Thursday, 5 July 2012

The Value of Live Music.


A deviation from technical subjects today to discuss a topic near and dear to me.
What is the value of live music?
How much should your band charge?

The answer to this question is that "It depends".
One of the problems with live music is that from a musicians perspective, its is a pretty fun thing to do.
Getting up on stage is an exhilertating and satisfying experience and that has a nasty side effect in that it often clouds a musicians judgement on what is a wise thing to do.

When you have a fun job and you get offered an opportunity to do it, of course you want to accept every opportunity that comes along because you don't really see it as a job. The problem is that many of these opportunities are to perform for free and by agreeing to perform for free you are basically shouting out at the top of your voice that your performance is not worth anything.

Think of it this way....
As you walk into a McDonalds, someone hands you a voucher for a free Big Mac. Mmmm nom nom nom you think.
So you go to the counter and get your free Big Mac.
Just as you are walking away from the counter, your Big Mac slips out of your hand and smashes to bits on the floor.
Oh crap you think, but how upset are you really? Chances are you will just shrug your shoulders and say "Oh well, it was free anyway".

Now if you paid for that same Big Mac, you are going to be a whole lot more upset about it because you made the concious decision to part with some money in order to get it. Really think about that for a second and about how you may have used the words "Oh well it was free anyway" at some point in the past.

They are the same Big Mac and they cost exactly the same to make, however, we don't value the free one at all, while we place a higher value on the one we paid for. The free one is nice to have and we certainly enjoy it. But if we didn't have it or we lost it we wouldn't really care at all. When you pay for something, you enjoy it more and generally the more you pay for something the more you tend to associate it with quality. Think of wine and how much people pay for a 'good' bottle of wine.
Its just wine, but for some reason, some people think that a bottle that costs $500 tastes better than a bottle that costs $20.
Really the only thing that is different is the price. The wine still came from grapes on vines and probably cost around the same to produce. Its just they probably made a LOT of the $20 bottle and not very much of the $500 bottle.
Still, wine 'people' will swear black and blue that the $500 bottle tastes better.
It doesn't taste better, it just tastes different.

Unfortunately for us music works the same way.
If you play for free, your performance will not be valued, you will not be valued and you are effectively telling people that your product is worthless.

So how much should you charge?
Well again, it depends.

If you are a huge international star and a promotor is selling tickets for your show, then your value is quite high for obvious reasons. But how much is a band playing in a pub worth?

If a band just turns up and plays 3 hours of covers, does no promotion for the event, doesn't bring any followers and doesn't encourage people to spend money at the bar, then the value of that band is quite low. Its simple economics, if a bar has to pay you $1000 but the bar only makes an extra $500 by having you there, then you are overcharging.

However, if you promote to 5000 facebook fans, you print posters, you generate a huge buzz about your gig and bring an army of followers to the pub that all spend a small fortune at the bar, then you will quickly find the demand for your band goes through the roof and your ability to charge a high rate goes up accordingly.
The pub will also not care if you play covers, originals or the theme songs to childrens programs because they are making significantly more money than what they would if you were not there.
This same model works for any type of event but pubs are the easiest and most common example to work with.

Musicians often complain about being poor or only being able to charge a couple of hundred dollars for their whole band to perform.
This probably means you are doing something wrong.

If a pub says to you "We only pay bands $300" then you are doing something wrong.
If a pub says to you "How much do you charge" then you are doing something right.
If your answer is $2000 for a 3 hour show at a pub, then you are doing something really right!

In order to maximise how much you can charge, my advise is to:
- sort out your marketing and promotion and make sure it is top notch
- generate a following and a huge buzz around every performance.
- create a reason for people to come to your shows (new songs, giveaways)
- Actively pursue a large facebook following
- Make sure you have a top quality website with all your news and gig info
- Name a drink after your band and get the bar to do a special on it then get everyone to buy one.
- Book gigs in blocks, give pubs a discount for booking you for 5 gigs in advance over the next 6 months.
- Actively promote the pub during your gigs, actively promote the bar and any drinks specials.
- Actively promote your next performance at the same bar, say when you will be back.
- Actively tell everyone your band name at least 5 times during the show so it sticks and they remember.
- Make sure your audience has an awesome time!!! (don't just play for your own satisfaction)