Know your worth! - Industry professionals encourage artistes to value themselves when booking gigs
Late last month, a heated social-media debate erupted following the leak of Spice’s alleged booking fees. It is claimed that the ‘Queen of Dancehall’ was charging US$18,000 per show. The leaked document also stated that Spice’s rider includes five airline tickets (two first class and three economy) accommodation for the entertainer and her crew (which includes her Team Spice dancers) at a five-star hotel, and a per diem of US$125 for the entertainer and US$85 for each member of her crew. In light of the debate that ensued, industry professionals are encouraging artistes to know their worth and stick to their fees.
“I’ve been on that end, where I’ve worked with corporate and have been asked to get an artiste for events like staff parties, etc., and I’ve been guilty of saying, ‘But lawd, is so much to just come and perform at a staff party?’ But we have to understand that this is the entertainer’s job. They have expenses that need to be covered,” says public relations practitioner Tara Playfair-Scott. She continued, “There are a lot of factors that people don’t consider when they hear about an artiste’s booking fee. Outfits and costumes for the dancers are expensive. Some of them travel with background singers, dancers, and band members, who also have to be paid. All these things cost money, and a lot of the times, persons don’t take these things into consideration when they hear an artiste’s price, and I saw that when the Spice thing came out. If Spice charges US$18,000, then rightfully so. When Spice goes to an event, you get a full performance. Her dancers are there, and you get a whole show. How else do you think these people get paid? I don’t see why an artiste should dumb down their cost because people don’t see how they’re worth it. It’s their job.”
Playfair-Scott noted that artistes’ prices will differ based on their relevance and where they fall in the music hierarchy. “Everyone was up in arms about Spice’s fee, but they have to look at the level Spice is at as an artiste. But even more than Spice, let’s look at a Koffee. It was less than two years ago when people were asking, ‘what’s a Koffee?’ and people were squeezing her into shows. Today, she is in demand. Her songs are hot locally and internationally, and so there’s no squeezing her into any show. To get Koffee, you would have to be prepared to spend some serious money,” she said. “What’s happening with the artiste on the charts, in the streets, on the radio will help that artiste decide what they charge. The booking fee for someone like a Chronixx would be what people call high, but Chronixx has a strong catalogue right now; he’s Grammy-nominated,” she said.
Shelly-Ann Curran, manager of Grammy-nominated artiste Devin Di Dakta and CEO of John John Music, echoed some of the views shared by Playfair-Scott. Like Playfair-Scott, she believes that an artiste’s calibre will help to determine their worth. “A Beres Hammond, for example, will always be able to charge a certain amount because he has always maintained a brand synonymous with good music. He has a catalogue of classic music that is undisputed, and so he will always be in demand. No [two artiste are] the same; every artiste has a different level of catalogue, a different level of performance and a different track record. Every artiste will determine what their demand is. Therefore, the negotiations will depend on what you’re bringing to the table.”
Curran also expressed that with the industry being as fickle as it is, an artiste’s fee can increase or decrease based on demand. “It’s an artiste’s brand that ultimately sets their booking fees. Today, you may take a show for J$50,000, and tomorrow, your song is trending, and you’ve become a hit – you can move from to becoming a half-a-million dollar artiste. What is happening in the market space has to be factored into fees,” she said.
Playfair-Scott added that there are certain factors that are considered before a fee is agreed upon. “Though people call and be like, ‘Gimme a price for the artiste nuh, me a think somewhere between April and October’, for us, it doesn’t work that way. We have to understand things like where that event will be and how many people it will attract. If it is an event up by Hope Gardens, it is very different from an event in Walk About, Savanna-la-Mar because the artiste will have to travel there, and so there are other expenses that need to be pencilled in. We also look at the venue, how many people does it hold? Are you looking for something intimate, or are you doing a big stage show? We look at things like whether the promoter is looking for the artiste to perform with a band or if it’s a track show because that will also cause the fee to change. Once it is a band show, that means there are other people involved, and those people also need to be paid,” she explained.