Booking a Musician – What Are You Actually Paying For?


A great agent once said that “The reason you artists have agents is that, if no one does these “contract things” for you – problem is – you’ll do it without one.” The problem, when booking a musician, is that many operate within the laisse faire, gig-to-gig mentality. Yes. It’s a passion that is very easy to exploit. We’ve all heard the “for exposure” clause. And we’re not telling the joke about the muso and the pizza. You know – that delicious, wheel of goodness that can feed a family of four.

Before I get carried away with my zest for travel and fine Italian food, let me get back to the crux of this informative article. When you, as the valued client, are paying for a proper live act, as one should, it comes with parameters as definitive as the length of the string. Booking a musician is far more complex than choosing a pizza off the menu. So what are you actually paying for? This article. Part 1 of a two-part series, will hopefully enlighten you a lot more.


Booking a Musician – A no-frills Experience

With sound or no sound, backline or backtrack, is the act from far, and do they have a Grammy or not? These are all factors that greatly influence your price. So let’s not focus on rooms draped in Egyptian linen and M&M’s assorted by colour as we love to read in leaked riders for some of the biggest egos in the world.

Let’s focus on the solid working musician that most probably is catering to your wedding music, corporate or anniversary dinner. Whisking your family, colleagues or friends away in an evening or afternoon of splendid jazz, folk, classical, or other genres. Either from the stage, flooded in lights, or more intimately – serenading your fiancé-to-be by a violin player or dashing fiddler (there’s a difference – that’s coming up in my next Blog), right by her side.

The anecdotes are endless when it comes to why musicians charge what they do, and in comparison (and with some context) reveals why it is probably not that an expensive line item but actually – always a bargain of a deal.


1. Experience

A great Producer once commented, “you have to play, to be able to play”. And to get to a point where you can comfortably showcase your talent in front of a live audience not only takes immense courage, but also an immense amount of hours making the most terrible mistakes. Not to mention, a generation of driving the family or your teacher wild. Thus, the number of hours clocked up practicing in a musician’s bedroom, and figuring it all out may just equate to the same as an actual degree in something. Oh wait, many have that too – a degree in Music! So that time must apply as well!


booking a musician


2. Equipment / Gear:

The Curse of the Gear Junkie is very real and a pandemic amongst musicians everywhere. long before the arrival of COVID-19. Particularly electric guitarists. But remember, if you are hiring a surgeon you would probably not want them to use a rusty ol’ scalpel. And the price of a Studio Desk could be matched that of an X-Ray machine. When booking a musician, you are also investing in the quality of his or her work tools that they will be supplying at your special event. Where I am getting at is; technology and specialised music equipment are not cheap and addiction to tone is more harrowing than heroine. Perhaps that’s what gave Keith Richards his Edge? Whichever. Drums are expensive too. But this blog is aimed at real musicians.


3. Instruments:

Please refer to Section 2 where all the same principles and motivation applies


4. Focus

A musical director once said that performance happens during an extreme case of focus. Something that can be acquainted with watching a speck of paint on a solid wall for three hours flat. Like a cat in that split second, it crouches down to leap from one couch to the other far away. Another great Band Director from Australia also remarked that “participating in performance was like riding a bike”. Except that the bike is on fire. You’re on fire. Everything is on fire!
So it is important to take note that booking a musician to perform demands an incredible amount of energy and presence that leaves the performer always only as good as his/her last gig. And you are getting it all, for the hard-earned cash that you have committed.


booking a musician


Booking a Musician for your next Wedding or Event

Thank you for taking the time to understand a lot more about the rationale behind how musicians justify their pricing strategy. And please drop in next week, for the continuation of this Blog topic. I am David Delaney and I am a wedding violinist that performs a wide range of styles to cater for all tastes. If you have an upcoming special event, I would love to work together with you, to craft the perfect entertainment backdrop. Please feel free to get in contact with me today to request a quote for your next event.


3 responses to “Booking a Musician – What Are You Actually Paying For?”

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