Let The Other Guy Talk First

Posted on February 21, 2011 at 8:46 am by
in Negotiation
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Writing projects (read: compositions and arrangements) are always up for negotiation. What I always try to do is let the person hiring me talk first. After we have discussed what is involved, I quickly calculate how much time it will take to complete it. I get a price in my head that I think is fair, but I try to let the other person make an offer. If he doesn’t come forward with a figure, and assuming I know the person pretty well, I might say something like this. “What’s your budget for this? Have you got any money?” He’ll probably come back with something like, “I think I can get $2,000.” Many, many times that figure will be more than I was thinking. Now, if I don’t know the person I won’t be so flip in getting him to talk. I’ll say, “What have you budgeted for this
project?” I have found that often what seems like a lot of money to a musician is not that much to the person who is hiring you.
It can work the other way too. A good friend contacted me about one of my unpublished big-band charts. “Can you get me a copy?” he asked. “Sure, how about $75 delivered?” I replied. Pausing, he said, “Look, I’ll give you $150.” That’s a good friend. I was trying to do him a favor, but he had the money in his budget, and he took care of me.

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Have Your Price in Mind

Posted on February 7, 2011 at 6:05 am by
in Negotiation
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You should have a price in mind for the particular service that is under discussion. Different types of gigs will have different pay rates that are either set by the musicians’ union or are the going rates of the area. Many jobs pay scale and that’s it. A traveling Broadway show or an opera put on by the local company are examples. Union scale is the minimum amount that a union musician can be paid for a particular job, but there is no limit to the amount that can be paid over scale. When figuring the budget I usually start with union scale, then factor in costs for other things like travel, cartage of large instruments and percussion rental. If you have a string quartet, for example, and someone wants to hire you for a wedding reception, it won’t be so complicated. You’ll have a price, and there will be little back and forth discussion.

But money isn’t the only consideration. I have taken lots of work that didn’t pay well, on the hope that it would lead to something bigger down the road. Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t.

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