Wow, this is the age old question that I have been asked many, many times, “How much do you charge for a show?”. This question has been asked by would-be clients, but most often by other entertainers who want to know how much to charge. I’ll try to answer this, but realize that prices vary according to area and type of show and that there are no hard and fast rules. You sometimes have to feel your way along.
One of the first things that I feel is important is not to undercut the entertainers already working in the area in which you wish to market. Talk to other entertainers and see if you can find out what they charge. Remember, you are competition so you may not get a direct answer, or you may get an inflated answer which isn’t true. I would start by looking up their websites and see if you can get any pricing info that you can use. Look up several acts and see what they are getting, if they do publish this information. Maybe there is a booking agent you can talk to in your area and explain that you are getting started in this particular area and see if they are interested in representing you, and if so, what do they think the market will bear. The agent should have a pretty good idea of how much money is available in their area for acts, if they are a good agent.
Sometimes you have to come up with a price you feel you should get in an area and see what response you get. Put out mailings to areas that use entertainment (schools, libraries, agents, etc.) and see what they say. After you make friends with some of these folks after working for them (or do a “pro bono” , or free show) ask them what other entertainers are generally getting dollar-wise in your area. If possible, maybe they can photocopy other acts brochures which may have pricing. If so you’ve hit the jackpot!
With brochures in hand you can actually list on paper from high to low what the acts are charging. This would give you a rounded picture of what the area is like, and also see who’s working more and use their pricing as a benchmark.
When you list the acts’ prices from high to low, you should price your show somewhere about ¾ of the way up the list. If the high price is $600. and the low is $150. I would price myself at about $400. You don’t want to be the cheapest but you also don’t want to be the most expensive, especially if you are just starting in a new area. These prices are just made up so you can get a working idea about of how to position yourself in the market of your choice. You want to work WITH the market, not FIGHT the market with your pricing. Your area may be much higher than what I just quoted, or it may be lower. Each economic area is different.
Also consider how much experience you have when it comes to pricing. If you are an experienced pro with many shows to your credit, keep that in mind for your pricing. Your audiences are getting a seasoned veteran, not a newcomer to performing. Pricing is important, so take your time and work it out according to your research!