Pay for Play

I was hoping I could ask about a potentially touchy subject for my fellow shamisen players: getting paid to play.

I had someone reach out to me (on Twitter no less) about having live traditional Japanese music at their sushi restaurant and they wanted to know my hourly rate. This both excites and scares the crap out of me. I've performed with a larger multi-instrument ensemble as well as part of a shamisen trio and duet, but never solo and I don't handle the business side.

This creates some interesting questions like what is a reasonable hourly rate for a shamisen player (intermediate) with two years of experience including a good number of group performances? There's probably a hand full of “known” shamisen players in St. Louis (hello if your from the area) so I'm not sure what the comparable is. Do I need to be part of a union if this becomes a regular gig? Are tips expected/offensive to anyone? Should I learn “Free Bird” because there's always that one guy?

I can't imagine they have a set list in mind for “traditional Japanese music” so I'll probably just pull from my minyo experience and tsugaru songs learned from here. I'm also considering talking to a fue player to make it a duet which makes me feel more comfortable not playing alone and adds some dynamics to the songs.

Any and all opinions are welcome. Who know's if it pans out, but I seem to get the impression this might become a more common thing. Thanks.

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I have no idea but I'll throw a comment in.

Sounds like a good way to level up. If your up for the challenge pick a rate you are comfortable with, do a great job and because your unique you can set the rate from there on.

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I think the price is established by the playing level, so I think you have to think about it

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Definately go for it. My advice is to forget and release any stress you have about getting paid. This is “NOT” to say play for free. But settle on a price and then just put that out of your mind. In my own personal experience I've ruined performances in the past by holding back on the music due to emotional dissonance such as thinking “These mother fuckers aren't paying me enough! ” or the opposite “Holy shit! I'm getting paid a TON here. What if they don't dig what I'm playing!” etc. I've had regrets from over thinking the money situation and in hindsight if I had to do it all over again I would have just put the money issue out of my mind and just focused on playing from the heart and soul. So I'd say quote them a reasonable price and then just try to keep your mind on the music the rest of the time.

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Spot on Kev. What would you say is a reasonable rate for a skilled musician? My thoughts would be to have a minimum price to show up, and then charge hourly after that once the minimum is met.

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But I think people must once listen to you, before deciding payment

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Kevin, that's the mindset I should be focusing on. Thanks. I'm making a demo video for them so they can see me play and we'll go from there.

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