There’s a great discussion going on right now over in the Connected Comedians Facebook group about trying to figure out what kind of financial deal a comedian should strike with a venue where he’s planning to perform. It’s obviously a difficult and important question which has a ton of variables and no simple answer, however I think there are a few basic things you can consider when you’re trying to figure out what to charge and/or trying to assess your own financial value as a comedian.
Here’s three questions you should ask yourself before trying to figure out what to charge for a gig…
1. Are You Supplying The Talent, The Audience, Or Both?
The first thing you need to take into account is what you’re actually providing to the venue that books you. There’s a big difference between being booked to entertain somebody else’s crowd and being booked because of your ability to get people to come to a particular venue.
If you’re just being booked as talent to entertain the venue’s crowd, then you’re not going to be responsible for promoting and shouldn’t really expect to participate in the financial upside of a packed house or the money being generated from food and beverages sold. In that scenario, you’re easily replaceable and will likely be paid as such.
If you’re responsible for bringing an audience to the venue – either because your name is a draw or because you’ll be working to promote the show and the venue typically doesn’t draw an audience on its own, then you should expect a cut of the ticket sales and potentially the food and beverage revenue as well. Since it will largely be on you to make the show a financial success, you want to structure things in a way that you can participate in the upside and be appropriately compensated for your work.
The first step in identifying your value in any deal is to clearly understand what you’re bringing to the table.
2. How Much Value Are You Generating For The Venue?
Once you’ve identified whether you’re providing talent or audience to a venue, the next thing you need to do is assess exactly how much value you’ll generate for them. If you’re just the talent, are you the only comedian in your area that can put on a good show? How difficult would you be to replace?
If you’re providing the audience as well, how much money will that audience spend on tickets, food, drinks, etc.? It’s important to figure out how much money your show is going to generate in total, and then work backwards in determining what your actual value is to the venue.
3. How Much Value Will The Gig Generate For Yourself?
Aside from money, every show you do will likely provide a certain level of non-monetary value to you and it’s important to consider that as well when you’re figuring out what is an acceptable deal with a venue. There’s lots of non-monetary value to be had including everything from stage time, exposure to potential new fans, exposure to industry or bookers, ability to promote your merchandise, etc.
By no means am I saying you should be willing to work for free all the time, but different gigs will have different degrees of benefits to provide you with that may make them worth doing even if they don’t pay as much as maybe they should. The flipside is also true – a gig that doesn’t provide any non-monetary value to you may be one that you actually charge more than you typically would for a normal gig.
As I mentioned before, there’s no magic formula to figure out what you should charge to perform, but if you consider the question through the prism of these three questions you’ll likely at least be able to have a better sense and explanation of why you’re getting paid (or not getting paid) what you get.