Charging for gigs

  • Keymaster
    HBrock25 on #146138

    I was asked by a family friend to play background music at their yearly Rotary dinner in Seattle. I am a decent harpist, having playing Folk Harp for the last 4 years, with intensive previous music experience. How much would you charge hourly? Thank you!

    stephen-vardy on #146139

    You will find many musicians reticent to “talk fees”. I recommend you phone around to all your local harpists and ask for their suggestion as to what you should charge. Takes courage but it is worth it.

    Once you figure out who is the highest peg your rates there and let the rest know your new rates. The other harpists may raise their rates to match. Brings everybody up a bit.

    We have one client who asks for this info yearly.
    We are smaller resort style destination.


    Saul Davis Zlatkovski on #146140

    I would not charge in your situation. If necessary, I would defer to a professional for such an engagement.

    michael-rockowitz on #146141

    Hi Saul,

    What’s the reasoning behind your position?


    Jessica A on #146142


    michael-rockowitz on #146143

    Hi to all,

    I’ve since done some on-line research on the Rotarians.

    onita-sanders on #146144


    Charge something.

    Saul Davis Zlatkovski on #146145

    Rotary International is a huge business organization that has lots of money. Being a nonprofit is no excuse to get a lower fee in itself.
    I don’t think four years of studying harp is nearly enough to be professional of any sort. Doing a favor for a friend is another matter entirely and should be approached as such. Otherwise, one is potentially taking income from professionals who have sacrificed for many years to try to make a living, or lowering the prices paid so they can’t get paid enough. That is my reasoning. It takes a good ten years of serious study to become near professional, unless one is coming from serious keyboard training, which I would estimate might trim four years from that figure.

    onita-sanders on #146146

    Give me a break.

    Jessica A on #146147

    Amen, Onita.

    michael-rockowitz on #146148

    Saul, I think that, apart from what you think things should be like ideally, free market principles apply.

    Ann on #146149

    I agree, ask around and do a few internet searches. Try to find musicians in your area who play live music (rather than DJs). You might find that rates vary a lot. Some folks charge more for the first hour, to cover cartage and setup, others charge a simple hourly fee (figuring to include setup etc in their hourly rate), still others itemize.

    In my area anywhere from $50/hr (for a solo guitarist in outstations like my little town) to $200/hr in the city

    Saul Davis Zlatkovski on #146150

    Ten years might be a bit long for some people, but astonishing facility at that point? Maybe for some. Standards for professionalism have gotten unacceptably low, it seems, and that hurts everyone. I have colleagues who have lost almost all of their gigs, and that is after decades of devotion to the instrument. It does not help to have people running around calling themselves professional after a few years of lessons. Believe me, there is a lot more to it than that, and the listeners (hopefully) hear and appreciate the difference. Pedal harps cost a lot of money to maintain and replace, and an amplified lever harp is no substitute, sorry.

    michael-rockowitz on #146151


    I entirely concede that I don’t know how long it takes to develop “astonishing facility” (whatever that really is).

    Lynne Abbey-Lee on #146152

    Michael, your last statement makes me want to jump in and comment. You could use that reasoning to apply to nearly everything: “. . . a very advanced level of competence, regardless of how inherently desirable, is quite simply not required to . . . ” drive a school bus, produce our food, manufacture prescription drugs, be a counselor, teacher, lawyer, doctor, whatever. However, we all benefit from those with the highest standards in these fields; that’s true in music as well. Any harp music that is presented to the public as “professional” (and the public won’t necessarily know that the harpist at last weekend’s wedding was the bride’s cousin’s friend’s sister who started playing eighteen months ago) should ideally be of the highest possible caliber. The more that the public hears “professional” harp music at a lesser level of competence, the more they will associate that level with the harp in general. Why would anyone who loves the harp want this to happen? This, even more than pricing (and that’s a big issue, too), is the problem I have when pretty much anyone who wants to calls themselves a professional harpist. That said, I’m definitely not saying that friends or family shouldn’t play for their loved ones’ events, and we all have to start somewhere when we first play for pay. But there should be some thought given to the broader picture in making those decisions.

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