Booking gigs - the three P's (people, pay, and project)!

Booking gigs - the three P's (people, pay, and project)!
Libby Ulm
February 2024

When you're deciding if you want to book a gig, remember your three P's: people, pay, and project. To make a gig worthwhile, you should be engaging at least two of the three P's. 

For example, you're asked to book a smaller gig. The pay is a little lower than your normal rate, but the director has connections to people who could help you in the future, and the gig is for an organization you care about. By accepting this project, you'd be engaging with both the project and people of the three P's! 

Sometimes, getting paid a living wage for art is not always a reality, but there are ways to advocate for yourself and negotiate higher pay. When it comes to pay, think about who the client is and understand the scope and funding of a project. Are they a corporate company? Small company? Don't be shy about asking questions

Be sure you're clear about what your pay includes. You'll want to set hard and fast rules when it comes to your pay for the areas you don't want to budge on. For example, if you've paid for your equipment and are bringing your own rig to a performance, charge fully for your rigging fee. You can negotiate decreasing other portions of your fee to reduce the total price for the client if needed. However, be cautious of lowering your prices too much, especially if it's happening often. 

With corporate clients, charging more often means the client will respect you more as a professional. You are worth it, and they typically can afford to pay what you're asking them to! If you get backlash for what you're charging or if they say something like "You're only here for an hour," remember that your performance time is just a part of your fee. Your rate should also take into consideration things like the following:

  • Rehearsal time
  • Choreography (paid or self-created)
  • Paying for studio time
  • Makeup
  • Costumes
  • Equipment
  • Travel time and cost
  • Performers insurance

It can be a red flag if the client is heavily pushing back on your rates. If you're not getting what you need, sometimes you can still negotiate to make the gig worthwhile. Asking for photos or footage of your performance is one value-add that could make a performance worth it. You can use these images or footage to market yourself on social media or your website, and if it's a larger company, touting such a booking gives you clout as well. 

Be aware of lower paying gigs as they can often be the most difficult, and require a lot from you. Some of the best gigs are surprisingly the free gigs or, less surprising, corporate gigs! While pay is obviously important, there doesn't need to be shame around doing projects for free or even for less money. However, not charging for a gig because you "don't need the money" can sometimes hurt other performers in the industry. Find a balance! If you enjoy some of the lower paying gigs because they engage the people and project of the three P's, consider balancing that by looking for corporate gigs. 

Pay attention to holiday pay, as pay should be more than a regular gig (typically double). Think of a "normal" job's pay rate: Many companies give their employees time and a half for working holidays. This should be no different for performers. Not sure what to charge for gigs? Talk to your community! Ask other, trusted performers in your circle what they charge for different gigs. Often, these prices will change from state to state. 

Working with entertainment companies can be beneficial, especially when it comes to corporate gigs. When deciding to work with an entertainment company, look for transparency - something that's not always valued in the art industry, but is extremely important. You should be able to have transparent conversations BEFORE you've accepted a gig. If they can't answer questions or are constantly changing things on you, this can be a red flag. If you're traveling, do they provide transportation or pay you mileage? Will you have lodging paid for if it's a far-away gig happening late at night? Will costuming be provided or do you need to pick them up? When will costumes be picked up? Who is doing the rigging? If they're not answering questions, it's within your rights to know the information. While you are lucky to work for a company, they are also lucky to have you

If you're ever questioning pay, project, or people involved with a gig, ask your peers, coaches, or others in the industry. Always remember, you are valuable and deserve to have decent work environments. Be sure to take yourself seriously! Remind yourself of the environment you're creating. While sometimes you are left having to say "yes" to a gig, doing more projects (especially for less money) is not always beneficial to your body. Advocating for yourself not only helps you get what you want, but also helps pave the way for others.

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