3 Tips to Negotiate Your Way to Success in the Music Industry

negotiate your way to success

Talented musicians often receive offers to play at different types of events. From private parties and corporate events, to small family functions, you’ll want to book gigs that offer the best opportunity to grow your career and expand your audience. The following three tips will help you negotiate and get the best rate and exposure to grow your audience and your bank account.

Have an Updated Rate Card

If you’re good at what you do, bands, promoters, and event hosts may approach you to curtain raise, play background, star as the main performer, or teach a music class.

You probably won’t charge the same for your neighbor’s six-year-old kid’s birthday party as you would charge a big corporation for their nationwide product launch. When it comes to set lengths, do not charge per hour. Instead, set different price points depending on the length of the set.

A three-hour gig shouldn’t cost the same as three one-hour gigs. Price points are necessary because some costs you incur remain constant.

Costs such as setting up gear, transport, renting a tux, creating costumes, etc. may drive up your expenses for a one-off small gig but may seem insignificant for a lengthy repeat gig. A time-dependent price point could look something like this:

  • 0-1 hour = $800
  • 1-2 hours = $1,200
  • 2-4 hours = $2,000

With an updated rate card, you have a baseline from where to start negotiations. Even when your client proposes a lower pay, most will stick close to your rate (negotiation anchor) rather than ask for ridiculous discounts.

Keep your rate card regularly updated because, as your skills improve, your audience grows, and your team expands, so too may the demands for your performances and the prices you charge. An outdated rate card may shortchange you by setting you at a low negotiation point.

Factor in All Expenses

Music speaks to the mind and to the heart. For example, you may not give your best performance if you’re not feeling the right atmosphere in the venue. You need the right tools and the right environment to bring out the desired effect on the audience.

Being mentally and emotionally prepared may mean that sometimes you will have to create theme-based costumes. Or, you may have to rent a theatre or studio to prep your performance, or hire a dancing troupe to complement your performance.

Whatever you need to bring your show to life, ensure you factor in all your expenses in your charges. Be prepared to talk about associated expenses with your client before they book you, and come from a place of comfort and confidence. Otherwise, if you pay out of pocket, your overheads will eat into your profits and compromise your artistic and business success.

Negotiate to Build the Right Relationships

Talent and charisma may only take you so far. Your path to success as a musician will likely depend largely on the networks and support you build along the way. The people driving your success may include:

  • Band members
  • Managers and agents
  • Promoters and marketers
  • Club owners
  • Event planners
  • Radio hosts
  • Celebrity personalities
  • Influencers
  • Travel agents
  • Costume designers
  • Studio owners
  • Instrument manufacturers

To become successful, you may have to surround yourself with people who believe in your success and are willing to go over and beyond to achieve that success. While some relationships may be incidental (your former classmate who plays acoustic guitar), others may have to be intentionally pursued (like the celebrity promoter).

Many of your business relationships may have to be secured through negotiation to position yourself for success. Negotiation classes can equip you to form win-win relationships since in your music career you may have to:

  • Haggle partnership agreements with your band members
  • Set commissions with agents
  • Set up commission-based partnerships with promoters
  • Pay for custom instruments or branded equipment
  • Earn from sponsorships and endorsements

When you have an experienced and well-connected network, and can negotiate appropriately, you will increase your chances of music industry success. Your network may increase your access to professional gigs, score invites to A-list and B-list events, boost media promotion, and expose you to high-paying gigs. Relationships and strategic networks in the music industry may just be the catalyst needed to boost your path to stellar success.

Simon Beaufort holds his master’s degree in writing, with coursework in conflict management. As a content creator, he has been writing and editing articles which bring negotiating class knowledge to the world. Simon gained valuable experience editing his university’s newspaper. He also hones his writing skills in his free time, meeting with other writers for a creative writing club. He is a film buff and has a near encyclopedic knowledge of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy.

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