What’s the Deal With This Pay-Per-Musician Model? An open letter to hire-ers of bands

Sage and Jared's Happy Gland Band - Pyragraph

In the world of small potatoes, local-musician-who-doesn’t-quite-have-the-ability-to-negotiate-better-pay, there’s this phenomenon where people want to pay for music on a per-person basis. So a solo act might get paid $50, a duo $100, and a band $150 (because there’s usually a cap after you throw about three or four bandmates in there).

Of course this model is more favorable to trios or quartets than to duos or solo acts.

I’ve worked a lot as a duo and as a solo act.

It’s cramping my style.

So probably I’m biased, but what’s the deal with this? I don’t get it.

What it says to me is that solo acts are valued less than bands. What it further says to me is that the reason solo acts are valued less than bands is because there is an assumption that solo acts are less entertaining than bands.

Obviously, I so do not believe this to be true.

Of course I say this as someone who believes herself to be an engaging solo performer. I also say this as someone who remembers a solo show as the best show I’ve ever been to. One lady was up on stage playing guitar and talking with us, the audience; we were all entranced. We all fell in love with her. (It was Michelle Shocked, before she went born againby the way.)

My solution?

Dude, just pay for music. At your venue, pay for music based on draw. Choose a percentage of sales that feels fair to you (5%? 10%? 15%?) and go with that, no matter who plays at your venue. Or choose a flat fee you’re willing to pay for music and go with that, whether you’re dealing with a duo or a sometimes ten-, sometimes thirteen-person Bohemian Pop Folk Disco (beau-pop-faux-disc) extravaganza.

Because here’s another thing: This model also kind of gets in the way of how band leaders go about paying their band members, based on whether they’re bandmates or hired guns. See what Ari Herstand outlines here in his blog post about hiring freelance musicians.

Please, for the love of sweet, sweet ukulele sounds, stop this ridiculous pay-per-musician thing. It’s cramping my style.

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About Sage Harrington

Sage Harrington is a musician and Managing Editor for Pyragraph. She writes songs on her ukulele and plays them with her duo, Sage and Jared’s Happy Gland Band. They make videos and post them on the internet, while tending to their flock of urban chickens, two tiny dogs, and other small creatures.

1 Comment

  1. Dear Little Bobby: Non-Metal Maiden - Pyragraph on February 13, 2017 at 10:37 am

    […] way that so many people in so many bands do when they tell each other “great set,” something local bands in my city have been telling each other for years after they play, even if we do not like the music […]

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