I still have the first contract I ever signed for a musical performance. $25 per night for two nights for a total of $50. That was eons ago and, at the time, I had no idea of what I should have been paid. An agent friend of my mom's booked the job. I think mom was just trying to get me out of the house. I wasn't a working musician back then, and really wasn't even thinking about it. I used to sing and play for friends and that was all I was interested in. Ancient history.
Eventually, my brother talked me into starting a band. I will never forgive him. Ha, ha, ha. It was in the 70's, and we were paid between $75 and $100 per person each night. Oddly, the pay scale hasn't changed much. Sure, there are exceptions. If you're a band leader and do all the business for the band or, if you're a solo artist, you can do much better. But, the average pay is still $100 per musician.
There are many reasons for this; some justifiable, some not. From an establishments point of view there are the issues of rising costs such as; Insurance and paying royalty organizations like BMI and ASCAP. The change in the drinking age and DWI laws. It's still the bottom line. Funny that only the musicians are paid the same. Imagine paying the manager or anyone else on a 1970's pay scale.
Sorry to say, but, musicians have to take a lot of the blame, too. When an artist undersells him or her self, it hurts all artists. Just because one has other means of financial support, doesn't give them the right to undercut those trying to make a living. Think about. That's all. If you don't care about or don't need the money, there are plenty of non-paying venues out there. If you really need the night life, the least you could do is ask for a decent nights pay.
Lastly, there is the issue of advertising. Have you ever noticed that a venue will spend lots of money on print ads or radio spots for an out-of-town act and virtually nothing on a local band? And then scratch their heads when the results are in. Or, bands not doing any promotion of their own? We all know that you have to get people in the door to make money. I think more venues and artists need to communicate on what kind of promotion each will do to make an event successful. I know that some do.
There is also the issue of how entertainers present themselves but, that is an issue for another blog.
Thanks for reading,