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Expect What You Pay For - 3 Things to Consider when Reflecting on Performer Fees and What That Cost Represents

From cars to colleges, clothing to cookware and everything in between, the idea of shopping around is nearly synonymous with spending money on most all levels. Even to go out for a slice of pizza it’s not uncommon to do a quick check on YELP to see who offers the best bang for the buck. Most people have attained a relatively comfortable level of how to wisely shop around thanks in part to the open-access nature of the internet and online shopping hubs like Amazon, Zappos, Reverb, etc, but when it comes to hiring entertainment the learning curve drops heavily. As something invested in quite rarely for the average individual or company, knowing how to see quality through promotional materials and value through costs may seem as a bit of a foreign topic - some online booking platforms exist that seem to alleviate this problem, but it’s not uncommon to have a performance via these sites purchased at an unbelievable price turn into an unbelievable disappointment. Here at Gigroster we base our success as a business not solely on revenue made but in quality bookings that leave clients feeling like they have spent their time, money and trust wisely. Here we’ll look at a few elements to consider when deciding on a performer for your event, and how to conceptualize a reasonable payment for what you can expect to get in return.

Professionals Charge Professional Fees
Probably the biggest conceptual mistake that people make when considering hiring musicians or performers for an event is that just like when hiring a contractor, plumber, lawyer or electrician, you are seeking to hire a professional. And like most all other professionals in their field, a professional musician will expect and deserve professional pay. This by no means implies that higher spending necessarily reflects more quality, but it would be wise to consider that the band you’re considering with the amazingly low rate might just be that way because they are amazingly sub-par quality. Built into a performer’s price is a collection of elements including years or decades of experience, thorough training often at the University level, and musical equipment that can properly convey their skills. If someone’s price seems too good to be true it likely is a reflection of a lack of one or more of the key elements of a professional performer. Of course there are many examples of individuals who have achieved great success despite lacking some degree of these elements, but if they have achieved a higher level by their own hard work it would be rare to find them underpricing themselves. Like the Craigslist non-union contractor that did a shoddy job on your patio, you can end up saving yourself more than what you would monetarily save in grief and failed expectations if you understand that you are seeking a trained professional, and thus can raise your standard to meet the price that would be intelligent to pay.

Performances are Permanent
Unlike the shoddy job on your patio, one hardline truth about the world of performances is that there is simply no second chance to correct what a poor initial choice has caused. Hired a cheap Santa who showed up with a fake beard and eau-de-booze to match? Too late now! Regretting the affordable string quartet that somehow stumbled over Pachelbel's Canon in D while your bride walked down the aisle, now immortalized on all your family member’s phones and the videographer’s recording? Guess you’ll have to wait until the next wedding to fix that one.

When making relatively large purchases, we sometimes forget that special events are not the wisest place to be pennywise and dollar foolish. If you have already gone the distance to accept paying $450 for your wedding’s quartet, the extra $200 in actuality is a small bump up in that a poor performance would invalidate every penny of the original amount. It’s the same reasoning why people spend extra to get Nike or Adidas or New Balance shoes, even if comparable competitors might be half the price - give the cheap shoes a month and you’ll eventually find yourself paying more for replacements than if you had just invested better in the first place.

Higher Costs Make More Sense Given Long Timeframes
If you were to pay $700+ in groceries each month, or for a water bill and other standard and frequent costs, that may be reason to question the validity of the number. This is in part because it is a recurring expense, and though each costs us thousands of dollars per year that cost is spread out over a long period of time. Paying the cost of a vehicle in one fell swoop can cause one to want to check their account balance, but spread it over 36 months and all of a sudden it never seems like too much to fuss over. In difference to these kinds of expenses, entertainment is simply not possible to be paid for in this way, thus leaving an irregularly large sum to be paid in one, sometimes two payments. For many this can be a hard pill to swallow, but if we realize the benefit given over the years and the almost shockingly small cost if spread over the months and years, larger prices start to make a bit more sense.
Special events are just that - they are special - and when we invest in meaningful entertainment, music, and performers it further creates the magic of the moment being crafted in our memories. Children are only children for so long, and a few hundred dollars on a surprise visit from Santa can lead to decades of loving memories and stories among family, friends, or coworkers and employees. $1,200 may seem like a frightening amount for a wedding band, but those moments of your first dance with a live band perfectly playing your love’s favorite song just for you will vaporize any memory of the cost, grown only better with every year of remembering that moment. The fact is that though a performance may only take place for a given few hours of a certain day, what is really being purchased are the memories and brightened lives of all who were there. Divide that cost by the dozens or hundreds who witness it and the years that a truly memorable performance may last with those people, and the cost starts to seem at a value of pennies. Of course this is not how we may initially conceive things at the moment of considering a quote, but seeing the cost in this light is the difference between coming at your event with a mind of corner cutting or truly investing into it. Every event is different and has different fiscal limitations, but knowing how to see the real value of quality entertainment will help you be able to make truly sound decisions on the matter, rather than be swayed by seemingly large prices and end up with something that could make you regret ever spending a single penny.

So that leaves us with a big final question: what kind of prices can really be expected for given performance styles? The honest answer is that such a thing isn’t the point of this article, rather the point is to help give you, the purchaser of talent, a better understanding of where these costs come from so that you can make a sound decision regarding the entertainment you desire. Most every locality will have somewhat different prices on standard performances such as string quartets, wedding/corporate bands, and santas due to fluctuations in local competition and general expenses, but within these variations the same principals hold true. Go for the cheapest option possible, and you’ll likely receive the unquestionably cheapest sounding option possible. Here at Gigroster we’ve worked hard over the years to figure out what the optimal pricing for semi-standard performances really is with both quality and affordability in mind, and are more than happy to discuss with you the costs and options available to you in your area! We have experience working in most all cost brackets, and look forward to doing all we can to help you create an event that will leave people not asking what you paid for it, but where they can go to find such perfect entertainment of their own!

Riley Kennedy-Keys

Riley Kennedy-Keys

As an active musician in the Seattle area, Riley maintains an in-depth insight into the workings of the local music scene, as well as the ins and outs of what it means to work in the music industry.

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Expect What You Pay For - 3 Things to Consider when Reflecting on Performer Fees and What That Cost Represents
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