Words by Hayley.
Paying your musicians can be confusing and awkward at the best of times. It’s a hard conversation to navigate, especially if you’ve never had a musician or DJ play at your venue before.
Here at Muso we believe it should be as fair and easy as possible for both artists and venue owners when artists are being booked.
On Muso, venue managers set their budget, something different to the industry. Muso does this to allow new venues to enter the live music game without having a massive impact on their bottom line. This may mean that the budget is below our guide. This is fine on the Muso platform, just be aware that musicians may not show interest in your gig first, and that you may sacrifice on the experience of the musician.
The average pay for musicians according to Payscale is $72.67 per hour. However, this incorporates all work that surrounds the gig and shouldn’t be the gig rate itself. Our recommended rates are.
It’s generally a rule of $100-$150 per artist per hour.
Beyond that we’ve put together the below as a general rule of thumb to make sure your rates are to standard. Be aware that multiple factors can come into play when calculating how much to pay any musician for a gig, there is no simple answer and it usually differs from artist to artist.
These are some elements of every job that need to be taken into consideration when booking an artist. The gig is one thing, but there are a suite of other factors that come into play when working out fair payment.
How far do your musicians have to travel? Are you in a central location or further away from the CBD? Musicians need to pay for petrol and public transport fares too. If you’re not in a CBD location, factor in a travel fee to the rate. Usually it’s about $30.00 per hour of travel.
Do the musicians need to bring all of their own gear or will you as the venue provide a basic setup? The less the musicians have to bring the easier and more cost effective.
Artist may have to hire equipment, especially if you’re hiring a PA or DJ decks. PA’s may cost them anywhere between $70.00 and $250.00 to hire per night depending on the quality.
Length of Performance
How long are your musicians required to play for? How many sets? How long is each set? Longer sets usually have a higher pay rate because it requires the artist to dig deeper into their repertoire.
It also takes a toll on energy levels.
Level of Experience
Is the musician you hired a beginner or a seasoned veteran? The more experienced the higher the pay rate. More on that below.
Are you asking the artist to go above and beyond? If artists have to learn a new song you need to factor in rehearsal time. If they are a part of special moment take into account what it requires and compensate for it in their rate.
The level of experience the musician has also factors into the overall rate they should be compensated. It can be broken into 3 categories:
This performer is very new to the live gigging scene. They may be fresh students or a young performer who loves their craft. These types of musicians won’t expect a very large pay rate, moreover they are super excited to be paid for something they love and will likely be just as talented. As such they are perfect to entry level venues looking for new musicians. They do still need to be paid however.
This Muso has been gigging live for a few years now and knows what they’re doing. They are very talented musicians who take their craft seriously and may be studying music or have been performing for a long time. This Muso will be more costly than a beginner but will be happy to walk away with a couple of hundred for their time and effort.
This musician is a seasoned veteran and makes a living off their craft. They have been performing their whole lives and put on a great show. They will be very well prepared and aware of the process. This type of musician will expect a higher rate than your average performer, however it will be a worthwhile investment.
Another factor of determining a fair rate for an artist would be the type of artist and size of their act.
Here is a general idea of the different types of artists and a minimum hourly rate idea:
Each act will change in price and the larger the group the more expensive. A fair rate would be that each musician in the group can walk away with $150-$200 each. However, the length of their performance also comes into play. For example, a solo performer playing 2 one-hour acoustic sets would usually be paid $200 for their time as a base rate. For a full 5-piece band playing two 45 minute sets would be given anywhere between $700-$800 as a base rate, also factoring in amount of equipment needed.
The type of gig should also be considered into the final cost. A simple acoustic performance at a bar is a standard gig for any musician. However, a wedding or large performance in a band room takes a lot of rehearsal time, material and preparation, therefore should be compensated fairly.
Paying your artists is important. Most use it as a supplement to their income or in a lot of cases use it as their main form of income. $100.00 an hour may seem steep in comparison with rates of other industries, but you have to remember that musicians spend a lot of time around your gig rehearsing, refining and preparing. The level of energy that goes into that hour dictates the rate.
Always think about the value a musician or DJ is bringing your venue and make sure that is reflected in your rates.