The cost of live musicians for events? An honest guide
What can I expect the cost of live musicians for my event to be?
An honest guide.
As you might imagine, the cost of live musicians can equate to “how long is a piece of string”. However, I want to try and give you an open and honest idea of the kind of figures involved. I also want to give you an idea where Music Newcastle sits within the range. As you will see, the costs involved as a musician might not always be apparent.
- What can the musicians play?
- How much equipment do they bring and regularly maintain?
- What are the promotion and marketing costs involved in getting the event?
- Do the musicians have tax and accounting obligations?
- What is the average cost in the region?
Is it really as simple as the cost per hour?
It’s very easy for prospective customers to see the prices of a service based company like ours as a cost per hour. Sometimes they just look at the number of songs we are going to perform. So, for example, we currently charge £260 for a pianist to play someone’s wedding ceremony. This may involve performing as few as 5 or 6 songs, in a ceremony that lasts around 20-30 minutes. On the surface, to some this may seem expensive. With that in mind, we always think it’s important to be honest and say you can get cheaper providers.
So, what affects the prices charged by a range of musicians who may initially seem to be doing the same job? Well, you can get a Bruno Mars tribute act who will play the same songs for you as Bruno Mars, but…
Just how good are the musicians?
Ask 100 musicians to play the same song and you will get a huge variety of results. Some will have had different styles of training, some may be self-taught and just have a natural flair. There are musicians who may only be able to replicate the written music. Others will be able to embellish what is there, reinterpreting the original song into a different style or for a different instrument to the original. Some may only play one genre whereas some will be much more flexible. There are musicians who may not have been playing for long or have much performance experience whereas others may have played professionally for decades. Some may need a lot of preparation time with others able to sightread a new song immediately.
What about the size of the repertoire offered? You may find that musicians with a more limited repertoire are at the lower end of the market cost-wise. The same can apply with regard to learning new material. Some musicians can do this very quickly and efficiently, whereas some will need much longer. If this is for a band, there may be costs for rehearsal rooms and they might charge extra for this. At Music Newcastle we only work with musicians who have the skill to learn new material quickly and to a high standard due to the bespoke nature of our service. You can read more about this in our blog Can I ask my musicians to learn new songs?
But I only need my musicians to play for an hour.
Performing music at a wedding, for example, may typically involve arriving 1-2 hours before it’s time to play. In addition, the playing time may well have a break in it. Add on the time it can take to pack away afterwards, particularly for a band, and it is very common for 90 minutes of playing to involve being in a venue 4-6 hours. Put on top the fact that we often have to drive to venues further distances than many people would for a job commute. This travel can also be at unsociable hours. Therefore, it becomes clear it’s not just the performing time we are thinking of when setting the cost of live musicians.
The cost of musical equipment
Then there is the question of equipment. Different musicians use a huge range of quality equipment. It is theoretically possible for me as a solo pianist to perform on equipment that cost me a few hundred pounds. Whereas on a typical solo performance I have equipment with me totalling several thousand pounds worth. Now imagine, in addition to needing a PA system and lights, you can multiply the amount several times for a typical 6 piece band playing an evening party.
Also, not all musicians will pay to have their equipment regularly maintained, or have PAT (Portable Appliance Testing) checks done every year as required by some venues. It is also our responsibility to have Public Liability Insurance in case of there being an accident involving us or our equipment when we are performing. My PLI comes through my membership of the Musicians’ Union – another cost that not all musicians pay.
The cost of promoting and marketing live music
Advertising what you do as a musician can easily be a black hole financially if you don’t carefully monitor it. Naturally you need a professional website, regularly updated and maintained. Social media advertising has, of course, become an important part of spreading the word of your services. Crucially there are wedding fairs, open days, events, exhibitions and so on. Here you can meet prospective customers in person, and ideally get a chance to perform, often the best form of advertising as a musician.
These events typically cost £50-£300 to attend, and then there are the man hours to filter in when monitoring their Return On Investment. If you decide not to attend these events, or often as well as, you need professionally filmed video showreels. You find if you attempt to sell music on paper or in print it is very difficult to establish how good you are!
Keeping the tax man happy as a professional musician
Music Newcastle is not just something I do in my spare time alongside a “normal” job. As it’s a Limited Company I need to make sure that all of my tax and National Insurance obligations are met and paid for. As I’m a much better musician than accountant, I pay for a specialist to look after this for me. They use accountancy software to make sure everything is recorded correctly and presented professionally. This is to both customers on their invoices, and the tax man alike. The service involves a paid subscription. As you might imagine, there are a small number of musicians who take cash in hand payments in order to avoid some of these obligations.
So, what can you expect the cost of live musicians to be for your party?
Typically speaking for a standard performance of around 1-2 hours (or maybe the very common 2 x 45 min sets if it’s a band), prices will probably start at around £50-60 per musician. This can go up to £400-£600 for each musician and also may be affected by where you live. In the north east of England currently the most common cost is around £100-£200 per person. At the lower end of the market the musicians will often be playing as a hobby alongside their main job. Although sometimes professional musicians take on relatively low paid performances as a promotional opportunity for future work.
What about the price of wedding or party bands?
We’re often asked in particular about the average wedding band price (and we don’t mean average musically!) To start building a picture you need to think of the whole price broken down by the number of musicians in the band. As a rule for bands in the north east, somewhere in the region of £200-£250 per musician is common. Therefore, an acoustic duo typically charges £400-£500 pounds and a three-piece band £600-£750. For a four-piece band you’d be looking at around £800-£1000 and so on.
For a more detailed insight read our blog How many musicians should I have in my party band? As this illustrates, 4 or 5 musicians would be the minimum number you need for a band that will get your party started. Vocals, keys, guitar, bass guitar and drums being the ideal basic set up. 5 is the more likely number unless you have a singer who also plays one of those instruments. Add in a sax and you’re up to 6.
So a band of 5 or 6 musicians would typically cost you somewhere between £1,000 and £2,000. Looking at either option of an already formed band or bespoke band line up (which you may pay on the higher side for) in the north east this is the average amount you should expect to pay.
A useful guide to the price of musicians? Let us know if you need more information.
Hopefully this blog gives you a useful insight into assessing the cost of live musicians for your party. I’ve shown that there’s a bit more to it than just looking at how long they’re going to play for. I hope it also helps to get an idea of what to expect and gives you some insight into the things to watch out for. If you’ve received a quote from a musician and want a second opinion on it please feel free to ask.