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Discussion Starter #1
Alright, I need some help on a ton of stuff. I have a bunch of questions that, when viewed as a whole, appear to be the metaphorical eating of the elephant. I'm working on getting some upscale restaurant gigs here in Sacramento and this is something that I've never done here. I've played in restaurants before but it's always been a casual agreement and a handshake. I've usually played outside on a terrace in a very informal situation but the gigs that I'm trying to get are inside, for the most part. I've played a 3 hr. gig without a break before, stopping every now and then to chat with folks. Now, I probably need to be a bit more businesslike and dot all my i's and cross my t's. So, here are some of my questions:

1) How much should I charge for a 2 1/2 or 3 hr. gig with saxophone and trax? (I know that there a lot of variables, but I would love some informed input)
2) Should I insist on a contract if I'm given an opportunity to play?
3) On a typical gig of the aforementioned length, how do I handle breaks?
4) If you do a similar kind of thing, do you allow song requests?
5) When do you get paid?
6) Since I'll be playing indoors how "peppy" can I get with my music selection with an upscale audience? (I tend to like ballads and some Grover/Euge/Elliot-type stuff but I can channel me up some Stevie)
7) How do you handle chatty folks?

I'm sure that I'll think of other stuff but this is enough for a dissertation! THANKS IN ADVANCE

Greg
 

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I dont play solo sax gigs but play in a 5 piece rock band. I frequent an upscale restaurant that has a sax player.

1) Market will determine this. I'd say $200-300
2) No, but ask how they usually do it.
3) Two breaks 15 min
4) Yes if its in your song list and you like tips.
5) immediately after playing
6) occasional peppy......what is an upscale audience? do you mean younger?
7) chat only on break, tell them you are being paid to play not talk
 

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Discussion Starter #3
I dont play solo sax gigs but play in a 5 piece rock band. I frequent an upscale restaurant that has a sax player.

1) Market will determine this. I'd say $200-300
2) No, but ask how they usually do it.
3) Two breaks 15 min
4) Yes if its in your song list and you like tips.
5) immediately after playing
6) occasional peppy......what is an upscale audience? do you mean younger?
7) chat only on break, tell them you are being paid to play not talk
Thanks!!! The restaurants are pricey and the people that I see there are reminiscent of the carriage-trade clientele that I dealt with when I was in business. In other words, people not like me LOL The demographic that I saw when I was at one of them was typically mid-30's and older. Country club types.
 

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Yeah ... $300. I would do 80 minutes, 15-20 break, then another 80-85 minutes and done. That is exactly what we did at the CC last Saturday. Recorded tracks on the break. Me and a piano player. Some ballads, some oldies, some bossa, some second line, some smoky blooz, some real avant garde stuff.

How are you gonna do requests with recorded accompaniment?
Offer something similar that you DO have. F it is a song you like, tell them you will learn it for next week. Then do it.

30 seconds max for a chat during the set. Just tell em you have to play again.

Reading the room on the fly is important. You will know if it is too {jazzy, slow, loud, fast, exotic} if you look at the crowd.

Have fun!!

dsm
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Yeah ... $300. I would do 80 minutes, 15-20 break, then another 80-85 minutes and done. That is exactly what we did at the CC last Saturday. Recorded tracks on the break. Me and a piano player. Some ballads, some oldies, some bossa, some second line, some smoky blooz, some real avant garde stuff.

How are you gonna do requests with recorded accompaniment?
Offer something similar that you DO have. F it is a song you like, tell them you will learn it for next week. Then do it.

30 seconds max for a chat during the set. Just tell em you have to play again.

Reading the room on the fly is important. You will know if it is too {jazzy, slow, loud, fast, exotic} if you look at the crowd.

Have fun!!

dsm
Thanks! I have TONS of tracks so there might be something that I have if I get a request. I like $300, though. There's only one of me though so is $300 still a good figure to ask? I'm going to pursue this fairly aggressively.
 

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Like the other guy said, $200-$300 is good. OK to ask high and give some back in the bargaining process. (We got $200 each, actually. And dinner. But this is after a few times. And we have great references from other local CCs and the like. And we are good. But so are you)

TONS of tracks is good. Having a printed list with 50 - 80 - 100 sometimes cuts out a lot of chatter. It is actually sort of counterproductive to list more. It bogs the reader down. Even if you have 500 tunes you can actually do. Chop it down so it still shows all of the different styles, eras, etc. No need to show every song. Then you can do songs that are NOT on the list and impress!

That's just what I do!
 

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Oh, and we like a contract. Simple and to the point. You wanted Biz 101. Have a standard form where you fill in the blanks.
One or two pages MAX. Shows that you are serious, not just some flaky artistes.
 

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Alright, I need some help on a ton of stuff. I have a bunch of questions that, when viewed as a whole, appear to be the metaphorical eating of the elephant. I'm working on getting some upscale restaurant gigs here in Sacramento and this is something that I've never done here. I've played in restaurants before but it's always been a casual agreement and a handshake. I've usually played outside on a terrace in a very informal situation but the gigs that I'm trying to get are inside, for the most part. I've played a 3 hr. gig without a break before, stopping every now and then to chat with folks. Now, I probably need to be a bit more businesslike and dot all my i's and cross my t's. So, here are some of my questions:

1) How much should I charge for a 2 1/2 or 3 hr. gig with saxophone and trax? (I know that there a lot of variables, but I would love some informed input)
2) Should I insist on a contract if I'm given an opportunity to play?
3) On a typical gig of the aforementioned length, how do I handle breaks?
4) If you do a similar kind of thing, do you allow song requests?
5) When do you get paid?
6) Since I'll be playing indoors how "peppy" can I get with my music selection with an upscale audience? (I tend to like ballads and some Grover/Euge/Elliot-type stuff but I can channel me up some Stevie)
7) How do you handle chatty folks?

I'm sure that I'll think of other stuff but this is enough for a dissertation! THANKS IN ADVANCE

Greg
I haven't done this as a solo act but my jazz combo has played tons of gigs like this in trio, quartet, and quintet combinations. My comments would be;

1. It depends what you want to get paid and how much you want to play. Obviously the less you feel you need to charge the more folks will say "yes" and the more gigs you'll have. We were/are generally at $50-$75 a man, often with a meal thrown in as part of the package. Whether they're okay with you putting a tip jar out or not (high end places often don't want this) may have some impact on how much you feel like you need to ask for up front as well.

2. Few if any of the restaurants we played for had contracts so if you want one you may need to provide it.

3. Depends upon what you arrange with each place. 50:10's are pretty typical but different restaurants may want different arrangements to cover busy or slow times. Likewise, if a meal becomes part of your compensation it may work better to take a single extended break than a few 10 or 15 minute ones.

4. Sometimes people will wander up and ask for something. If you have/know it and feel like playing it, play it, if not just tell them you don't have it. Outside of musicians and the occasional old-codger who was a kid when jazz was popular, few people know what to request. By far, the most frequent requests for us were the Pink Panther Theme, Girl from Ipanema, and Take Five.

5. Depends upon the place - some hand you a check or cash when you walk in, others at the end of the gig, and some want to mail you a check or even be invoiced. Getting $$$ out of folks after the fact can turn into a real pain so you need to decide what you are comfortable with. Just make sure everyone is clear on the terms upfront. The most typical issue is the guy who's responsible for paying you not being there when you get done playing and the manager on duty doesn't know what he/she is supposed to do.

6. Peppy is typically no problem but volume may be. Most people in places like you're describing want to be able to talk. You will mostly be there for ambiance not to put your ninja-like jazz chops on display so be very conscious of how loud you're playing.

7. We rarely had to deal with "chatty" folks. Most people are there to eat and talk with whomever they came with. It wasn't unusual for someone to stop by on their way out and say "thanks" or "I enjoyed your playing" etc., but it was rare to have someone who wanted to have an extended conversation.

I suspect each area of the country will be different when it comes to what the expectations and norms are so I wouldn't claim our experience to be universal but it does give you a few more data points to consider.

Good Luck.
 

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Alright, I need some help on a ton of stuff. I have a bunch of questions that, when viewed as a whole, appear to be the metaphorical eating of the elephant. I'm working on getting some upscale restaurant gigs here in Sacramento and this is something that I've never done here. I've played in restaurants before but it's always been a casual agreement and a handshake. I've usually played outside on a terrace in a very informal situation but the gigs that I'm trying to get are inside, for the most part. I've played a 3 hr. gig without a break before, stopping every now and then to chat with folks. Now, I probably need to be a bit more businesslike and dot all my i's and cross my t's. So, here are some of my questions:

1) How much should I charge for a 2 1/2 or 3 hr. gig with saxophone and trax? (I know that there a lot of variables, but I would love some informed input)
2) Should I insist on a contract if I'm given an opportunity to play?
3) On a typical gig of the aforementioned length, how do I handle breaks?
4) If you do a similar kind of thing, do you allow song requests?
5) When do you get paid?
6) Since I'll be playing indoors how "peppy" can I get with my music selection with an upscale audience? (I tend to like ballads and some Grover/Euge/Elliot-type stuff but I can channel me up some Stevie)
7) How do you handle chatty folks?

I'm sure that I'll think of other stuff but this is enough for a dissertation! THANKS IN ADVANCE

Greg
I can not say for where you are in the USA but this is how I do it in the UK, but I only do what I want to do and more for my own fun than real money.

1) Whatever you are happy to play for you may wish to consider a cheap intro one nighter and then set a standard rate for future gigs - if they like you they will book you.
2) Depends here we need to have various legal stuff in place like Public Liability Insurance and Performing rights also the venue has to have the appropriate licences too you may do yourself out of gigs if you insist on contracts, you may get burned but to date no one has ever under payed what I have asked for on a gig and quite the opposite often. I have the PLI and PRS covered and do not insist on formal contracts they work both ways and although I have legal cover too I doubt I would ever go to court over playing, it would cost too much of my time which is much more valuable, I would just not play there again but it's your choice.
3) if you are using backing tracks (I have 1500 tunes on an iPAD Pro Sheets and music) bring up a pre-recorded mix of either your stuff or others that plays while you are on a break. Also ask the manager what there preference is as to handling customers that want to talk some want you to have an interaction with the guests others do not customers are king.
4) It's your call if you know it have it and are happy to play it then it is only a plus to play it make the punters of the restaurant feel special but you will not know every request.
5) At the end of the night or during a break if the manager owner has been impressed with what you have done some gigs I do they pay me when I turn up but then I have a good report with the establishment. Remember the first time you play somewhere they are unlikely to know you and a level of trust has to be earned on both sides.
6)Ask the establishment what they want - if they are happy for a wide ranging mix including the odd hard rock number then go for it - do not be surprised that most don't though they want easy lift music towards the end of the night they may wish you to up the tempo a little as it helps encourage the punters to leave - Go figure ?? Also ask the booking person manager or owner if they have any favourites that you can do for them during the evening.
7) put them off to the break and then chat to them they may just buy you a beer or book you for a gig of their own.

In addition and you probably have this covered already but have the stock happy birthday / anniversary waltz or other occasions music in your back pocket you will always get a favourite customers birthday or anniversary that they will want you to do the honours for.

This may seem a bit odd but arrange in advance a signal with the Maitre d' for your volume I found that I thought I was playing down but was still way too loud the staff still need to here the punters orders and be aware of when they are serving tables close to you, if you show in advance your savvy to their needs it will give them a little more confidence that you will be "right" for them. Start gentle after the service has finished you can up the anti if you wish.

Go for it have fun if you do they will - repeat bookings will show you that your playing the right stuff dont be frightened to ask at the break how the esatblishment is finding it do they want you to change what your doing etc.etc.
Just some of what I have found over the years.

Kenny
 

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Depends on the venue and your sales skill....folks here make $400-$500 for events, $300-$400 for high end restaurants....have a contract prepared that spells out, in simple language, start/end times, breaks, and that you get paid at the end of the gig. Song requests are up to you...if you can do them, do them....as to material, watch the audience and adjust...I watch to see how close they get to talk...if they can talk without leaning in too far, volume is ok...
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Like the other guy said, $200-$300 is good. OK to ask high and give some back in the bargaining process. (We got $200 each, actually. And dinner. But this is after a few times. And we have great references from other local CCs and the like. And we are good. But so are you)

TONS of tracks is good. Having a printed list with 50 - 80 - 100 sometimes cuts out a lot of chatter. It is actually sort of counterproductive to list more. It bogs the reader down. Even if you have 500 tunes you can actually do. Chop it down so it still shows all of the different styles, eras, etc. No need to show every song. Then you can do songs that are NOT on the list and impress!

That's just what I do!
Thanks! Dinner would be very nice. I usually don't eat when I'm playing but in some of these places I would certainly make an exception! I've dealt with contracts before and I think that I can find a generic one that would work. Contracts just protect both sides and I'm not anti-contracts.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
I haven't done this as a solo act but my jazz combo has played tons of gigs like this in trio, quartet, and quintet combinations. My comments would be;

1. It depends what you want to get paid and how much you want to play. Obviously the less you feel you need to charge the more folks will say "yes" and the more gigs you'll have. We were/are generally at $50-$75 a man, often with a meal thrown in as part of the package. Whether they're okay with you putting a tip jar out or not (high end places often don't want this) may have some impact on how much you feel like you need to ask for up front as well.

2. Few if any of the restaurants we played for had contracts so if you want one you may need to provide it.

3. Depends upon what you arrange with each place. 50:10's are pretty typical but different restaurants may want different arrangements to cover busy or slow times. Likewise, if a meal becomes part of your compensation it may work better to take a single extended break than a few 10 or 15 minute ones.

4. Sometimes people will wander up and ask for something. If you have/know it and feel like playing it, play it, if not just tell them you don't have it. Outside of musicians and the occasional old-codger who was a kid when jazz was popular, few people know what to request. By far, the most frequent requests for us were the Pink Panther Theme, Girl from Ipanema, and Take Five.

5. Depends upon the place - some hand you a check or cash when you walk in, others at the end of the gig, and some want to mail you a check or even be invoiced. Getting $$$ out of folks after the fact can turn into a real pain so you need to decide what you are comfortable with. Just make sure everyone is clear on the terms upfront. The most typical issue is the guy who's responsible for paying you not being there when you get done playing and the manager on duty doesn't know what he/she is supposed to do.

6. Peppy is typically no problem but volume may be. Most people in places like you're describing want to be able to talk. You will mostly be there for ambiance not to put your ninja-like jazz chops on display so be very conscious of how loud you're playing.

7. We rarely had to deal with "chatty" folks. Most people are there to eat and talk with whomever they came with. It wasn't unusual for someone to stop by on their way out and say "thanks" or "I enjoyed your playing" etc., but it was rare to have someone who wanted to have an extended conversation.

I suspect each area of the country will be different when it comes to what the expectations and norms are so I wouldn't claim our experience to be universal but it does give you a few more data points to consider.

Good Luck.
Thanks, Keith! Good points, all. It's funny about your 3 requested songs...I have 2 of those. I must get Take 5. I don't think that tip jars will be an option.
 

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I can not say for where you are in the USA but this is how I do it in the UK, but I only do what I want to do and more for my own fun than real money.

1) Whatever you are happy to play for you may wish to consider a cheap intro one nighter and then set a standard rate for future gigs - if they like you they will book you.
2) Depends here we need to have various legal stuff in place like Public Liability Insurance and Performing rights also the venue has to have the appropriate licences too you may do yourself out of gigs if you insist on contracts, you may get burned but to date no one has ever under payed what I have asked for on a gig and quite the opposite often. I have the PLI and PRS covered and do not insist on formal contracts they work both ways and although I have legal cover too I doubt I would ever go to court over playing, it would cost too much of my time which is much more valuable, I would just not play there again but it's your choice.
3) if you are using backing tracks (I have 1500 tunes on an iPAD Pro Sheets and music) bring up a pre-recorded mix of either your stuff or others that plays while you are on a break. Also ask the manager what there preference is as to handling customers that want to talk some want you to have an interaction with the guests others do not customers are king.
4) It's your call if you know it have it and are happy to play it then it is only a plus to play it make the punters of the restaurant feel special but you will not know every request.
5) At the end of the night or during a break if the manager owner has been impressed with what you have done some gigs I do they pay me when I turn up but then I have a good report with the establishment. Remember the first time you play somewhere they are unlikely to know you and a level of trust has to be earned on both sides.
6)Ask the establishment what they want - if they are happy for a wide ranging mix including the odd hard rock number then go for it - do not be surprised that most don't though they want easy lift music towards the end of the night they may wish you to up the tempo a little as it helps encourage the punters to leave - Go figure ?? Also ask the booking person manager or owner if they have any favourites that you can do for them during the evening.
7) put them off to the break and then chat to them they may just buy you a beer or book you for a gig of their own.

In addition and you probably have this covered already but have the stock happy birthday / anniversary waltz or other occasions music in your back pocket you will always get a favourite customers birthday or anniversary that they will want you to do the honours for.

This may seem a bit odd but arrange in advance a signal with the Maitre d' for your volume I found that I thought I was playing down but was still way too loud the staff still need to here the punters orders and be aware of when they are serving tables close to you, if you show in advance your savvy to their needs it will give them a little more confidence that you will be "right" for them. Start gentle after the service has finished you can up the anti if you wish.

Go for it have fun if you do they will - repeat bookings will show you that your playing the right stuff dont be frightened to ask at the break how the esatblishment is finding it do they want you to change what your doing etc.etc.
Just some of what I have found over the years.

Kenny
Thanks, Kenny! That's some good stuff. I really like the Maître d'/volume suggestion. I've got to do some more research on the legal stuff. I think that establishments that have live music have to have a mechanical license in place...I think. I will find out.
 

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Depends on the venue and your sales skill....folks here make $400-$500 for events, $300-$400 for high end restaurants....have a contract prepared that spells out, in simple language, start/end times, breaks, and that you get paid at the end of the gig. Song requests are up to you...if you can do them, do them....as to material, watch the audience and adjust...I watch to see how close they get to talk...if they can talk without leaning in too far, volume is ok...
Thanks, Stan. Good points. My sales skills are naturally horrible but there are tons of great players here so I'm gonna have to go out of my comfort zone and step up to the plate, so to speak. I really want to do this so I'm going to push hard to make it happen.
 

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I have done some of this, not in restaurants but at private parties. Just some thoughts:

1) Do you play flute? Even better, alto flute? Because you probably don't realize just how loud a saxophone can be. If you find it's too much, you can switch to the flute and keep the volume acceptable. Alto flute works GREAT with tracks. I have often had to bag the saxophone I brought and just play the flute for the whole time. And now you're indoors. The sound will stay in the room, not go up into the sky like on an outdoor terrace.

2) I've never really had much trouble with "chatty cathy's" myself - a couple of sentences, "thank you very much, I've got to get back to work" or something similar has always seemed to handle it for me.

3) I used to do a couple tunes that were not what you might expect, such as "Every Breath you Take" as a bossa; everyone knows the song, and people really liked this.

4) Don't forget the bossas! Everyone likes them, they have a "peppy" feel without being overbearing, you can play over a bossa forever without sounding tiresome. More bossas! (OK, sambas, cha-chas, etc., but that general feel)

5) Play soft! If you think you''re playing softly enough, play softer!
 

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I do a successful weekly local Sunday music brunch at a Restaurant. been there since Aug '16 ..not upscale but a nice joint..not huge but full house we'll fill 200-250 seats...we play for 3 hrs from 9am-noon.

My Duo gets $100 Bill each from this Venue and we do not take "breaks" per se. We noticed tips will suffer if we leave the bandstand. We split $160 in tips last week. We just relax and play and when nature calls we handle it quickly without drama, we don't both leave and if we have to, our tracks cover us for a few minutes.

I've dealt with invoices, contracts and general liability insurance, all a pain. For this gig I say give me the bread and my breakfast to go and we're done.

Tune choices in previous posts are well suggested, we do all of the above. The key is Variety..When asked for a quick price for a Private affair my quote is based on the day. 3 hrs performance on a Fri or Sat is $350, weekdays we'll do as low as $250.+perks (and breaks)

Oh yeah somebody mentioned Flute..good idea. I've wore mine out on this gig.
 

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Regarding a contract, I've found this to be the only tangible reference both owners and players have. If there is a question of when to take breaks, it's on paper to which you can refer. All too often some representative will cry that "You can't take a break now." Heads off a lot of misunderstanding - in advance of the gig. I've had a lot of grief over this.

Regarding the breaks themselves, I prefer 90 minutes on, 15 minutes break, and then 45 on 15 off. YMMV.

Cost? Ask around and get the market value. Depends on how much you want to work. You could go a little bit above (because you're worth it) or a little bit below this (because you want a leg up on the competition), but that's still the yardstick. Keep in mind you might get stereotyped into one group or the other.

Regarding the music, just read the audience. It may be stable, it may change from night to night. And another thing to consider. Try playing something that you really like even though it may not seem to fit in with the demographics' taste. It's surprising that, sometimes, people don't like something only because they haven't been exposed to it.

Also, regarding when to get paid - immediately after the gig. It's too easy to later get your pay deferred or even neglected. No pay no play.
 

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Here is a contract I used to use for my band The Houndz. Names redacted to protect the guilty.

PERSONAL SERVICES CONTRACT

Between THE HOUNDZ (represented by xxxxxxx)

and XXX (represented by xxxxxxxx)



The Houndz band agrees to provide musical entertainment for the XXX 15th Anniversary event on Thursday, July 24, 2008 at the bank location on (street address). The playing time will be from 4:30 pm until 7:30 pm. The band will play three 50 minute sets with two 15 minute breaks. CD’s will be played during breaks if desired.

XXX agrees to pay The Houndz $xxx for this performance. The payment will be due immediately after the performance. If payment is by check, the check should be made payable to xxxxxxxxx.

If the event is cancelled due to inclement weather, notification should be made to xxxxxxxx (xxx-xxx-xxxx) no later than 1:00 pm on July 24th. Once the band has set up their equipment, the contract is payable in full regardless of any cancellation decision.

XXX will provide the electrical power and area to play. One dedicated 15 ampere circuit is necessary. If the power supply is located more than 50 feet from the stage area, a minimum of a 12 gauge extension cord should be used to supply the power. The minimum space necessary for set-up is an area 20 feet wide by 12 feet deep. If risers are provided, they should all be at the same elevation from the ground. If the risers are greater than 18” in height, stairs shall be provided at both ends of the stage. The Houndz will provide the necessary sound system.

This is the entire agreement between the parties.


xxxxxx for The Houndz xxxxxxxx for XXX


_________________________ _______________________


Date:_____________________ Date:__________________
 
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