Pricing a Performance: 14 Things to Consider When Setting Your Rate

Posted on June 19, 2013 by


If you’re wondering how to set your rate for performances, particularly the ones that are unusual, it might be helpful to have some idea of how to approach that process. The first step, as we see it, is understanding your rate. That means, if asked, “What do you charge for a standard show,” you should have a clear answer that indicates:

  • the fee itself
  • ancillary costs, if there are any
  • the duration of the show
  • what happens during your standard show

That sounds easy though, for many, is a difficult number to arrive at. While every gig is unique and will be a little different from the others, thoroughly examining your expenses — explicit and hidden — should help you develop your formula for booking a gig. Most established troupes these days have a base rate for the first artist and an additional fee for to add on more performers. While newer artists may be willing to perform at a party for entry to the party, that gets old, especially if you’re trying to make your living as a performance artist. It certainly is important to consider other perks you get — dinner, entry to events, drinks and hotel accomodations. Remember though, the promise of something that might happen is not the same as actual compensation.

If you’re struggling to figure it all out and have no idea where to start, consider answering all these questions first in an effort to help you determine your rate:

  • how many sets?
  • how long are the sets?
  • how many people per set?
  • how much fuel will be used?
  • what’s your transportion cost getting there and back?
  • what are your additional costs for permits and legal issues (insurance, for example)?
  • do you need to buy or make a specific costume? if so, what are the costs? (include the cost of your time to actually acquire the resources to make the costume as well as the cost of the fabric)
  • what is your lost revenue opportunity? that is, are you giving anything up to do this performance and is it money making and if so, how much money could you have made doing that? Your booking rate should account for that.
  • how much time are you losing and how are you being compensated for that?
  • what constitutes a standard travel area (how many miles from your home base) and what requires an additional fee? What is your additional fee if there is one?
  • how many people on your safety team? how much do you have to pay each of them?
  • what is the cost of your fuel and tools for the show?
  • are you doing other things at the show that will cost money? for example, we’ve done ceremonies where everyone has a candle so we have to buy candles also. include that cost.
  • are you doing set choreography? do you have to write it? how much time will you need in rehearsal?

If you’re doing a gig that is out of town, you may also want to consider these additional costs:

  • do you have to ship anything?
  • do you have to buy shipping containers to ship the things?
  • do you need to hire a local contact to acquire the fuel for you?
  • do you need a car rental?
  • do you need to play for plane tickets?
  • will you get per diem (a daily fee to cover food and lodging) or do you have an expense account? if not, how are you covering these costs?
  • what’s your cost of housing, if any?

In the end, be sure to go through these questions for each artist participating in your performance, be they permanent members of your group or guests joining you for just one show.

And, here’s a video with a few more thoughts on the subject.

Posted in: Articles, Performance