How much do gigs pay?

by | Jul 14, 2018 | Helpful Articles | 0 comments

Here at This Sound we have many many years of experience of playing live gigs both locally and around the country, and although it’s very possible to make a living from playing music, this is usually (unless you are either very lucky, or very good) if you are playing in a covers band. 

For this article we will be concentrating on original bands, and how much you can expect to get paid when doing gigs with your own independent outfit.

The first part of this process is making sure you are gig ready, this of course means that you have a full set of original songs and that you have practiced them to a standard ready to be performed to the general public and set yourself on the road to fame and fortune! So assuming everything is in place and you are ready let me explain how payment has worked for us at This Sound.

So how much money can a band get paid?

Well this all depends, mostly on how the promoter has set up his payment deal. Let’s assume you are not putting the gig on yourself (more on this later) and are placed on a bill by a promoter with 2 other bands. This is the most likely scenario when getting your music out there in a live environment.,

There are two common ways of getting paid, these are:

Payment depending on how many ‘fans’ you bring yourself

This is quite common practice, especially with larger venues, and even more especially when you are from out of town and the promoter is worried that you may not have a large local following. The promoter may issue you with tickets/flyers with your own band name/code on so he/she can see exactly how many of these tickets/flyers have been brought in by your ‘fans’ and as such may pay you a percentage of the door based on this. So, for instance, you bring in 20 fans, the promoter pays you £3 for each fan, so you will be paid £60.

This type of deal is so common that it makes sense only agreeing to this if you are local and know that you will bring a good following. Alternatively, sometimes the chance to play at such great venues away from home is too much of a pull and you will take this deal knowing you will get little, if no reward for the gig. Unfortunately this is all part of being in a new band, you have to know that the money just isn’t there to begin with.

An agreed set fee for performing

The holy grail of gig payment for new bands. Usually this will be offered by local venues that know you because they know you will bring a good following. This could also be offered, very rarely, by venues that have a headline act that they know will bring big crowds and therefor are not at risk by putting you on as support. I must stress that the latter is very rare for new bands and would usually be offered to more established acts. Expect an average of between £50 – £100. Again, you will not see much better agreed fees than this unless you are more established.

There is one more way that venues will pay bands, and although this is quite rare, I personally have been paid this way in the past. And that is….

Taking a cut of the bar revenue

Sometimes the promoter is the actual venue rather than an independent agent, and sometimes they will offer this deal. Basically they will offer a percentage of the bar takings dependent on how many of your ‘fans’ turn up and drink at the bar. This can be varied so it is hard for me to put a figure on it, but imagine 40 people showed up and the owner/promoter agreed to pay 10% of the bar takings. Depending on how thirsty your fans are, this can work out quite good, maybe £100 – £200. However, this doesn’t work too good on weeknights when people have work the next day so they don’t drink too much, but if you ever get offered this deal, don’t turn it down on this basis! Be ecstatic as it won’t happen often!

All of this being said….

The best way possible to get paid for live music is……

Promote your own shows.

It’s as simple as that. Take the reins, cut out the promoter/middle man and reap the rewards yourself. 

This is what I decided to do maybe a year or so into one of my earlier bands. The reward can be great, but be warned it takes a lot of work to put on a show, and on some occasions when the hoards of people don’t show, you may even lose some money…..but let’s not dwell on the negative.

We go further into this in our article on promoting your own shows, so I won’t delve too deep, but it’s fair to say that if things work out, and you manage to bring a good crowd to see you and the other bands that you put on, then you could earn anything in the region of £100-£300 per show.

So there we have it.

There may be other ways that gigs will pay, but these are the main ones, and methods by which you will get paid by venues across the country.

Remember that being a new band isn’t easy and that the financial reward can be minimal if you don’t have a great following, but we don’t really do it for the money do we? 

John has been in and out of bands all his life, toured and recorded in some of the UK’s most prestigious venues and studio’s. Also worked on stage with some of the world’s biggest acts setting up amps and breaking down stages.


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