So what’s it worth to you?
How do you quantify a service to someone who has no frame of reference? I have a Masters Degree in Vocal Pedagogy, which is part performance and part teaching voice, and I’ve spent tens of thousand of dollars on training my voice. If I don’t have name recognition does any of that mean anything to someone who’s looking for some music for their event or venue? What if I’m part of a group, where my name doesn’t come up as much if at all?
I deal with it all the time as a musician. A rule of thumb on how to deal with it is how much you charge, but even that can vary widely. I have an “I won’t step outside the door for less than…” figure. Now that figure for me as a solo singer is 66% higher than that same figure for me as a part of an established group currently. What do I base that on? It’s not like I have production costs to base that figure on to show someone. I have talent, knowledge, expertise and experience, but if you’re working with someone who has no frame of reference, those things don’t mean anything to them. And the money itself? I’ve had people not bat an eye at that money and I’ve had people politely (and sometimes not so politely) brush me off. So what’s the answer?
They don’t know what they don’t know
I learned the answer I use through singing weddings for friends. I was reminded of it because I did a wedding not too long ago, for friends. It’s the perception of value. I used to sing weddings for friends for free because I thought of it as my gift to them. And you know what happened? Nothing. Not even a thank you. It didn’t take me long to feel under appreciated and frustrated by that. Didn’t they know how much that was worth?
And that was it. No, they didn’t know. At least not in a way they easily understood. They had no frame of reference. After all, if I was giving it away, it must be worthless, right?
Flash forward to this wedding I just sang for friends. They knew they wanted to use me in the wedding, but they were looking at additional musicians as well. They did their research and saw what the market was around the Chicago area. When we finally discussed money, they said they’ll pay me whatever I wanted.
I quoted them a price of 20% of my solo figure I talked about earlier. The phone went silent for a few moments, then I heard “Are you sure?” I told them this is my friends’ discount and the rest was my wedding gift to them. I got the now standard reaction which was many, many thank you’s and other people coming up and almost falling all over me to talk to me about it.
What I gained by defining my value
I had given my friends a good frame of reference, a perception of value that they understood and everyone was happy, even ecstatic to the point that they shared it and so on and so on and so on…
That’s the biggest benefit to me. People were excited enough to talk about me and to me. That means I’m more likely to:
- Be handing out business cards
- Be remembered
- Get that next gig
Even though I’m doing a friend a favor, I’m still getting a lot out of it. All because I was able to communicate the value of what I was doing. That’s the answer I needed.
I was reminded of that because I’m working on the website for an a cappella quartet I sing with. How do I communicate the value to three different groups; Booking Agents, Clients and Fans to the point that they share it willingly? With all the social media tools, I don’t have that answer yet. But I know the value. What’s your take?