Session Guitar: Guidelines on What to Charge Different Clients

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Glenn Kennedy

Fabtastic article, thank you. People don't talk enough about this kind of issue and this is brilliant advice and real words of wisdom.

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frezfram

In addition to teaching guitar and doing some small scale session work and production, I am a long time professional photographer. One of the hardest aspects of a creative, talent driven career is figuring out what to charge people, or much more difficult... figuring out what people will pay for your service.

How much is your talent and years of practice worth? What is the added value of having a complete arsenal of gear?

Its real easy to under value yourself. If your around lots of other working session musicians its easier to find out what they are getting paid, you network and see what the market is. If your on the fringe (like me out in the midwest) its harder to know. You also have to have a grip and a realistic evaluation on who your competition is. If your in New York, LA, Nashville, there are some big names with proven, incredible chops. Maybe you can play rings around Larry Carlton, but until your on a few hundred top ten hits, movie scores and commercials, your not going to make the same money. Be realistic about your talent. If you cannot master a track after three takes you need to go home and practice. If you can only play with the help of chemicals you need not even show up. If you cannot be on time to save your life, then go waste someone else time. If you cannot be polite, sociable, knowledgeable, helpful then stay in your bed room.

The biggest names in the music biz know how to check their ego's. You have to know how to deliver the goods, and be confident in yourself, but if you act like the sun shines out your ass your in for a rude awakening. And how do you know these things? Ask your family, friends or band members... if they cough and turn away then you need a severe attitude adjustment.
One of the hardest things I had to learn was how to say 'no'. It only takes a few times being burned to learn the warning signs. Learn to listen to your 'little voice'. It will save your bacon over and over.
Warning signs are, obviously scummy people, stupid pie in the sky projects, people who have no idea of what they are doing, and lastly people that think they know everything. Trust me, they become obvious real fast, and the best way to turn down a gig is to tell them that you are already booked. Most people will understand that and accept it. (Even if you are lying your pants off.) Because in this industry never know when or where the next big thing will come from. And even though the guy may be a scum bag, maybe his brother in-law works for EMI.
Another valuable skill is learning to be self critical. Be able to listen to your playing and hear both the good and the bad. Learn from the bad, why is it bad? A bad idea, the wrong tone, the wrong technique, or just dumb bad luck. Everyone has off days, don't let it get you down. But when you do 'hit it' usually you know it.

One of my mentors had a nice system for figuring out what to charge clients. Set a price (hourly, per project, daily) and then go look for work. If you book eight to ten gigs out of ten your price is too low. And you run the risk of people thinking that there is a problem with your work. One or two out of ten means you are charging too much. Maybe you can outplay Steve Vai and Paul Gilbert, but nobody can afford it. Four, five and six gigs out of ten is what you should be shooting for.

When you do take a gig, make sure that your arrangement for compensation is in writing, even if you just write it down on a napkin. Print off that email. Have a written record, you only have to get burned once to learn this rule. A good professional should be able to hand the business part with ease.

Lastly always be humble, always be gracious. Remember even as you read this there are thousands of kids practicing their asses off and are willing to work harder to get the gig. And have fun. Getting paid to play guitar is about as good as it gets.

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RonZabrocki

Amen. You said it all!

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lesmesa

been reading this mag since 82 and this is the best advice I think I have ever read here, i teach golf and this applies....great freaken article.....

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RonZabrocki

That means alot hearing you say that!
I do appreciate it!
And on a personal note: I have been known to
swing a mean 3 iron!
(and I love CaddyShack!)
Thanks again!

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fegtri17

Another great blog !
Thanks Ron.

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RonZabrocki

Thanks! I do appreciate it!

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