Full Time (Cover) Guys - talk to me about $$$

Gasp100

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
21,754
I'm contemplating a HUGE move. Honestly, it's more than likely NOT going to happen, but if things line up and certain decisions are made in my favor I might try to undertake the impossible - full time stay at home Dad, full time musician. Primary means of income handled by my SO (I would be the secondary income person covering that last ~10-20% required to keep the engine running). What I would consider doing in the music biz:

Join up with an agency for wedding/corporate gigs.
Continue to book my cover band even more aggressively.
Maybe try to grab a standing acoustic duo during the week.
Create a sound/lighting business for SMALL rigs for SMALL bands and undercut the competition. Figure ~$200 for a show, hire a friend for $100 to do the work.
Create a booking agency to book myself and other people I know in the scene. Push to get decent gigs in the $800-1000 spot and take 15% off the top.

I figure I'm about 1/2 way there already with my current gigging schedule AND I work full time AND my commute = 3 hours+ a day total. I get home and I'm wiped, I barely want to hang with my kids and wife (let alone try and have fun, etc...) and my job is relentlessly boring...

I also work at a decently high level in IT and could probably pick up some freelance work to supplement. And if the **** hit the fan I'm confident I could score another IT gig in a reasonable time frame, even if I had to consult/contract.

So my questions are:
What is the average pay rate for a guitarist in a popular, agency booked wedding band? I have one friend (female singer) in a group and she does pretty well ($300-400?).
Has anyone turned the corner from weekend warrior into full time muso successfully? Any tips, experience, etc...?

I think I need a break from corporate and I need to spend more time with my kids before they're no longer kids...
 

Lucidology

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
27,013
Sounds good ... you're well on your way ... you've grasped what it takes.
Diversity is key ... not so much in style sometimes, as in playing different genres & such.
But the configurations in which you can book yourself .
Solos, duets, trios, hired gun, studio work, playing in different bands, etc.

The only thing I would say about the amount of money you make is this:
It isn't about playing 'quality' of pay gigs, but 'quantity' and what it all adds up to at the end of the month ...

If you hold out only for the larger paying gigs it's not going to pay your bills as a fulltime musician ...
You may only be able to spot your calender with them ...
Don't hold out. Don't turn down the smaller paying gigs ... play the lesser paying gigs wherever they may be.
OK it's true, three less paying gigs may add up to one good paying gig ..
But in a weeks passing you'll be much happier with the money you've made.

Yes, you'll have to get up from your comfy home more often.
But it can work out. In other words, as a full-time musician you have to do it Full-Time!
 

standard24

Member
Messages
9,080
"Create a sound/lighting business for SMALL rigs for SMALL bands and undercut the competition. Figure ~$200 for a show, hire a friend for $100 to do the work."


OK... The sound and light gear might cost $3000 if you get it used/very cheap. Then you're going to hire somebody to transport, setup, run, breakdown, and return for $100??????

Figure 10 hours of labor, no assistant, and parking/gasoline costs... Is $6.00 an hour, doing ass-busting work, going to keep this guy happy?

What about equipment maintenance? Are bands going to respect your equipment and not abuse it? (Yanking on cables, blasting loud bass, drinks on cabs or monitors?) What about lost/stolen gear? One man can't watch all the stuff during load in/out.

I do this same job, with a paid assistant, and everything is carried in a 6'X10' box trailer with all rolling boxes/cases/speakers. Plus I don't have to run sound or lights, and I get $275. Any less, and I'd do something else.

Might want to think this one through a little more.
 

JoeB63

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
13,687
Congrats on having that wife!

(yes, paying a guy $100 to run sound is way too little. Doing it yourself for $200 will get tiresome unless you really need that $200.)
 

Yer Blues

Member
Messages
8,549
I think a good way to go about doing it would be to add up all your monthly expenses on a spreadsheet. And be realistic about it and maybe even fudge on the high side just to be safe. Mortgage, rent, car payment, food, electricity, water, heat, kids college fund, etc, etc, etc.

Then try and break down what type and how many gigs you'd need to hit that number.

According to your OP the wife's income would make up 80-90% of it. So, realistically it's not like you are trying to support your entire family from gigging/playing music. Without your wife's income it would be a different story.
 

Baminated

Member
Messages
6,494
def have the 60's-2010's repertoire of commonly called tunes and the gear to handle big cleans, rock/pop, motown/soul, jazz/cocktai ****.

gotta be able to go from Frank Sinatra to AC/DC in a pinch

The higher end bands are going all direct/iem, so you'll hafta leave the blooz toob amp at home
 

Luke

Senior Member
Messages
11,898
Without your wife's income it would be a different story.
Which is one layoff away from disappearing.

With IT if you are out of the game any amount of time people assume your skills are diminished. It's nearly impossible to get back in after a year absence, my fiance has been trying for four, after having been director of IT at a Fortune 500.

Obvious other issues are:

You'd be covering expenses but what about retirement savings?
You'd be on a different, and likely opposing, schedule than your family.
Do you have her backing on this idea?
 

Steve Hotra

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
8,940
Sounds good ... you're well on your way ... you've grasped what it takes.
Diversity is key ... not so much in style sometimes, as in playing different genres & such.
But the configurations in which you can book yourself .
Solos, duets, trios, hired gun, studio work, playing in different bands, etc.

The only thing I would say about the amount of money you make is this:
It isn't about playing 'quality' of pay gigs, but 'quantity' and what it all adds up to at the end of the month ...

If you hold out only for the larger paying gigs it's not going to pay your bills as a fulltime musician ...
You may only be able to spot your calender with them ...
Don't hold out. Don't turn down the smaller paying gigs ... play the lesser paying gigs wherever they may be.
OK it's true, three less paying gigs may add up to one good paying gig ..
But in a weeks passing you'll be much happier with the money you've made.

Yes, you'll have to get up from your comfy home more often.
But it can work out. In other words, as a full-time musician you have to do it Full-Time!
I think this is great insight.
I am working as a full-time musician as well.
I teach music lessons, play at a few churches, consult ( for musician / sound training)
I would suggest that you have a good understanding on your monthly living expenses.
Take whatever you can for income.
My hours are crazy, but my wife is ok with it. ( we are empty nesters)
We went through all of our expenses and reworked/ reduced a lot of expenses.
I have been doing this for about three years now and I am happy working for myself.
Its up to me to have the extra things in life, ( like guitar gear)
Also, get in touch with a good CPA, or tax accountant.
You want to write off as much as you are allowed.
Hope you can make it!
 

loudboy

Member
Messages
27,344
From my experience:

No "small" band is going to pay $200 for lights/sound, they can't afford it, even if they're making $500/night.

There is a big market for a small PA/light rig, in the $125 range. Good speakers on sticks, a pair of small subs and a few LED panels on each side that run an auto program.

You can get it set up in an hour, strike it in a half hour and the rest of the gig is just sit there and babysit the mix. About 7 hrs. of work, for a standard 4-hour gig, including travel time, so, roughly $18/hr. which is more than the players in the band will make.

If you have a bigger system, you'll need a helper, will take longer to set up and you'll work harder all night, for the same $.

The key is to have good gear and know how to run it. Also, hooking up with one band and providing them sound for every gig makes it very easy.
 

27sauce

Member
Messages
35,702
Music (mostly cover) is my only source of income. I've got it split in to three elements, the main gig; a salaried, 4 night per week gig that is about 75% of the money I make. It's easy, no brainer, no loading in/loading out…We play private events on occasion, which pay double scale. On off nights, and during the day, I sometimes play with a friends cover band. This could be anything from a $100 each at a bar, to $400 at a wedding, or private event. This is only 2 or 3 times a month. Enough to keep me from going insane at the regular gig. The other is doing original music, and playing on other people's recordings. This is the real fun, although there isn't a terrible amount of money in it.

I am a home owner, married with 2 kids, the bills are paid, everyone is happy…Don't get me wrong, we aren't rich, but its good. Especially since I spend most days with my family, no day job to go to…I wouldn't want the burden of owning PA, or running a calendar. I know people that do this and love it, but that's just not for me. You need me? You call me. You will get an electric guitar player that can sing. That is it.
 

Lucidology

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
27,013
Music (mostly cover) is my only source of income. I've got it split in to three elements, the main gig; a salaried, 4 night per week gig that is about 75% of the money I make. It's easy, no brainer, no loading in/loading out…We play private events on occasion, which pay double scale. On off nights, and during the day, I sometimes play with a friends cover band. This could be anything from a $100 each at a bar, to $400 at a wedding, or private event. This is only 2 or 3 times a month. Enough to keep me from going insane at the regular gig. The other is doing original music, and playing on other people's recordings. This is the real fun, although there isn't a terrible amount of money in it.

I am a home owner, married with 2 kids, the bills are paid, everyone is happy…Don't get me wrong, we aren't rich, but its good. Especially since I spend most days with my family, no day job to go to…I wouldn't want the burden of owning PA, or running a calendar. I know people that do this and love it, but that's just not for me. You need me? You call me. You will get an electric guitar player that can sing. That is it.
Very, very cool ...
Totally Honor where you're coming from & how you do it... :aok
 

DrSax

Member
Messages
6,609
Music (mostly cover) is my only source of income. I've got it split in to three elements, the main gig; a salaried, 4 night per week gig that is about 75% of the money I make. It's easy, no brainer, no loading in/loading out…We play private events on occasion, which pay double scale. On off nights, and during the day, I sometimes play with a friends cover band. This could be anything from a $100 each at a bar, to $400 at a wedding, or private event. This is only 2 or 3 times a month. Enough to keep me from going insane at the regular gig. The other is doing original music, and playing on other people's recordings. This is the real fun, although there isn't a terrible amount of money in it.

I am a home owner, married with 2 kids, the bills are paid, everyone is happy…Don't get me wrong, we aren't rich, but its good. Especially since I spend most days with my family, no day job to go to…I wouldn't want the burden of owning PA, or running a calendar. I know people that do this and love it, but that's just not for me. You need me? You call me. You will get an electric guitar player that can sing. That is it.
I highlighted a biggie, IMHO. I do NOT sing, and it's the number one reason right now that I'm not working as much as I need to be. I can't do solo gigs (unless it's wallpaper restaurant type stuff, and there isn't much of that to go around). So many places are just doing the solo acoustic/singer route. And most bands want everyone singing.
 

StratGuy22

Senior Member
Messages
2,273
"Create a sound/lighting business for SMALL rigs for SMALL bands and undercut the competition. Figure ~$200 for a show, hire a friend for $100 to do the work."


OK... The sound and light gear might cost $3000 if you get it used/very cheap. Then you're going to hire somebody to transport, setup, run, breakdown, and return for $100??????

Figure 10 hours of labor, no assistant, and parking/gasoline costs... Is $6.00 an hour, doing ass-busting work, going to keep this guy happy?

What about equipment maintenance? Are bands going to respect your equipment and not abuse it? (Yanking on cables, blasting loud bass, drinks on cabs or monitors?) What about lost/stolen gear? One man can't watch all the stuff during load in/out.

I do this same job, with a paid assistant, and everything is carried in a 6'X10' box trailer with all rolling boxes/cases/speakers. Plus I don't have to run sound or lights, and I get $275. Any less, and I'd do something else.

Might want to think this one through a little more.

Exactly. And if you don't have enough rig for the gig, you might end up with a bunch of broken down gear and lots of repair bills.
 

DrumBob

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
17,590
As a full time musician, you will have to do multiple jobs to make ends meet: wedding gigs, bar gigs, full band, duo, single gigs if you can, teach in person and online, etc. Maybe book other bands and take a percentage.

I think you know all this stuff already. If you're going to do it, just do it now, while you still have time on your side. It's easier if you don't have kids and a mortgage, but if you don't do it, you'll regret it someday.

Good luck.
 

Gas-man

Unrepentant Massaganist
Messages
18,630
I would be very careful handing over the primary breadwinning to your SO.

It changes things and you may find yourself in a very weak situation.

Just a warning. I'm sure I will be scolded for even bringing it up but it is absolutely real and something to think about.
 

Crowder

Dang Twangler
Messages
19,083
Are you both going to be happy with your wife working days and you leaving as soon as she gets home to work evenings and nights? Start there and work backwards into your solution.

Our singer directs the all-volunteer praise band at a local church. He gets $600/month for Sat am rehearsal, Sunday am early service, and fielding the odd calls that come along with it. Not too bad as far as daytime work goes.

If you can sing even a little, you might be able to lead an open mic or open jam somewhere. It might pay $75/night or something, but it would be consistent. A side benefit would be meeting other artists who you might have some synergies with for other gigs.

Are lessons a possible source of revenue? Maybe pick up a shift on Saturdays in a music store? Are you any good at recording? Can you do guitar setup work? You've gotta get creative.
 

27sauce

Member
Messages
35,702
Very, very cool ... Totally Honor where you're coming from & how you do it... :aok
Thanks. It has taken years of evolving and adapting to situations. Realizing where i fit best in the big picture to make it work for me and my family. I'm at a crossroads right now, because I can't do this forever. And where do you go from here? Playing covers 220 nights a year... Do I want to move up in the company? Production manager, talent scout? I just want to play guitar.

The prospect of hitting the road with a headliner has been rearing its head lately(long story), and I'm really thinking about taking that step. Ironically, it's my wife that is encouraging me. More money, more "satisfying" work...I've kind of reached the point of no return, I've done too many things to throw music away. That said, I do have a degree and I could work a day job if I ever really wanted to. That time has not come.
 

Tone_Terrific

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
32,653
OP-
Your plan could also eat up ALL your spare time with business hassle and hustle for limited returns.
 

Carmour

Member
Messages
1,273
I would be very careful handing over the primary breadwinning to your SO.

It changes things and you may find yourself in a very weak situation.

Just a warning. I'm sure I will be scolded for even bringing it up but it is absolutely real and something to think about.

this is some sexist ********, don't listen to him. If you and your wife have a solid relationship and you communicate it'll be fine.
 




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