How to Set Your Rate, Negotiate & Survive in Town or On The Road
By Matt Starr
Ever think of yourself as the owner of a corporation? Guess what…you are. If you’re a working musician, a session or tour player, your company is called YOU, Inc. The music industry is the wild west when it comes to the business side of things, so here are industry tips about knowing what you have to offer and what it is worth is the first step to creating a sustainable career. The intersection of art and commerce doesn’t have to be tricky. Jimmy Page and Keith Richards are rich. Johnny Thunders and Sid Vicious are long dead. Choose your role models wisely.
1. SET YOUR RATE: The music business has a wide range of compensation depending on who you are and who you’re dealing with. Create a Rate Sheet. What amount of money would you need to show up with a great attitude and feel good about your time spent? Consider the effort required to fulfill the task as well as travel time, expenses, the amount of preparation needed. Count all the hours and get a realistic idea of what you are making per hour. It can sometimes be eye opening. Add 25% for difficult clients.
2. ASK AROUND: Ask the more successful musicians in your circle what they charge. When you do this, be objective. This is business. If the coolest dude in the hipster scene rides a bike and lives in a studio apartment, and the big phony sellout lives in the Hollywood Hills and drives a Tesla….ask the phony in the Tesla. You can be the arbiter of your own integrity. Do not ever confuse that with making money. And don’t let others manipulate you into taking less using that argument. Get paid.
3. NEGOTIATE: Some musicians prefer to ask, “What’s your budget?” and take it from there based on the client’s reply. The other approach is to quote your rate and let the client reply. The first approach can be motivated by the fear of quoting too high and losing the client or the hope that the client will quote much higher than what they would have asked for. For me that’s kind of messy; I like to just quote my rate and let them reply. Also, the Universe has a way of paying you what you feel you’re worth no matter what you say. Either way, use your rate sheet so you have some basis to work off of.
4. SEE FOR YOURSELF: Once you have successfully negotiated and are now working, how does it feel? Are you feeling underpaid, overpaid or about right? The more you work you will see what you like doing and don’t like doing. You can charge more for the jobs you don’t enjoy as much or focus your marketing towards jobs you want to be doing more of. At first the goal can be to just get paid, but once you are up and running you’ll see that the choice is really up to you and that you are creating your career.
5. GETTING A RAISE: The more clarity you have on what you’re getting paid vs what you’re contributing, the more likely at some point you will feel motivated to ask for a raise. Any request for more money should be accompanied by your reasoning as to why you deserve this. “I have been touring with Artist XYZ for two years”; “I have taken more responsibility than when I started”; “I am getting a lot of offers from other artists and I want to make sure I am making the most of my time.” Use your instincts, but if they tend to be of the under-earning nature then go back to your more successful musician friends and get some input from them. Note: you can talk to the other musicians in the band and go to management as a team, or go it alone. Both options have their good and bad points.
6. MAXIMIZE EVERY OPPORTUNITY: Whatever you are doing, ask yourself, “Who would benefit from this?” At the very least it’s a source of inspiration to up-and-coming players, so post it! Reach out to any company that you endorse or would like to endorse––email them, tag them in social media posts along with pics of your gear. Is there an opportunity for the company to be involved with the artist you’re playing with on a bigger level? Making introductions that lead to bigger opportunities is a good thing for all. Think like a business person and think BIG. Becoming an asset beyond playing your instrument has value and word will get around.
7. DIVERSIFY: So you just got the gig with Lenny Kravitz and you are getting paid $7,000/week—awesome! But now he decides not to tour for the next two years. What are you going to do for money? Having as many income streams as possible is ideal. You have many talents that you are not aware of or don’t think of as having value. Make a list of 100 things you can do to earn money. Anything, just open your mind up. If you can work at Target, list it. This will get your thoughts flowing and help you come up with some great ideas. It will also increase your network. This process led me to start what has become a very successful and rewarding business as a Career Consultant.
8. INVEST IN THE FUTURE: Touring is a great way to make a living, but you are trading time for money. To bring in additional money, look at passive income streams such as publishing royalties, writing books and inventions. Ever heard yourself saying, “Man, I wish they made a thing that did XYZ.” Make it! You’re not the only one who has thought that, which means there is a need for it. Creating opportunities that pay you––literally while you sleep—is a great way to build your income, network and value.
9. GET REAL: Saying “I’m an artist” has been used an a excuse for being lazy, disorganized, broke and drinking too much, more than any other phrase in history. Think of yourself as a business person first. It does not mean you will make inferior music. It just means you’ll get paid for it. Let go of the phony romantic idea that true artists don’t get paid and that if you do ask for what your time and talent are worth, you’re not really in it for the right reasons. Andy Warhol’s net worth was $220 million at the time of his death.
[Reprint Permission granted by Music Connection magazine]
MATT STARR is a Los Angeles-based touring and recording drummer (Mr. Big/Ace Frehley), clinician, educator and Career Consultant. To contact or hire him, go to www.mattstarrmusic.com.
For more information on IAMA (International Acoustic Music Awards), go to: http://www.inacoustic.com
Do You Have a Band Partnership Agreement Yet?
by Glenn T. Litwak
Why even have a written agreement between the members of a band or group? Entering into a band partnership agreement is advisable, not necessarily because you don’t trust your band mates, but because it forces the members of the band to address difficult issues and hopefully reduce misunderstandings. To paraphrase Timothy B. Schmit, bassist/singer with The Eagles: “In my experience, all rock & roll bands are on the verge of breaking up at all times.” Yes, disputes will arise and you will be in a better position to deal with them if you have a comprehensive band agreement––in writing.
Band Name: The agreement should indicate the band name and any logo. It should also indicate who owns the band name. This issue has come up with some famous bands, like The Beach Boys. When a band breaks up, the question often arises as to who owns the name and, consequently, who can record and perform using that name. There are alternatives for ownership of the band name. For instance, the agreement can provide that the band owns the name, and departing band members have no right to use the name. Or let’s say two members were instrumental in forming the band; the agreement could say “should those members leave, the band shall cease using the band name and logo.”
Other Projects: The agreement may provide that band members can participate in other music projects (solo albums, solo performances, side artist appearances, etc.) so long as it does not interfere with band obligations.
Representations and Warranties: The agreement should include typical (“boilerplate”) representations, such as: members have the legal right to enter into the band agreement; they will not do anything to harm the band partnership; that members are under no restriction that would interfere with the agreement; and that they will not sell their interest in the band without the consent of the other band members.
Profits and Losses: The simplest way to divide profits and losses is to provide in the agreement that the band members will share equally in them. This provision should also provide for a specific definition of “net profits.” And it should specify expenses: such as band salaries, accounting, legal and office expenses. However, splitting band profits and losses may not be equitable to all band members under certain circumstances. For instance, where one band member does all the songwriting, is already famous, or invests most of the money in the band, the profits and losses section can have special provisions for that
Publishing: There are a number of options with regard to splitting publishing income. The band agreement can provide that the band will split all music publishing income (writer’s and publisher’s share) equally among the members. Or a more complex formula can be used such as publishing income is shared equally, but songwriter income is to be equally divided among the writers of the composition. It all depends on what is fair under the circumstances. Where one member does no writing or one member does all the writing, the agreement should take this into account. If a band publishing company is set up it can have the worldwide exclusive right to administer and control the copyright ownership in the recorded compositions and the right to enter into sub-publishing agreements or otherwise deal with the copyrights.
Meeting and Voting: The agreement should provide when there will be meetings and may provide that any member can call a meeting. It should also provide what types of things require a majority or unanimous vote. For instance, perhaps it will take a unanimous vote to expel a member, or a majority vote to admit a new member, or for bonuses, or entering into band agreements.
Books and Records: Books and records on the band’s business dealings should be maintained and available for inspection by any band member.
Adding New Member: Adding a new member can often lead to disputes. The procedure for adding a new member should be spelled out in the agreement. It should specify if all members have to agree to a new member. And it should require any new member to agree to the band agreement. In addition, a new member should usually not have any right to income from recordings created before the new member was admitted.
Leaving Member: The agreement can provide for voluntarily or involuntarily (death, disability, being expelled) leaving the band. It should specify what will constitute grounds to expel someone from the group. One possible provision could be that any member who leaves must give 30 days notice and that written notice will be given to any expelled partner. It should also provide what a leaving member is entitled to: share of net worth, royalties, etc.
Binding Arbitration: Providing for binding arbitration of disputes is usually a good idea. You will often have a quicker and less expensive resolution of your dispute. You could also provide for mediation (informal settlement conference with a retired judge) before an arbitration to try and settle without the costs of a binding arbitration.
General Provisions: There are a number of typical provisions included in a band partnership agreement. These include: California law applies to any disputes; email signatures on the band partnership agreement is sufficient; the agreement shall be binding on each member’s successors-in-interest, and if one provision of the partnership agreement is held invalid by an arbitrator or court, the remaining provisions shall remain in effect.
Finally, each band member should have an independent attorney represent him or her with regard to the partnership agreement and each band member should receive a copy of it.
[Reprinted with permission]
ABOUT GLENN T. LITWAK
Glenn T. Litwak is a veteran music and entertainment attorney based in Santa Monica, CA. He has written numerous magazine articles about the music biz. Litwak is also a frequent speaker at music industry conferences around the country, such as SXSW and the Billboard Music in Film and TV Conference or check out his website at www.glennlitwak.com
For more information on IAMA (International Acoustic Music Awards), go to:
5 Things I’ve Learned About Having a Career in Music
by Edgar Winter
Rock icon Edgar Winter has been part of the musical landscape since his first album, Entrance, was released in 1970. Four-and-a-half decades later, he is still recording and touring, thrilling audiences with his multi-instrumental proficiency, his searing, yet soulful vocals, and a catalog of hits. When asked for five things he has learned about having a career in the business, he quickly offered five off-the-cuff tips: “Always get paid before the show. Never leave your wallet in the dressing room. Don’t do interviews. Dress like a rock star. Never listen to anyone’s advice, especially mine!” But then he issued five more elaborate responses
Listen to all the greats, regardless of genre. There’s so much great music across rock, blues, classical, jazz, and country, and you should go back and find the early originators/innovators in each style. I feel we stand on the shoulders of the giants who came before us: My most profound single influence was Ray Charles. I would not be the musician I am today without absorbing and then personalizing his music. But I did that with a lot of musicians across the spectrum. Stay open to it all!
Always look for the best musicians possible. Playing with musicians who are better than you will teach you more, and inspire you to be your best. Conversely, try not to play with musicians who will lead you to develop bad habits. A drummer may have tons of chops and be exciting to play with, but if they don’t have good time it may have a negative influence on your own playing. I’d rather work with a simpler drummer whose time is rock-solid, with a deep groove.
Even though I’ve been playing my songs for a long time now, I try to keep it fresh every night and treat it like it’s the first time. And I leave room for fresh interplay with the band, and to try out new ideas. Before I hit the stage every night I think, “What if this is the last gig I’ll play?” And I commit to give it my all; being able to play for an audience is a gift that I never take for granted.
I’ve heard so many stories from people who regret musical and business decisions they made based on advice from people in power within the industry. Your career is going to be defined by your decisions; think long and hard about the path you take. Make sure it’s something you’ll be comfortable with for the rest of your life. Remember that music is an art form first, and then a business. I don’t define success in the music business as being famous, or making a lot of money. For me the goal is to become as good a musician as I could be, and to look back on what I have done and be happy.
If you love what you’re doing people will sense it. Stay humble: no matter how good you get, there will be somebody out there that will astound you. Be able to accept and be inspired by that. Be grateful for what you have. For me, making music is very rewarding in and of itself. So follow your dream, play the music you truly love, and never give up. You’ll never hear Edgar Winter talking about a farewell tour!
(Reprinted by permission from Keyboard Magazine)
Edgar Winter is working on three new projects: a Broadway musical about Frankenstein’s monster, a book of poetry called The Songs That Never Were, and a series of fantasy short stories called Stories from the Shadowland. And he continues to rock out on the road. Keep up with all his activities at edgarwinter.com.
For more information on IAMA (International Acoustic Music Awards), go to:
IAMA Winner Wins Grammy Award, takes the Music World by Storm
by Jessica Brandon
Meghan Trainor who started out as an unknown indie artist, won IAMA (International Acoustic Music Awards) as a 16 year old, just won Grammy award last night for Best New Artist. She has broken a staggering number of records of IAMA: youngest to win IAMA (at 16), the only IAMA winner to have to hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 Charts, #1 on the Billboard 200 Charts, and main category Grammy award of Best New Artist. Her hit “All About That Bass” is one of the best-selling single of all time by a debut artist, hitting #1 in 58 different countries (US, UK, etc) and selling over 15 million copies.
This shows you that anything can happen as an indie artist. When Meghan first won IAMA 6 years ago, IAMA entrants laughed when she won. But when she got signed and chalk up one hit after another, they were shocked. She has a total of 6 songs that have hit the Billboard Hot 100 Charts so far and shows no signs of slowing down (Watch her Grammy Acceptance Speech Below).
Meghan Trainor couldn’t hold back her tears While accepting Best New Artist Award, weeping through her acceptance speech. Past Best New Artists winners include: John Legend, Carrie Underwood, Sam Smith and Mariah Carey
“I have to thank L.A. Reid for looking at me as an artist instead of just a songwriter,” she said while accepting the award from presenter Sam Smith, who won the award last year. “And my mom and dad.”
Last year she was nominated for Record of the Year and Song of the Year (both for “All About That Bass”), but lost out on both.
“This is me forever balling my eyes out. Can’t believe what happened”, said Meghan. “My dad whispered “you made it” before I walked up and I lost it. I love my family so much. Without them I wouldn’t be here today. Thank you to my team and everyone who got me here. Gonna cry happy tears all night”, said the jubilant Meghan Trainor.
Besides winning the Grammy Award, Meghan has also won two Billboard Music Awards.
MEGHAN IS NOT THE ONLY IAMA WINNER
Meghan Trainor was not the only nominee of IAMA. Ron Korb (this year’s Best Instrumental Winner of the 12th Annual IAMA) was a nominee in the Best New Age Album category. Ricky Kej (this year’s Best Open Winner) won a Grammy Award at last year’s Grammy Awards.
For more information on IAMA (International Acoustic Music Awards), go to: