Dear Music Patron:
Thank you for your interest in live music for your event! Our musicians play in many formats (solo act, duet, trio, quartet, full on orchestra, etc.), and can perform many genres (rock, folk, country, coffee house, classical, etc.). Each of the musicians involved has spent untold hours, years, and even decades developing their talents and rehearsing. These efforts give them the power to transform a room full of people into a truly special event, or turn an otherwise ordinary evening out into a memorable experience. Musicians make people laugh, cry, reminisce, dance, and maybe forget their troubles for a brief period of time.
Musicians also invest a lot of money into their craft: buying, maintaining and repairing instruments; promoting their services; paying for gasoline to drive to your venue; paying for rehearsal space; and possibly paying an agency for representation. When they make a commitment to play at your venue, they must then turn down any other offers that might come along for that date. While many musicians also have “day jobs”, truly professional musicians depend almost entirely on income from recording sessions and live events.
So please don’t ask them to play for free, or for “exposure”. When you do so, you are essentially saying to the musicians involved that their time is not worth anything to you. Sometimes a band may offer to play at a restaurant or bar in exchange for food, drinks, and the ability to sell their CDs during the show—but the offer must come from them. If they do so then they have already vetted your venue as one that would possibly be a good return on their investment. For those of you planning charity events, while it’s understandable that you would seek as many donated services as possible, the music should not be one of them. Your caterers, valet parkers, decorators and party suppliers are all being paid, and so the musicians should be as well. Getting sponsorship for music is often easy since it is a high-profile portion of any event program.
Sometimes the subject of payment can be awkward, so let me assist here as well. Like most things in life, in music you get what you pay for. Top-notch musicians get top dollar ($250+ per musician per hour), while newer or more amateur bands will play for less. You have to decide what sort of atmosphere and level of professionalism is needed at your venue. When you sit down to develop your event budget, make two line items: one for the band, and another for a sound technician (the person who brings the big speakers, lights, etc., and monitors the sound to make sure it’s right for the room). Expect to pay at least $1000 for a sound technician, depending on how many hours they will need to be on site. It’s also common courtesy to provide food and beverages for the band members and sound technicians, although it is fair to place a dollar limit on the amount consumed.
Finally, be sure to have a signed agreement with your providers of live music. This protects both parties, and ensures that everyone is clear on all of the terms required for a successful event. Be sure to honor the terms of the contract, irrespective of the success of the event.
Lyric & Lecture
About The Author
Lynette Foss has been teaching biology at the college level for over 20 years, and decided to "take her show on the road" several years ago when she was approached by event organizers to present educational programs to their groups. Her network of scholars and experts on a variety of topics prompted her to start an agency to represent them in addition to herself. Lynette is also a singer and keyboard player in five different bands, with an extended network of musicians from multiple genres. With such a deep reach into the musical community, it made sense to represent them as well, as she had already been booking bands in an unofficial capacity for years. Lynette teaches biology courses at Lake Forest College and formerly at Columbia College Chicago. She received her undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan, and graduate degree from DePaul University.