How to Talk about Money when Applying for a Gig
Here it is. The last ‘getting the gig’ article. For those of you who don’t know me: I am a former venue manager who shares his experience and helps independent musicians learn the effective formulas to approach live music venues. On the other hand, I’ve been a performing/recording musician for as long as I’ve been alive. So, I know what it’s like to apply, approve, deny, or get denied.
What I’ve designed here is a free interactive course. I give useful tips and info, and musicians send me drafts of their ‘gig emails’. Then, I provide personal feedback to everyone. All this costs no money so, please, don’t get scammed. This course is not for sale. It’s a free resource for musicians of all genres.
That being said, if you haven’t read the 101 and 102 articles, I would recommend that you do so. I mean, why take a single bite when you’re given the whole thing? All it’s going to cost you is a bit of time and effort. Motivation and determination are key here. I already have people who ‘got the gig’ after years of no-response. If they can do it, you can do it, too.
In fact, as my readers already know, I never stop talking about the mindset I want from musicians: if you can think of something, then this thing is possible to achieve. Some of you are skeptic about that, right? Or maybe skeptic about the whole meaning and purpose of life? Good for you. I just wonder, how’s that been working out for you so far?
So, if you want to get actual gigs instead of ending up in the spam folders of venue managers, concentrate and start practicing. I have given you three articles. I have also given you a real-time opportunity to practice the ‘gig email’ with an actual venue manager (me). All you need to do is start studying and believing in yourself. I have created a situation where you have no excuse, haven’t I?
I know you’ll thank me for that one day. For now, feel free to hate me, but keep studying. It’s time to get to the topic: what you need to know about money and purpose when it comes to applying for gigs.
Rule No. 1: your attitude determines whether you get gigs or not. Your attitude can make you a superstar or a nobody. Your attitude is the key determinant of your astounding success or your ultimate failure.
What does attitude even mean? It is the way you act in a given situation or in general, no matter what your personality is. Those of you who’ve read the other two articles already know that communication with venue managers is what literature calls ‘business communication’. So, what I focus on throughout this whole course is business communication skills for self-managed musicians.
Considering that, we’re going to discuss the phenomenon of attitude in business conversations with venue managers. Remember the definition I’ve just offered you: attitude is not about your personality – it’s about the way you act.
Great musicians act. What we see on stage is not who these musicians are in their personal lives. What we see is their attitude – the way they act. It’s their attitude that determines whether we worship them or not. As you might guess, there are also musicians who don’t have the right attitude, even though they make real great music. Because of that, they often get nowhere in the music industry.
The same thing holds true for business communication. Nobody really cares what you offer. The only thing that matters is how you act. Think about it: how many of today’s businesses are pioneers in something? How come they keep growing even though they don’t actually offer flawless and super unique products? Why are so many decent small companies on the verge of bankruptcy? What’s wrong with the world? It all comes down to attitude – the way you act, the way you ‘handle’ your product.
So, when you write your email to a venue manager, what does he/she see first? Your attitude – not who you are or how great a thing you offer, but how you act. Quite a lot of acting, right? What’s the right attitude then? Let’s do a quick and easy test.
Asking vs. Offering
If someone was to offer you a $500 microwave, what kind of a salesperson would you prefer: someone who sounds like ‘check this microwave out, I’ll give you testimonials, it’s the best one on the market, please buy it!”; or someone who offers you the microwave in an official, well-written, personally addressed letter and gives you a three-day period to decide whether you need the appliance or not.
I’m pretty sure the second one is much more likely to close the deal. Why is that? It’s because he doesn’t beg. He offers. And what do you do in your ‘gig emails’? You beg. All the time. Check out my links, check out my pages, check out my site, blah, blah, blah… I’ve told you before (the 102 article) – no one wants to check anything out. No one has any time for that. People look for reasons not to do business with you. And by begging, you give them even more of these reasons.
Why do you ‘ask’ for a gig? It’s like you’re asking for a little more cookie dough and you know you’re not getting some. That’s how it sounds, I’m not joking. What is that pathetic sentence, ‘please, check out my music and content’? ‘Please’? Who invented that? Find that guy and report him to the FBI!
In real business, people don’t ask. They don’t beg. People offer. That’s what you need to do. Start offering your music. Start having some self-confidence. Stop asking venue managers to ‘check you out’.
Is there a template for that? No, there’s no template. I have given you enough templates. Learning to offer is about learning to value yourself and your music. How to do that? To start with, here are some tips:
- Get it in your head that you have a valuable product! You have created a product. How hard is that to grasp? You have actually spent time creating music. It makes no difference whether you’re manufacturing smartphones or songs. Have you created something? Yes, you have – music. Therefore, you have a product. No need for further doubt or analysis.
- Stop giving your product away for free. Why do you sell your music for $0? I really see no point in that. I’ve heard things like, ‘This way, you get more exposure…” What? How does giving away stuff for free relate to maximized exposure? Let me ask you this: when was the last time you received a free iPhone from Apple? A free BMW? A free Harley Davidson? If you want to become a big brand, you’d better start acting as such asap. Free music and shyness get you nowhere. Don’t believe me? Keep trying then. And show me proof that your exposure grows. I’m really curious.
- Send as few links as possible. One or two links are more than enough. The correct ones for each particular venue – I hope you remember that (102 article). As you might have read in my previous articles, business people have no time to waste, at all. That said, try being a business person when necessary. Realize that no one will listen to your music for more than 10 seconds, if at all. Showing that you’re aware of that will get you closer to a successful gig deal. I mean, don’t say it out loud. Just show it with you attitude. If I were you, I would send no links at all. I would write my email and conclude it like this: “Should you decide that we shall work together on [date], I will make sure you receive links to my published tracks and social channels.” But that game is too dangerous. Or is it?
- Stay abreast of communication trends. If you appreciate your music, don’t dress it in ridiculously old clothes. Look around and come to your senses. Don’t use outdated communication methods. Why do you send EPKs to venues? I mean, why don’t you send some fax messages, too? Maybe that would help. Hope you get the irony. What I’m trying to say is that you always need to be aware of what’s going on in the industry and be honest with yourself. And upgrade in a timely manner. I know… I love EPKs, too. But they are a bit like floppy disks (if you even know what these are). EPKs were a trend back in the day, before the advent of social media. Many, many, many things have changed since then. I know that some platforms keep prompting you to create an EPK, but, please, have a look at when these platforms were first launched… Make your own conclusions. Bottom line, dress your music in new, relevant clothes and archive the old ones (they’ll be back in fashion one day, but that’s a topic for a whole new article). Stay up-to-date with communication trends.
That’s what attitude is all about. Respect your music, respect yourself, don’t fear to set high prices. You deserve to get paid. Being aware of that makes you look naturally confident. Maybe you’re not a confident person? Remember what I told you in the very beginning: it’s not about who you are, it’s about how you act.
That’s why managers care so much about social media. It’s because social media shows how you act, how you interact, how you counteract. That’s what matters to managers. It isn’t easy to say this, but even the quality of your music doesn’t matter that much anymore. If you’re a social influencer, you will get the gig, even if your music, more or less, sucks.
However, I only want you to be aware of that. I don’t want you to become hollow musicians with many hollow social media followers. Please. Keep making amazing music. If you have both the great music and the business communication skills, it’s natural that you’re going to rank high. Don’t worry about that and don’t become a fake. Just keep in mind the thing I've told you about social influencers.
Supposing you’ve already realized that your music deserves a high price. Supposing you’ve already realized why – cuz you don’t wanna look cheap; cuz business people don’t do business with cheap people; and if they do, it’s just to exploit these cheap folks. That said, we get to the main topic of this article – money. Finally!
As I told you, your attitude is everything. If you have the right attitude and you realize that your price must be high, you’re ready to talk about money. You need to be confident. And that confidence needs to be based on something. And that something is your own self-respect. And that self-respect is based on what you create – your music. Doesn’t matter if your product is popular or not. It’s enough to respect it and act as if it’s already selling. And it will. How? By selling it the right way. And what is the right way? Go back to the beginning of the paragraph and start over.
You see? It’s a circular process. You sell your product as if it’s already successful. That’s how it becomes successful in reality. If you don’t sound like you’re already ‘Number 1’, you won’t get to ‘Number 1’. That’s the weird world of sales. It’s getting harder to be self-managed, doesn’t it? But don’t give up. Let’s remind ourselves: if you can think of something, that thing is possible to achieve.
Once you realize all that and get rid of shyness and doubt, you’ll start acting the right way. Once you have that air of confidence around you, you will start getting gigs. You will start sounding professional in your emails. You will gain authority and, eventually, you’ll start getting paid for playing live.
But how to start the money conversation? You already know step one – your attitude. Then comes some common sense.
Never start with money. Let it rest. Don’t show that you care so much. In fact, you should sound like you’re not going to be affected if you don’t get the gig. Get it? It’s like BMW won’t be affected if you don’t buy a car. That’s why people respect them. That's how you can gain some respect, too.
In a nutshell, be confident, professional, respectful, and concise. Offer your products, don’t ask people to check them out. Behave as if you’re already successful. But be humble and down-to-earth. That’s essential to professionalism. Confident doesn’t mean cocky. Find the balance is what I'm trying to say.
So, when is it okay to talk about money? Certainly not in your first email. In a phone conversation after that? Yes, that’s more acceptable. In any case, it must not be when you first get in touch with a venue manager. Feel the situation. Improvise. Okay, but how to ask for money? An awkward moment, indeed.
Sales Strategy for Musicians
First, you need to figure out what you’re aiming for. Do you want to get some money or do you want to get a certain amount of money? Some sales experts state that you should never sell cheap if you want to build an expensive brand. Yes, quite true. And you already know why (from the paragraphs above).
However, in real life, we often do need to sell cheap. It’s just because we need to pay our bills and eat something. So, I’m going to give you a temporary solution. You can sell cheap sometimes but you must never have the attitude of a ‘cheap seller’. Don’t act like, ‘I’ll play for 50 bucks.” Show this attitude: “I AGREE to play for 50 bucks. And that’s only for you, this one time, Mr. Venue Manager.”
Once again, you see that your attitude is everything. Act expensive even when you sell cheap. That’s how your ‘numbers’ will rise. Not really the quickest strategy to success, but we often need to use it in real life. So, you can’t practically deny and forget cheap-selling, but you can at least aim for the fixed-price strategy in the future.
The fixed-price strategy is the one where you aim to sell your product (you and your music) at a certain, preferably high, price. That's the proven strategy for success. How does it differ from cheap-selling? It’s all about winning. How do you win as a cheap seller? By closing deals all the time. All successful deals are victories. Practically, every time you play a gig and get some cash, you win. If you don’t get a gig, you lose. Therefore, your goal is to get as many gigs as possible and AGREE to the best, most attractive prices. But that’s only valid for the cheap-selling strategy.
When you aim towards a high fixed price, you win when you do AND when you don’t get a gig. What? Okay, let me put it this way: when you don’t get a gig, the venue cannot afford you. That’s a hypothetical victory. Of course, when someone pays you what you want, that’s also a victory. However, you lose when you agree to play for a low price. Get it? That's a good strategy for success but it doesn't really work when you have to pay the rent in two days.
So, if you ask me how to ask for money, I will say: what kind of money?
If you’re going to sell cheap, ask the client (the manager) what their budget is. Whatever he/she says, you’d better agree to it. There’s no point in bargaining here. You want to get as many gigs as you want with this strategy, remember? However, don’t forget that you AGREE to play – always keep the ‘high-selling image’. Don’t be delusional, though. Hope you understand why - because it’s ridiculous.
If you sell expensive, you can just state your price. It's simpler. But always wait until you’re asked. That’s the appropriate moment in both strategies, actually. If the manager never raises the question, however, you need to ask, in a kind manner. But most managers do ask, don’t worry.
So, what’s the conclusion? Attitude + sales strategy + ? There’s always three things, right? It’s a magic number, indeed.
The missing link is called purpose. Purpose is nothing more than your logical explanation why you send the ‘gig email’ in the first place. If you have the right attitude and sales strategy, you’re almost there. It’s purpose that makes you fully proficient at approaching live music venues.
Let me tell you this. Why do I not call venues anymore? Why do I not write emails? Because venues contact me. Is this because I’m famous? Not really… It’s because people in the industry know what purpose is. And they know that I have my own purpose when I offer something.
Now that I live in the Netherlands, I don’t check out venues in Canada. That’s because I have a purpose. Now that I tour Western Europe, I don’t secure spots in Russia. That’s because I have a purpose. You see what I mean? Probably not.
Your requests should make sense both to you and the manager. There must be a purpose. That’s how you build the authority of a reasonable professional. Stop contacting faraway venues hoping that someone will pay flights and accommodation for you. Who are you? If someone does, all you’re going to do is ruin your authority – you’re going to become the man who only sells high but is actually a cheap nobody.
When you apply for a gig, you need to think beforehand: what will happen if I do get the gig? Will I lose money? Will the manager lose money? Will the venue lose money? Or time? Everyone should win. That’s a well-thought-out purpose. If only you win, you’re a scammer, not a music industry professional.
And that’s the reason why I get calls from the US and decline invitations (always in a kind manner!). Because I don’t want managers to lose money by paying for ridiculously over-priced flights for Stanley Stonks. Who the hell is he? I’m realistic. That’s why I have the authority of a good professional. That’s what I’ve been trying to teach you during this whole course: attitude + sales strategy + purpose = authority. On the other hand, authority = success. That’s the single most important formula for self-managed musicians.
The 101 Promise
In the 101 article, I made a promise. I introduced you to the imaginary musician MJPT from Argentina. I promised that by the end of the course, you’ll be able to imagine how MJPT can get a gig in the UK. Now is the time.
If that guy is from Argentina and he wants to play in the UK, what are the obstacles? Obviously, flights and accommodation. Supposing he already has his attitude + sales strategy, all he needs is a purpose.
That is, he can’t just want a gig in the UK. For what? What is he going to do there? He needs to have something in mind. He needs to either plan to move to the UK or play as a regular musician in the venue he applied for. Or maybe he’s touring? Or whatever… He just needs a purpose – a specific one. Wanting a gig is not a purpose itself. I hope you get what this means – everyone in the business situation should win; everyone should end up happy, one way or another. That’s a properly crafted purpose. If that's missing, you're ruining your authority and chances for success. It's about getting purposeful gigs, not just about playing at random venues around the world.
Start Doing It
Enough from all that. You have three articles to read and re-read. You have me, and I offer free help – send me a draft ‘gig email’ via the contact form, and I’ll get back to you with personal feedback. Or ask me whatever you want - I’ll answer asap. You have no excuses. And you have numerous venues waiting for you. Stop trying and start doing it. Be the winner, not the participant!
There’s always more to learn. Learning goes on forever. But since you can’t wait forever, you’d better start achieving you goals in the music industry right now. I have given you enough knowledge, with which you can start succeeding. And the most important thing you’ve learned from me in this course is that music is music, but music business is business. If you want to do it on your own, you’d better become good at both.
As always, let me remind you that: if you want to do something, you will always find a way; if you don’t want to do it, you’ll always find an excuse.
Looking forward to receiving drafts from you! See you in my next series of articles! I wish you the best of luck, and don’t give up! And don’t be lazy.