So, you have worked hard getting your “whole package” together, vocal technique – languages – acting skills – Personal Branding – business savvy. And you have been offered a performance opportunity that is appropriate for your current vocal and performance readiness. It is a job that gives you the opportunity to perform a role or sing a recital, etc. that will help you grow as a performer. They ask you how much it would cost for them to hire you, to have you become part of their performance. Yikes!!!! This is a subject for “Aria Ready Woman”. Setting the price or rate for your work or services can be an extremely challenging task for any artist. It doesn’t have to be complicated, so don’t panic! You do have to put some thought into the technicalities which most emerging artists haven’t yet had to deal with. And you will have to do some research concerning the company, venue or group that has asked the question concerning your fee for this event. It’s all about doing your homework.
“…if we wait for the moment when everything, absolutely everything is ready, we shall never begin.” – Ivan Turgenev
Here are some things to consider:
- The best place to start your investigation is AGMA, our industries Union. Go online to www.musicalartists.org. You might have to sign in, perhaps even join, or find a friend that belongs to get in, but it will be well worth it to get some good, sound pricing guidelines and information. They already have calculated the suggested fee for many different venues of performance within the USA. You can also go to www.tellmehowmuch.net. These web sites will give you a great place to start.
- Next, spend some time discovering all you can about the group, company, venue you have been asked to take part in. Google them and those that run the venue you are interested in knowing more about. www.musicalamerica.com is another great resource for getting financial and other information about different companies, festivals, groups, etc.(You can also go to a music library and look through this publication to get the information you need to help with your search.) You will find all kinds of information that will let you know the size of the organization, how much money they have for their season, how many productions or programs they put on each season, etc. That will also give you a good idea of the professional level of the venue you are looking at and also help you understand what fee you might want to start with when negotiating your job possibility.
“Action expresses priorities.” – Mohandas Gandhi
- Next, hone your negotiating skills because you have to become flexible if you really want to perform. You might want to ask what the overall budget is for this production they want you involved in. If they really want YOU, then you will usually have the upper hand, but if you really want to do this production, you may have to make compromises. That’s what it’s always about. No matter what, don’t negotiate yourself out of the job, unless you feel after having gathered the background information about this venue and those that run it, their reputation, etc, it is not worth your time, energy, and money. If you find it is not right for you, you can simply say that you appreciate the offer but you won’t be able to accept it this time. You don’t have to explain yourself. Remember this is business, not personal or emotional. You do have to always have a sliding scale and the conversation might go something like this, “I usually charge $150 to do a job like this. How does that fit within your budget for this project? If they answer $150 fine, then sign the contract. But if they say that’s over their budget for that job, if your still interested reply with, “What would work for you?” realizing that you want to remain flexible so you can create a win-win situation for both you and the company. This also shows them that you understand the constraints that they are working under while allowing them to notice your professionalism at the same time.
- Know your own value. What are you bringing to the table that another performer isn’t able to contribute? And don’t trust only your judgment on this; ask those whose advice and opinion you trust and with whom you work (teachers-coaches) to help you verify your strengths and weaknesses honestly. This will help you confirm that you are a right fit for this venue and that they are the right fit for you. This real and candid evaluation helps you recognize your current performance cache and entry level.
- Never perform without a contract. It can be a very simple affair, but do have one even if you have to draw one up yourself. You will find this information in the 2nd edition of my book Aria Ready which you can buy at www.ariaready.net or www.amazon.com. This seems like a small component and perhaps unnecessary part of doing business even at an elementary level, but trust me when I say, you will be so glad you did, because if anything should happen, god forbid, you will have a signed piece of paper to bring to a lawyer if things get ugly and sometimes they do. But more importantly, it helps you feel more in control and professional and those that you will be working with will appreciate your professionalism as well and treat you accordingly.
And lastly, there are three general reasons for taking a job –
- To make money.
- To gain additional experience and exposure.
- To work with a specific person. (conductor, stage director, colleague, etc. that might help move your career forward.)
(Here are two reasons you may want to take a job for a lesser amount or do your performance gratis.)
“Maintaining a complicated life is a great way to avoid changing it.” – Elaine St. James
Knowing how to do business sets the tone of your confidence and is going to become about 85-90% of what will get you to your goal of being a professional singer. Never give up your power to someone else in this business. It doesn’t mean you have to be a diva, but you do have to have lots of personal skills, knowing yourself well so you can negotiate for what you want, ask questions, remain flexible and feel confident in doing so. It is after all, part of doing business and it is not personal or emotional. It’s your job.