How much should your Music Ministry charge for performance fees?

Please listen to Part One of the is article:

How much should my Christian Band charge to play a show?

before moving on to this part.


Here’s the video transcript:

Question: “How much should your Christian band charge to play a show?”
Answer: “How well are you doing your job?”

It is important to note that we are NOT talking about how much your band or your Christian band’s ministry is worth. Music ministry is invaluable, priceless. How can we even expect to put a dollar value on bringing someone closer to God?

The worth of the ministry when you help change someone’s life far surpasses what you hope to receive in performance fees for your Christian band. What we are trying to accomplish is to establish some formula for payment for your band’s performance at a venue. This payment is intended to help fund your band’s ministry, which allows you to continue and improve that ministry.

We looked at the concert promoter’s formula for paying bands. We also looked at what a concert promoter expects from a band. If you are trying to “make it” as a Christian band, especially if you are trying to make a name in the Nashvill-type Christian music industry, this is what you should expect. You need to do your job well: play a marketable music style, build your fan base, and sell merchandise, so you can get signed. After you are signed, you need to do your job even better. Many popular Christian musicians have amazing ministry both on and off stage. But, the route of getting signed only works for a very small handful of Christian musicians. Most Christian musicians will never be famous or get signed to a major label. While there are many different reasons, most Christian musicians do not go the route of being signed to a label, and that choice affects what your band can charge for performance fees.

We need to shift our focus from being a Christian band to being a Christian music ministry. We are a Christian music ministry when our primary goal is to use music to minister to people (influence and cause lives to be closer to God). Once we have made that shift ourselves, we can represent our stage presentation as a ministry instead of as a concert.

CAUTION: If you are going to use this approach,
you had better really be bringing it in terms of ministry,
both on and off stage!

A music ministry will represent itself to promoters in a different way than a band.

For example, a band’s booking agent will focus on the number of fans a band will potentially bring to a venue. They will back that up with statistics (remember that business people love stats) like the number of Facebook fans, the band’s current standing on music charts, etc. But, a booking agent for a music ministry will focus on the quality of ministry being accomplished at shows. They will present statistics like how many people the band has prayed with at shows and follow it up with stories of changed lives resulting from that prayer.

A band will most often be paid based on a percentage of the average attendance at their shows.
A music ministry’s payment is based on the perceived quality of ministry and the effectiveness of that ministry.

Here’s how to negotiate a fair price:
The place to start in payment negotiations (which comes after discussing most other performance information) is to tell the promoter how much it will cost the music ministry to play. Every time a music ministry pulls out of a driveway, it costs someone money. If the promoter does not cover the costs, the music ministry has to. But, many promoters (especially churches) have no idea how much it costs your band to do a show.

Use these expenses to come up with the cost of playing each show:
● Gas and vehicle repair costs. The IRS mileage deduction in 2015 is 57.5 cents per mile.
● Food expenses. Bands almost always have to provide at least one meal themselves per show, even if it is just fast food. Even water and snacks while travelling cost money. Some bands use a per diem, which means each band member is allowed to spend a set amount each day on food not provided by the promoter. Other bands pay the bill for each meal with whatever cash the band has at the moment.
● Equipment repair and maintenance. The way to come up with a figure here is to add up your total expenses for the last year or six months (be sure to include all the little things like strings and sticks as well as bigger things like amp repair). Divide the total amount by the number of shows you played and you have an average expense per show. Do not add in new equipment purchases unless you replaced (not upgraded) the old because it was broken.
● Tolls and parking
● Housing. Make sure to include any motel bills or camping fees the promoter is not willing to pay.

To give you a frame of reference, on average, a show about two hours away usually costs most bands around $200-$300, if the promoter was providing one meal, the band was not providing the sound or light system, and no housing was needed.

After presenting the promoter with the total cost of expenses, the booking agent has to rely on intuition and personal experience for how to proceed in negotiations. Some promoters could do far more than just cover the band’s expenses and are happy to do so when the agent mentions that the other places the band played, such as food banks, could not. Think of this as a “Here’s what my expenses are—what can you afford?” approach. This requires a lot of discernment on the part of the person doing booking and a lot of trust by the band members in that person. The booking agent is constantly trying to evaluate ministry potential vs. music ministry cash flow, both of which are difficult to predict.

Remember that your music ministry has many other expenses that are not factored into this formula: website fees, press kit creation and mailing, merchandise table design, etc. If asked about using merchandise sales to offset the expenses, it is completely appropriate to explain that merchandise sale profits are used to fund these types of overhead expenses. You may even want to cite recent examples of fundraisers the band has done to further your ministry.

Warning: if band members are consistently asking “When are we going to play a good show?” or “When can I get paid?”, this may not be a good approach for your ministry.

The goal during this type of negotiation is to become a ministry team with the promoter. Both of you want the best possible ministry done at the event. Neither of you want the event to harm each other’s ministry. Sometimes that will mean playing for free if your really feel you should not pass up the ministry opportunity, once in a while that will mean recommending another band for the show; other times that will mean being paid or receiving extra payment for more than you expected. Try to balance a fair price to meet the needs of your ministry with what the promoter can realistically afford. Also remember that it is perfectly fine to turn down a show when the music ministry either cannot afford it or does not see the ministry potential. In the end, most bands using this approach will be paid more than if they accepted the typical band’s pay based on a percentage of the door. But, it still will not average out to meet all the expenses of your music ministry exclusively through performance fees. You will need to find additional ways to raise money for your bands ministry.

Disclaimer: This information is not meant as a black and white “doctrine” or definitive “How–To.” I am simply attempting to get you to think about performance fees differently than you have in the past. There is no real line drawn between a Christian band and a Christian music ministry—it is a balance, a matter of focus. There are many bands that do both quite well and other bands that shift from one to another as their ministries or each show requires. One is not necessarily better than the other. Both are needed to reach the world for the Kingdom.

This video is an excerpt from The Christian Band Handbook.

One of the best tools we have developed for you at Christian Band Help is The Christian Band Handbook. This resource book covers topics such as defining your ministry’s mission, how to find the right band members, choosing and protecting your band’s name, copyrights, press kits and booking, music marketing, how to make the most of your ministry dollars, and a whole lot more.

We know what it’s like to be a Christian musician. Between us my husband Mark and I have over 60 years of experience in almost every aspect of music ministry. I wrote this book so you can learn from our experience. We want to help you launch your band on the journey to impact the world around you while avoiding the pitfalls along the way.

The Christian Band Handbook is available as a paperback or e-book on Amazon and most e-book retailers. CLICK HERE for more information.

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