There is an often-repeated joke in the entertainment world… Two entertainers are talking and the one asks the other how he’s doing. He says “Oh my gosh, things couldn’t be going better– TV, movies, it’s all happening.” He says, “What about you?” The second guy says, “Things have been really tough. The only gig I’ve managed to land is juggling three clubs outside Walmart.” The first guy turns to him and says “Oh yea? Who books that?”
Somewhere along the way I read that we often compare our “inside” to someone else’s “outside.” Love that point. It’s so easy to get swept up by how happy or successful we think someone else is that we lose sight of our own journey. And social media only makes this work, as people generally choose to amplify only the best parts of their lives. I have a friend who refers to facebook as “in your face-book” for this very reason… always makes me smile!
With live entertainment the price, or value, of your act is completely subjective. Someone asks you how much you are worth– a meeting planner, an agent, a booker. You tell them your rate. If they book you, congratulations- you are worth that much! If they do not book you, you are not worth that much… at least not on that day, for that group, for that event. You can say a high number, you can say a low number, or you can say a number in the middle. It’s completely up to you. And worse yet, a “high number” for you is often a low number for them, and vice versa! If you don’t have set pricing that you stick to, you have to play the pricing game for every potential gig that comes in. “Shoot – I out priced myself for their budget.” Or even worse, the dreaded “Darn – I should have charged more!!”
Over the 10 years I’ve been at this full-time since college, I can look among my peers and see who has done a successful job of climbing the fee scale, by consistently adding more value to their brand and booking higher-dollar shows. I can also look at entertainers who have done a poor job of raising their value, who are still working at the same price point that they were many years ago.
So how do you create value as an entertainer? This is a monster topic in itself that I’d love to discuss at length down the line, but in short – develop strong promotional materials that sell you well to your prospective clients, do the advance work necessary to properly prep for the event, deliver the goods every time, be respectful and courteous to everyone on site, and wrap the event with proper thank yous and database management.
The question I find more interesting– how do you grow your value as an entertainer? I believe it comes down to “price integrity.” After you’ve created enough value to justify raising your price, you must stick to the rates you’ve set, and decline the offers that come in under that. This sounds easy, but I know from personal experience can be extremely difficult. You don’t need guts to book a $10,000 show. You need guts to turn down a $3500 show in a lean month when your rate is $10,000.
You have to learn to turn down the offers that come in under your rate. You can do it in a nice way, but you still have to say no. I personally always offer to help the booker find someone within their budget. If the client really wants me specifically, I often suggest making a donation to my nonprofit Win-Win Entertainment instead. That way I preserve my price integrity, and my brand’s worth, but I have an “out” if I still want to do the event for my own reasons- perhaps to help out a friend, etc.
Years ago, when I was based in Orlando, I had an awkward exchange on the phone I’ll never forget with an agent there. This agent really wanted me to take a $300 gig which was well below my rate at the time, and she actually turned angry when I said I wasn’t interested! She first asked me if I was available on a certain date and I said ‘well what’s the gig?’ She said she would tell me the details (including the rate) if I were available. RED FLAG. I told her that my availability depended on what the rate was, i.e. my availability “to you.” She didn’t get it. And after I told her what my bottom-line rate was, she flipped out on me for not even considering her event. She went off on a rant, saying that $300 was enough to cover a cell phone bill, or groceries for the month. She was actually trying to shame me into booking a gig! I distinctly remember her saying that I was spoiled, and that a lot of people would be really happy to make $300 for “an hour of work.” I told her that she should call one of those people :)
This agent and I were never going to be on the same page. These approaches represent 2 very different ways of looking at pricing, value, and really how to run your business. Would I have liked $300 in the short term? Sure… who wouldn’t? But long-term, taking that job would not have been in my best interest.
At the end of the day, it’s about creating your own power, and having an intrinsic sense of self-worth and value. Don’t get pushed around. Determine your value, and stick to it. If you’re not booking the amount of shows you’d like at your current rate, don’t change your rate– change who you market to.
This post is part of the “Your Turn Challenge,” a 7-day blogging challenge created by Winnie Kao, special projects lead for marketing / business guru Seth Godin. Learn more about the “Your Turn Challenge.”