What you should be paid
Pay to Play
The Fair Play Guide was created in response to the issue of ‘pay to play’, a practice operated by promoters or bookers whereby artists are expected to pay in order to play a gig, either by way of a cash payment or by purchasing large quantities of tickets which they then have to sell to fans in an attempt to break even.
It’s in the interests of musicians to understand what represents a fair deal to them when booking gigs. For new and emerging artists, offers of gigs might not initially involve guaranteed fees. However, artists can still make good money from shows, either by negotiating fair ticket deals with promoters or by hosting and promoting their own gigs.
Kelly Wood, Live Performance Official
The financial risk attached to the show, which would traditionally fall upon the promoter, is thus transferred to the artists.
The Fair Play Guide explains how musicians can recognise and negotiate fair deals and subsequently work with promoters to ensure that shows are successful and that they are appropriately remunerated for their efforts and performance.
Remember - It pays to resist the temptation to say yes to everything. Be selective and arrange to play gigs where you can attract a suitable audience.
How much should you charge?
It varies. Most gig fees are negotiated on a case-by-case basis. However, if you’re looking for MU recommended minimum rates we have both a Casual Stage rate and a National Gig rate.
Things to consider when securing a paid gig:
- Get it in writing: Having written confirmation of the terms of the gig ensures both sides know what is expected e.g., what time to arrive and how much you’re going to get paid etc. Without written evidence of the contracted terms, if a problem arises, recovering your fee is made far more difficult. The MU Regional teams assist members in fee recovery.
- Contracts: We advise you to use our standard contracts L1 Hiring a band or L2 Hiring a solo musician. Make it clear to the venue or booker that there is no agreed booking until the contract is signed by both parties.
- If you can’t get the booker to sign an MU contract, we recommend you get a letter/e-mail from them confirming the booking and including details of the date, time and place. Using our Specimen Letter is a simple way of getting the important details of a booking confirmed in writing.
Some examples of the fee arrangement you may be offered or able to negotiate are:
- A straightforward guaranteed fee (paid in advance, on the night or within an agreed timescale).
- A guaranteed fee plus a percentage of the door / box office takings
- The entire door take, whatever that might be.
- A split of the gig’s profits. This could include box office and/or bar takings. We have a MU L10 Profit Sharing Agreement for use.
- Hidden costs: Make sure there are no hidden deductions, such as payments for the hire of PA, lights, promotion or other unnamed expenses.