How to get gigs

Negotiate a gig deal

Guide

When you book a venue for your gig, the owners may not be flexible around rental fees. However, it may be worth trying to negotiate. You may be able to get a better deal if you can show:

  • your ability to bring in a big crowd
  • your commitment to promote the show and make the event a success

The rental fee will usually be a guarantee you make to the venue. Often, it will be covered by the percentage of money collected at the doors and bar sales. In order to negotiate a good gig deal, it helps to understand the differences in the way gig payments can be made.

Typical gig deals

The most common types of gig payments are outlined below.

Guarantee gigs
In guarantee gigs, the artist is paid no matter if the gig is sold out or barely attended. Most independent artists tend to want a guarantee. The venue or the promoter assume all the risks and lose money if you don't get enough people through the door. Because of this, guarantee gigs are hardest to get and often reserved for bands proven to draw in large audiences.

Door 'split' gigs
In 'split' gigs, there are no guarantees. The artist or the band do not get a set fee for performing. Instead, their payment depends on the event's attendance since they get a percentage (or a split) of ticket sales. This means that, if you get a good turnout, you can make a decent amount of money. If few show up, you may leave with nothing. Most venues prefer door splits for new and growing bands acts because it removes the element of financial risk from them.

Donation gigs
When the venue doesn't pay you anything at all, regardless of attendance, you're talking about donation gigs. In such an arrangement, you may collect donations or make money on sales from the audience. These deals may suit certain artists better than others. For example, donation gigs may be a good option:

  • if you have lots of merchandise to sell
  • if you're looking for exposure (eg a showcase or an opening act for a larger band)
  • if you simply want to boost your experience and fill up your schedule

Pay to play gigs
These are the easiest type of gigs to get. The venue will be asking you to pay to perform there and you will have to:

  • get the fans to pay you to come in
  • buy the tickets yourself and try to resell them to fans

It is important to understand that, when you are just getting started, you may not always make money on your shows. But that doesn't mean that you should always pay to perform either.

Think carefully about the financial arrangements and be flexible - even if you don't earn any money, gigs can be a valuable way to build your reputation and develop a fan base.

Remember that, if you have merchandise, you can increase your earnings beyond your gig fees.