in that case, I would say all independent artists understand the basics of marketing their music – yes, even those rappers spamming SoundCloud links are doing some form of marketing.

But notice that I wrote “understand effective marketing,” which makes all the difference in the world between success and failure.

You can market your music by hitting up everyone on your Twitter feed with a link to your new single, or, you can effectively market your music by creating a solid marketing strategy and executing it regularly.

2. Relentless work ethic

There’s a saying: “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.” You’re not going to be successful at anything in this world without hard work and dedication, shout out to Money Mayweather.

Look at all our case studies on successful artists – whether it’s superstars like Kanye West and Drake or independent grinders like Yo Gotti – and the one constant factor is that they put in the long hours above everything else.

How do you think Curren$y drops some many projects in one year (8 so far in 2016 and counting)? How do you think Gucci manages to flood the streets even when locked up? How do you think Fetty Wap scored a number one album and five top 40 hit singles?

It’s all about hard work guys. But not just about the music.

In addition to putting in the long hours working on your craft; you also have to put in the hours distributing and promoting the music, fine-tuning your live performances, engaging with fans online and offline, and constantly educating yourself on the business side of things.

Which brings us to…

3. Music industry knowledge

Like Rap Coalition founder and music industry veteran, Wendy Day, said: “I think the most important trait is seeking out the knowledge and experience to do this properly. You either hire the right people who have the knowledge and connections to help you succeed as an artist or you learn how to do this yourself.”

Educating yourself thoroughly on the music business will make a huge difference in your success as an artist. Make sure you understand the fundamentals of music publishing and licensing your content, especially if you’re looking to set up your own independent record label.

4. Strong team around you

To Wendy’s point above, if you don’t have the experience or time to learn about the music business, then you need to make sure you build yourself a strong team to address your weaknesses.

Just because you’re an independent artist doesn’t mean you have to do everything alone. There are only so many hours in the day and you have to be smart on which tasks you dedicate your time to and which tasks you delegate.

Depending on what you’re missing in your arsenal, consider hiring a manager, marketing director or promoter, tour manager, graphic designer, lawyer and accountant. It doesn’t have to be right away, but you should definitely have a plan to slowly build up your team as you hit new levels in your recording career.

5. Effective social media presence

How many rappers do you know who are really active on Twitter or Facebook, but all they’re doing is spamming their followers with music links? There’s no genuine engagement with fans, no real interaction with followers, just blindly spamming link after link hoping they’re going to be the next big thing.

Don’t do this. Trust me, it’ll do more harm than good.

It’s good to be active on as many social media networks as possible, but only if you can manage them properly and engage with the fans regularly, otherwise don’t spread yourself too thin. It’s better to be active and effective on 3 platforms, rather than on all them and not using them properly.

6. Produce regular content for fans

We’re currently living in a super connected world where consumers are conditioned for instant gratification and trained to get everything, right away. As an artist, you have to try your best to fulfill these consumer needs.

There are only a few major artists out there who can get away with disappearing for months on end and coming back to commercial success. Kanye, Eminem, Drake and Kendrick, just to name a few.

Everybody else needs to be continually creating and distributing content to stay in touch with fans. When I say content, I don’t just mean music. It can be social media updates, email newsletters, tour videos, blog posts, guest articles, whatever you need to engage with your fans.

7. Investing in building their brand

Investing the time and money to build up your brand now is the most important thing you can do for a long-term career in the rap game. Other artists can copy your ideas, fashion, music, and believe me, they will. The only thing they can’t copy is your brand.

Think about the most successful independent artists in the game and how they communicate their brand to their fans. Currensy has his Jet Life movement, Tech N9ne with his insane live shows and Technicians following, Chance The Rapper and his positive, Chicago music.

Everything you put out contributes to building your brand, whether it’s positive or negative. Your new logo has just as much impact on your overall brand as how you perform on tour. It’s a long term investment but it’ll definitely pay dividends if you put in the effort now.

8. Focused promotion campaigns

Marketing is your overall strategy of raising awareness of your music and brand to your target audience; promotion campaigns are more tactical and focused.

For example, releasing an album would be one promo campaign. To ensure you get the most out of your promotion budget, your campaigns need to be planned out and precise. Consider the best distribution channels for this project – will it be online, offline or both? Which platform will you be using – Bandcamp, SoundCloud, iTunes, etc.?

Which publications and blogs are you going to be targeting? It’s better to pick out 10 to 15 to send out personalized press releases rather than spamming 1,000 people with a generic message.

Once you have everything in order, hit the launch button.

9. High quality product

Let’s keep this one short and sweet. To be a successful independent hip-hop artist, you need to have dope music. I don’t mean Grammy-award winning, critically acclaimed music – I just mean music that will build you a fanbase. You need to make music that people want to listen to, otherwise, it’s not going to work, period.

10. Create realistic goals

Being ambitious is one thing, having realistic goals is another. It’s great if you have ambitions to be the biggest rapper in the world, making the most money, winning awards, selling out stadiums, but having pragmatic, achievable goals is a much better way to approach your recording career.

Let’s take a look at J. Cole. He went from posting songs online to standing outside JAY Z’s building, wanting to produce for the legend. Cole dropped mixtape after mixtape and it was only after Hov heard “Lights Please” that he decided to sign the rapper to Roc Nation.

From there, he released a number one album, went platinum just last year, and is now selling out stadiums across the world with his very own HBO documentary and record label, Dreamville Records, financed by Interscope.

Having goals is the best way to not drive yourself crazy, thinking that your career is going nowhere. Start off small – e.g. you want to perform in front of 25 people for the first time in your career, you want to drop a mixtape, you want to collaborate with an artist you like, etc.

Create a list of realistic, achievable goals, then tick them off as you accomplish them. Keep grinding, keep working, keep putting out dope product, keep engaging with your fans and your dreams will come.

Pressing Vinyl: Why It’s a Good Call and Some Things to Consider

[Editors Note: This is a guest blog written by Michael L. Moore, editor and founder of Devoted To Vinyl.]

The life of an independent artist is a complex mix of jubilation and terror. On one hand, you’re excited to share your life with the world through your musical creativity. On the other hand, the thrill of tomorrow is met with the stark realities of today.

You’ve got bills.

Student loans.

Car expenses.

It can be difficult to make ends meet.

The good news is, as an indie artist, you know where a lot of your sales come from: merchandise. While it continues to be hard for artists to gain exposure and earn money, an indie artist still has the ability to sell out concerts and move T-shirts, buttons, and albums to hungry fans.

What you may not know, however, is that while everyone continues to listen to music on Spotify, iTunes, and Tidal, vinyl records have been making a comeback for ten years.

And it could be the perfect medium to boost your bottom line, too.

Why Vinyl?

You might be wondering why anyone in their right mind would even considering getting their music pressed onto a medium that dates back to the late 20th century. The fact is, however, that what once was old is new again.

In short, vinyl is enjoying an unprecedented resurgence within the music industry.

According to Nielsen, by the end of 2015, the sale of vinyl records hit a new all-time record with 12 million units sold. In fact, this marked the 10th consecutive year of vinyl growth.

But there’s more to it than just the potential for money. Vinyl has found a new audience—especially with the millennial generation—because of its unique history. Once the most popular format for decades, vinyl eventually took a backseat to technological advances that included 8-track, cassette tapes, CD’s, Napster, iPods, and streaming music.

Suddenly, records went underground, being used mostly by DJs in dance clubs and sold in seemingly antiquated independent record stores.

pressing vinyl
c/o Creative Commons

But now, with music becoming digitally compressed, less tangible and hyper convenient, new generations of music lovers are discovering the thrill of tactile collectability. Kids are enjoying the feeling of being connected to their favorite indie band via 12” x 12” cover art, colored vinyl, and the interactivity of dropping a needle onto a spinning disc that emits pops, crackles, and warm sound.

If you’re an independent artist, vinyl is your medium. Whether you want to create a beautiful gatefold for your fans, include a life-size poster of your band within the jacket, or add a holographic image directly onto your record, vinyl is one of the few remaining mediums that allows an artist to connect directly to his or her audience in a physical, engaging, intimate, and highly creative manner.

Plan Out Your Vinyl Pressing

Here’s where things get tricky. While vinyl is enjoying a huge record boom, the industry itself is not significantly expanding the amount of pressing plants within the United States (one or two exceptions notwithstanding).

Due to this, independent artists and labels are competing for space and time alongside major artists and record labels. That doesn’t mean that you can’t get your vinyl pressed, but with mainstream demand for vinyl at a record (pardon the pun) high, you have to be a little more strategic.

In order to press your music on vinyl, first come up with a plan. To do so, you have to understand the medium itself. Do you want your music to be pressed on 12” standard weight vinyl? What about the heavier and sturdier 180-gram record, which some audiophiles believe produces a higher musical fidelity? Or, do you only need a 7” record pressed?

Next, understand how music works when it’s pressed onto vinyl. Records are not akin to CDs, where you can place an entire 50 minute album on one hand-sized circular disc.

With vinyl, there are limitations.

A 12” record, for example, contains approximately 22 minutes worth of music on each side. These are often reserved for full-length albums. A 7” record, by contrast, contains approximately four and a half minutes of music on each side. These are often designated for singles—with one song per side.

Records spin at different speeds, as well. A 12” record usually spins at 33-1/3 RPM (Revolutions Per Minute), but can also spin at a faster 45 RPM in an attempt to achieve higher musical fidelity. A 7” record, by contrast, usually spins at just 45 RPM.

You’ll also want to consider the possibility of having your music pressed on colored vinyl. Not only can vinyl come in different colors, it can even have swirls of different colors within it. Do note, however, that coloring or mixing your vinyl can potentially adversely affect the sound of your music.

This is something you’ll want to discuss in-depth with the pressing plant you’re working with.

Finding a Pressing Plant

Currently, there’s roughly a couple dozen pressing plants available within the United States, so it’s important to note that once you have an idea of how you want your vinyl pressed, you then should shop around for the best price and turnaround time.

Turnaround time, in particular, is very important. With so many different artists and labels pressing vinyl, you’re going to need to make sure that you adequately time the manufacturing and eventual in-hand receipt of your pressed record properly.

If, for example, you know you want to sell your records at a specific concert or event date, you need to give the pressing plant adequate lead-time to press your record. On top of that, you’re going to want to investigate whether the plant you’re selecting is a one-stop shop for everything (pressing, labeling, jacket printing, etc), or if you’re going to need to contact additional businesses to complete all of your required services.

Gotta Groove Records Pressing Plant, for example, is a Cleveland, Ohio operation that does everything—from lacquer mastering and record electroforming to record pressing and label printing.

pressing vinyl
Gotta Groove c/o Creative Commons

Although getting records pressed is an investment, it’s also worth noting that a lot of music fans are willing to pay more for vinyl than they would music on any other medium. While CDs can be found for $9.99 and under, and streaming services range from costing ten dollars to being completely free (albeit supported by ads), many fans are already accustomed to paying anywhere from $15 to $30 for a quality, limited edition vinyl record of their favorite artist or band.


The life of an indie artist is tough. And while streaming music seems to be the most convenient way to consume popular music, fans want to support the independent artists that they love.  

So consider getting your music pressed onto vinyl. It may be one of the better choices you make—both in terms of fan engagement and income.


Michael L. Moore is a vinyl enthusiast whose record collection has
eclipsed the century mark. He owns and operates the website Devoted to
Vinyl, which aims to educate readers on how to get started in the hobby of
collecting and playing vinyl records through equipment reviews, opinion
pieces on turntables and music, and news pertaining to the industry at
large.

Maximizing Facebook Ads On an Indie Budget

[Editors NoteThis is a guest blog post written by Don Bartlett, owner of No Door Agency, an Austin, TX-based boutique management and marketing agency. Don also hosts a monthly seminar titled “Facebook Marketing For Musicians.]

Independent artists are constantly looking for ways to eke maximum value from very limited promotion budgets. As Facebook continues to solidify its position at the center of the social media ecosystem, many conversations revolve around taking advantage of their incredibly powerful advertising tools.

The primary hesitations about the platform tend to be some combination of “it’s too expensive” and “we don’t see results”, but by sticking to a few core targeting and budgeting strategies you can take advantage of Facebook’s promotional benefits without going broke in the process.

In our experience you don’t need to spend a lot of money on Facebook advertising to get concrete results. However, if you’re working with a modest budget, it’s even more critical to structure your campaigns in a way that delivers the most value.

To this end, start with a premise: The bulk of your “results” – ticket sales and album sales in most cases – are going to come from your existing fans. Using Facebook ads to increase this pool is a separate topic entirely, but once a show is on sale your focus should shift to those who have already identified themselves as fans.

The most effective way to spend money on Facebook by a wide mile is reaching this group of people. On the surface this seems like a very easy concept and in many ways it is. So why do so many bands have a tough time getting results from their campaigns? In many cases, they’re spending too much.

Let’s look at an example…let’s say a band has 500 Facebook fans in Chicago, and they have an upcoming Windy City show scheduled that they’d like to promote:

Assuming a typical ad cost of about $10 per 1,000 people reached, a budget of $10 will reach all of those fans, likely twice each.

Since these 500 people are our most-likely ticket buyers, we always suggest reaching them three different times leading up to a show. However, these three campaigns should to be separated from each other by some “dead air” time where people won’t be seeing your ad.

Think of it as a reminder. This is a group of people who already likes your band, so they don’t need to be persuaded – they just need to be reminded. And if you remind someone about something five times a day, they’ll be annoyed. If you remind them every week or two, they’ll appreciate it.

So ideally, the band creates three different campaigns budgeted at $10 each, for a total of $30. It’s important to note here that this is very different from a single campaign for $30.

With the 10/10/10 model, they’ve got 100% coverage of their fans a few different times, but not to the point where they’re being bombarded six times a day for a month.

So to reach the 500 fans in this example $30 is not only all you need to spend, it’s all you SHOULD spend. Unfortunately many bands think that by pushing the budget up to $100 is going to give an extra push to ticket sales, when the reality is that it won’t help – and often it hurts. When people see your ad too many times they often will block or hide the ad posts, which negatively affects your page’s organic reach down the line.

There are certainly ways to put an additional $70 to good use, but that isn’t one of them. And the bulk of actual ticket sales are always to your existing fans so spending the $30 is critical, but spending the additional $70, even when done correctly, is far, far less critical.

Which brings us to another critical component of campaign structure: Your ads to existing fans should always be separate from any other targets.

As your most-likely ticket buyers, you want to ensure 100% coverage of this target. With other targets, you’re just looking to reach as many people as possible within your budget. So instead of running one campaign to “fans of our band, fans of Band X and fans of Band Y”, you should run one campaign to “fans of our band”, budgeting to ensure full coverage, and then a separate one to “fans of Band X and Band Y”.

To be sure, there are plenty of other elements that go into successful Facebook Ad campaigns. But following these targeting and budgeting strategies will put any campaign in a much better position to maximize the value of limited budgets.

3 Tried & True Methods of Negotiating Higher Pay From Venues

[Editors Note: This article was written by Jhoni Jackson and originally appeared on the Sonicbids Blog.]

Upstart bands and artists in the early stages of cultivating a fanbase often encounter opposition when booking. From a business perspective, it makes sense: if a talent buyer or venue owner isn’t sure you’ll draw a crowd, then handing over a potentially big-bar-sales night to you is a risk. And when you do land a gig, he or she might insist on minimizing that risk by offering you a super low pay rate – or no pay at all. How do you convince that person you deserve more?

When looking to negotiate higher pay from venues, these three strategies can actually yield results, especially if you work hard to promote your shows. Really, these methods mean opportunities to genuinely earn more if you put in the extra effort. Talent buyers and venue owners can appreciate that, and most will pay you accordingly.

1. Show your worth with numbers

Bands often reference what they’ve been paid before when suggesting a guarantee or percentage. That’s a somewhat futile method of negotiating, as no two venues are exactly alike financially. What works for one in terms of payments won’t necessarily work for another.

Your best tools of persuasion here are found on social media. How sizeable is your online fanbase? For your last show, how many responses did you get to the Facebook event? It does matter, of course, how many actually showed up – but if you don’t have crowd shots (use them if you do!), then the closest thing to proof of great attendance is those event responses. Send over your social media pages as well as past events to show the strength of your following.

This won’t work for everyone, of course. Obviously, if you’ve never played before, you don’t have any previous Facebook events to use as examples. Additionally, not everyone trusts the prowess those numbers supposedly signify: an impressive online following doesn’t always translate to in-person devotion.

2. The plus deal

This is sometimes referred to as “back end,” though that’s technically the name of the extra profit you get. Here’s how it works: you’re guaranteed a certain percentage or dollar amount, but you also get an additional amount after a certain point. That marker can be a number of tickets sold, or the talent buyer’s bottom line.

For our purposes here, we’re talking about bands and artists who aren’t getting much pay to begin with, so let’s work with relatively low numbers.

Example one: $50 guarantee plus 10 percent back end after 50 tickets sold at $5 each.

In this scenario, you’ll get your $50 either way. But if more than 50 tickets are sold, you get more. Let’s say the cover count is 100 – the door has raked in an additional $250. You’d get $25 extra.

Example two: $50 guarantee plus 10 percent after $250, with tickets at $5 each.

This could be a situation where there are four bands on the bill, and each is guaranteed $50. If the door money reaches more than $250 – meaning more than 50 tickets sold – then 10 percent of the surplus goes to you. (And probably 10 percent to each of the other bands, too.) So at 100 tickets sold, you’d get your $50 guarantee, plus $25 more for reaching 100 ticket sales.

These numbers are somewhat arbitrary; they’re intended not as standards of negotiating, but rather as examples you can adjust to fit the exact situation you’re in. Talent buyers and venue owners might be more willing to accept a deal like this because there’s little risk on their part. They don’t think they’ll make enough from the door to pay you more than X amount, and you agree to that amount – but you get a little more if you prove them wrong.

3. Prove your draw, then up your rate

Did it take a lot of convincing to get the gig? If the talent buyer or venue owner is dubious of your ability to pull a crowd, he or she might ask you to play for free. When you’re just starting out, that’s okay, but you should always be looking toward the future. You should only perform at no charge when it means it’ll get you closer to paid, or at least better quality gigs. (Or if it’s for charity.)

Agree to play for free (or cheap) once, but ask them to commit to another gig if you draw X number of attendees. Post-show, if you can, talk with whoever booked you. What did he or she think about the performance? The turnout? If the right person isn’t present, follow up the next day via email or whatever form of contact that person preferred in the past.

Send him or her a clip of your set if you’ve got one, and mention the fan response as a way to help him or her see that your next show can be even more successful, and that you deserve some level of payment. Try to actually book a follow-up gig before the conversation goes stale. (Booking several months ahead is ideal, anyway.)

For more on transitioning from free shows to paid gigs, check out this interview with a seasoned musician who’s successfully moved into making a living off her music.


Jhoni Jackson is an Atlanta-bred music journalist currently based in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where she juggles owning a venue called Club 77, freelance writing and, of course, going to the beach as often as possible.