How much should your live band be paid when you play a gig? That’s a very delicate question and the answer is going to be different for pretty much every gig you play. Some clubs pay a standard $350 per night. Some will give you a percentage of the door receipts. Some clubs pay less and some pay a lot more. The thing that you have to remember is that gig payment is always negotiable and it’s up to you to agree to a fee before you play the gig.
The most important thing to remember when booking a gig is to negotiate payment in advance of the gig. Try to reduce any variables the venue may throw at you. If the venue tells you “we’ll decide on payment after we see how many people show up” then that is a great big red flag and you should seriously consider not playing that venue. Don’t agree to any stipulations such as “payment based on food and drink sales”. Even payment based on door receipts is tricky because most clubs won’t let you audit their door receipts. The best thing to do when you’re booking your gig is to get all the payment details right up front.
The ideal situation is to decide on a nightly fee and then have a written contract that specifies how much your live band will be paid. The contract should then be signed by both the booking agent for the venue and a representative of your band. This simple act of securing a signed contract in advance will solve a multitude of problems when it comes time to collect your fee from the venue.
The contract should include basic things like the actual time your live band will start and end the show. The number and duration of all band breaks. If you’re travelling and the venue has offered to cover your accommodations your contract should cover items such as lodging, transportation and meals. The contract should also cover potential problems such as gig cancellation or unforeseen disasters.
I have used this basic Live Band Performance Contract <–click to download for years and it has served it’s purpose very well. As you can see, all the most important aspects of booking a gig are present in the live band performance contract. Filling this contract out and getting is signed will help you protect your live band at every gig you play.
The sad reality is, a lot of gigs are booked with a verbal agreement and a handshake. That’s not too bad if you’re booking return gigs to a club and you already have a signed contract from your first gig. You can always refer back to the contract you secured during your first gig at a venue if you have problems during return bookings. Still, there will be clubs and venues that will only ever book you with a verbal agreement and a handshake.
So what can you do to protect your live band when you book a gig with only a verbal agreement as to how much your band will be paid for the gig? The best you can do is play the gig in good faith and see if the venue lives up to their end of the agreement. If they don’t, your only recourse is to never play that venue again. I can tell you from experience that clubs and venue’s that don’t pay their bands a good, honest fee will not have quality bands for very long. A club cannot survive without good bands that are willing to play there. So the clubs basically sign their own death sentence when they fail to pay their bands.
What you don’t want to do is bash the venue online or even do too much bashing around your local music scene. It’s okay to tell your story but it’s enough to say “We booked the gig, they said they would pay us X amount of dollars and they didn’t.”. Word will get around and before long, that venue will not be able to book bands anymore.
I hope this helps you in securing payment for all your hard work playing in your live band. It’s always an adventure out there, just remember to keep a cool head and know that the clubs will get good bands if they pay well and no bands if they screw the bands over. Make sure you download the Live Band Performance Contract and use it!