We’ve tackled a lot of topics here at Backstage Culture. Some dicey, some… not so much. We’ve talked about quitting gigs the right way, talked about how to tell an artist that they need to improve, and even how to pack for tour. But this is the number 1 requested topic from everyone that DM’s or sends emails to Backstage Culture. Here’s “How To Ask For More Money”.
Let’s break this up into a couple of different scenarios.
- Why are you asking for more money?
- When is a good time to ask?
- How to actually ask for more money
- How much more can I ask for?
So… Let’s get down to it.
Why Are You Asking For More Money?
You’re going to need to self-assess and get to the true meaning of why you are asking for more money. Step 1 is to get painfully clear with your own agenda. Here are a couple of reasons why Roadies ask for more $$.
Lots of folks put in their time with artists. They’ve gone years, (and some even more than a decade) without asking for a raise. That doesn’t mean that they aren’t deserving of it. With the state of fluctuation in the economy, everything is costing more. Over time, you probably should as well.
Oftentimes, folks will take a gig, (or be pitched a gig) as an investment. This means while the artists are struggling, the crew is in it with them and will take less cash to establish a long-term gig. When the artist starts making more money, your investment time should start to pay off eventually.
Responsibility Has Been Added
If you signed up to be the fill-in FOH audio mixer, and are now finding yourself driving, advancing production, setting up IEM racks, etc, etc. Maybe it’s time to ask for some more money. This is very common when techs start a gig, then over time say “I’ll just do that until we figure out a better plan for the long term”. This often means that particular responsibility is now yours.
As mentioned in the “How to Establish Your Value And Set Your Rate” article, you need to make sure your self-assessed value is aligned with the industry standards. You also need to understand the gig you’re working on. If you want more $$, sometimes the best option is to go get it elsewhere.
When Is It A Good Time To Ask?
When Not To Ask
Let’s start by saying when it’s NOT a good time to ask. If you’re already on the road and getting pissy about your paycheck, THIS IS NOT THE TIME TO ASK. This is the biggest mistake in asking for more money. You need to get out ahead of it.
Ask When The Budget Is Being Made
The absolute best time to ask for more money is anytime before a budget is finalized. Until the budget gets approved, the numbers are all variables. If a TM is crunching the numbers to try and make a tour work and finally gets the budget approved, it’s less likely that they’ll be able to find extra money for you.
New Year, New You
Oftentimes I find crew negotiating their rates shortly after New Year’s to set themselves up for the following year. This is generally a good time to ask.
Now that we’ve established that you deserve a raise and the timing is right. Let’s get to the hard part…
How To Actually Ask For More Money
It’s a bit of a sticky situation. In the most common configuration, the artist is the boss. It’s the artist that has to pay you. Whether it’s their mgmt team or label negotiating their money on their behalf, it comes down to how much money they can, (or want to) give you. It’s tough seeing the face that ultimately approves your invoices. But always remember, this is a business negotiation.
Gather Your Evidence
As I mentioned in “How to Establish Your Value and Set Your Rates” My lovely human of an accountant says “If you want these people to pay you more money, provide so much value that it’s a no-brainer when you ask for more”
Gather exact examples in which you have proven yourself in the past and how it has saved the artist money at your expense. Here are some examples and how to word them.
- I feel that I’ve proven my commitment to the team (or artist) by driving the truck overnight instead of flying with the rest of the touring party resulting in thousands of $ in savings. (For example)
- I feel that I’ve gone above and beyond to prove myself as a team player by <Examples of when you did exactly that>. Aim for 3-5 strong examples.
If you’re asking for more money, know this. They don’t actually have to give it to you. Unless of course, you’re getting such little money that it’s technically breaking labor laws. Remember that when asking.
Ask, Don’t Demand
Show some respect to your client, artist, and even the negotiation process. If you honestly believe you’re deserving of more money, then this process doesn’t have to be stressful and hostile. Have some fun with the art of negotiating. I’m reading an awesome book right now on “Negotiating as if your life depended on it” by a former FBI negotiator. Go ahead, come at me for more money, I’ve got all the tricks up my sleeve right now.
What I’m trying to say is, this is not an industry where people allow themselves to be bullied. If you go in by starting to say “I need more money or I’m out”, it’s not going to go well. Feathers will be ruffled and it will quickly turn into a pissing match.
That being said, just because this is the entertainment business, doesn’t mean general contracting rules don’t apply. If you owned a landscaping company and start demanding more money, chances are you won’t get called back for that job either.
Let me make a suggestion. When someone asks you “Why do you think you deserve more money?” For the love of god, don’t reply with “well… this other band pays me this much” or “so-and-so told me this is what I should be billing”. Articulate why you deserve it.
With the nature of the business, it’s not always cut and dry about how much you get paid. So…
Include The Extras
From experience, I’m going to suggest 1 thing. Tackle everything financial when negotiating pay. If you want Per Diems, that’s the time to talk about the amount. If you want gas, mileage, and parking on the way to the airport, sort it out when you’re negotiating your rate. The same goes for advance pay or renting gear that you own.
Sometimes this battle is for you and Mgmt, sometimes you need a champion in your corner.
Get Someone Else To Fight This Battle For You
I know it sounds like a brush-off or a shitty way of doing it. But, if you’re not in control of the budget, speak to someone who is. What I’m saying is, if you’re a FOH audio tech, speak to the TM and see if they can negotiate raises on the crew’s behalf. A TM will often let you know if the tour is a blood bath and pennies need to be pinched. Something to keep in mind when asking someone else to work it out for you, is that you’re now at the mercy of their timeline and agenda as well as the artist’s.
Now you know when, and how to ask for more money. But how much is enough?
How Much More Money Can I Ask For?
I guess this is based on your current rate. But let’s say you’re being reasonably paid, but it’s also time for a bump. In my experience, a standard raise is roughly $25-50/day. If you’re asking for less than that, it’s probably not worth giving up your toughest negotiating tactics. If you’re asking for more than that, understand that it’s much less common to get approved.
At the end of the day, if cash in your pocket is the ultimate end goal, ask your team how to earn incentives. “What can I do on this tour to earn an extra $50/day?” The team likely has a situation that they need to sort out but know better than to ask the current crew to take on something that they normally wouldn’t.
Beware that you’re potentially setting a tone for your personal brand, and as mentioned above… Once you do something once, be prepared for people to think that you’re willing to do it all the time.
Ok… Let’s regroup here. This was a lot.
Here’s the meat and potatoes:
- Assess your personal agenda and find out why you’re asking for more money. Knowing your motivation will help your give-and-take during your negotiation.
- Find the right time to ask. That time is before the budget is finalized.
- Use the tactics above to actually ask for more money.
- Understand the industry standard of raise amounts to judge how your negotiation should go.
That’s it baby. Go get that bag
As always, hit me if you need help or clarification. [email protected]