Pricing Gigs (or) I Don’t Understand.

General Warning: If you don’t want to know vague financial details about my life and work then please don’t read this and continue to believe I am a poor struggling artist who magically pays her mortgage through song and hope…




I just got back from playing at a restaurant. This is a nice restaurant that I like performing at however they do things a little differently and I, honestly for the life of me, can not figure out the correlation between what they are paying me and the duration of time I am playing for.


My Prices

N.B. This is only 2017 specific prices. my prices will probably change every year like a normal business.

What I am paid for any event is not decided by me. Sure, I have a set ‘price’ for an event, but what I am actually paid is 100% dependent on the budget for the event.

When I get an email from a client with an event that is up to 2 hours (again this is wedding excluding), I will quote them a price depending on their budget. For any event from 0-2 hours I charge between £175-£250. This is a huge gap in prices but I have a starting price and then I’m happy to negotiate down to my bottom before saying ‘no’. My logic though is this, If it is not a charity event anything under £150 is not a gig I should be at for more than an hour. Quick gigs that are only an hour are fully negotiable because they are short and there is so little chance of me having to wait around! However, if I am doing a wedding and they don’t want to pay me at least £175 for a drinks reception a child will 1) Run head-first into the pillar of my harp (this has happened twice at two different weddings) and 2) A Child will slap the pillar of my harp. (this has happened at three different weddings). So if I am asked to do an event in a decent location for less than this amount of money I will not do it for the sake of my livelihood (my harp.. duh) and also because I can’t afford to waste ‘prime time’ (Wedding season, i.e. a Saturday afternoon in August) where I can find another wedding that will pay me a liveable amount!

I know, I know. ‘Sam… stop complaining about how much you charge/earn… it’s so gauche! aren’t you meant to be a classy musician who doesn’t talk about money, like you were taught to in University?’ (literally, this was something I was “taught” in uni…. more on that at another time). I know, it sounds snobby and trite, but if I don’t talk about it then no one will! LITERALLY NO ONE!!! and then young musicians are just gunna leave music college/uni and have NO IDEA what they need to charge… which is exactly what happened to ME and why I once did a wedding ceremony for £50…………….. yeah…and the bride even had a meeting with me to discuss music…

To enlighten you, here is my ‘Annual Budget Guide’ on how much everything roughly costs me and how much I need to make a week in order to pay for all of these things. Granted I usually aim for £250 a week so typically earn more by default. but this is the bare minimum of what I need to earn in order to keep living. (and I know my website is crazy expensive and I forgot to put my harp insurance on there!)


This is how I got my £175-£250. I don’t like charging over £250 for a two hours event unless it’s a large business that has the money for it!


HOWEVER, back to my point, I have been booked in to play at this restaurant twice before and instead of giving me exact start and finish times, like you would for an event. They divide it up into ‘sets’… two 40minute sets is £100 usually, which kind of makes sense, you do a 40 minute set, you take 5-10 minutes to go to the loo and refill your water, and do your second 40 minute set. Usually, if I play a dinner, I will just play for the whole dinner and take quick stretching breaks during, because I know my body and what it’s comfortable doing and how long it’s comfortable playing for.

Today they had me in a 6pm to do three 30 minute sets… I was puzzled by the exact length of time they wanted me to play as they were staggering their guests so that they could seat people in a calm fashion and I was playing at the bar so that they could sit guests down while they were waiting for their tables. Pretty smart. However, when I got there and asked about the sets and the time in-between the manager replied ‘oh you know…’ and gestured… That is not helpful… so I did my three 30 minute sets (I hope that’s a helpful way of writing that!) with five minute breaks in between because playing for 30 minutes for me is nothing… I play for 2 hours when I busk with little stretching breaks and tea breaks.

So I finished my sets and packed up, I handed the manager my invoice because they pay me in cash for some reason… and he looked surprised, he said ‘oh you did them back to back?’ I replied ‘I took like a five minute break between, you weren’t very specific’, he responded in his glib vague nature ‘oh well… you know… usually they… ummm… take about 20 minutes and have a drink… and… ummm… well…. you know…’. I don’t know. I don’t understand. For this gig (they made up the prices) they were paying me £200 for 3 30minute sets… was I being paid for waiting around? was I being paid for the sets… was I being paid for the entire time I was there? how long was I even supposed to be there?

I don’t understand.

They asked if I would do another half hour set (that’s probably a lot clearer I should’ve used that from the start), and I said, ‘sure, but I will bill you for it’ because, as we have learnt from previous experiences and previous blogs ‘THEY ARE NOT YOUR FRIEND!’ you aren’t ‘helping out’ I’m not gunna take a 20 minute break and start bussing tables… they aren’t a small independent popup that I frequent! I owe them nothing! THEY ASKED ME TO BE THERE!!!

Anyway, so I went and did another set (which involved unpacking all my harp stuff again and then packing it up once I was done…) and I said to the manager ‘Do you want me to write you a new invoice or do you want me to write the extra set on the invoice I’ve given you’ and he said handing me a roll of cash ‘oh… no, I’ve put an extra 20 in if that’s alright…’ I was confused by this and replied ‘well… 50 would have worked because it’s technically £66 a set…’ and then HE was confused…. what? what’s happening…

And then I realised, as I was getting my harp down a flight of stairs because their disabled lift doesn’t work… which just… ugh


Nevertheless, I realised, there is absolutely no correlation between what they are paying me and how long I am performing for/how long I am there for…. They, like me, plucked this ‘sets’ system out of mid-air and assigned numerical value to it, while at the same time getting a quote off me for my system without telling me about their system… so, here we find ourselves… I don’t understand….

Mainly, I don’t understand other ‘musicians’ who do gigs there… do they have time to just sit around for 20 minutes alone in a bar waiting in between sets? what? I get it, if the most expensive bit of a equitment was your PA system, but if you have a harp out you don’t wanna just leave that uncovered in the middle of a crowded bar… that’s lunacy! Also, had I known that they wanted me to sit around for 20 minutes between my ‘sets’ I would’ve brought a book…. my laptop… some work to do…Also, I could’ve given them a price based off what they expected from me and what I expected from the event. Either way, this is a classic case of grown ups not being direct and not frankly and clearly addressing the work they want and then being surprised when it doesn’t meet their expectations. I don’t understand how a place that has staff and clearly knows you have to be specific with timings was so unclear about this this time! Oh well! this explains why they were so surprised by my original price quote! I just don’t understand. I think that is all I can say at this point. I have literally no idea what they were paying me for


Nevermind! I’m back there again next month…. I think the important thing is that they are paying me!