It’s the longest wait there is, and every gigging musician knows the feeling. Even if it’s only a few minutes, it feels like an eternity — the wait to get paid after the gig.
There are as many ways to pay musicians as there are styles of music. Some performances are paid far in advance; others are paid after the gig. Some musicians accept electronic payments through bank transfers and phone apps like Cash and PayPal, while others only want cash in hand. Most importantly, every performer wants to be confident that compensation will be handled promptly and fairly.
What do you think Tony Jackson and Jelly Roll Morton and King Oliver and Louis Armstrong were playing for? Peanuts? No, money, even in Dixieland. They were communicating for money. For fun, too—because they had fun. But the money helped the fun along. – Langston Hughes
There are three things you must confirm with your client before you accept a performance.
- Amount – While it seems silly to take a gig without agreeing on a price, the payment amount is often a source of miscommunication between performers and clients. When the compensation is not settled in advance, there will always be uncertainty and hard feelings when the subject comes up later. The best way to confirm any agreement is in writing, preferably through a signed contract.
- Method – The venue or client you work for may have a preferred payment method for independent contractors. Ask in advance what that method is, and if other paperwork such as tax information has to be provided. If you prefer a different method, request it well in advance of the performance. Don’t wait til after the performance to ask about this. It will only cause more confusion.
- Timing – The most pressing issue for most of us is when the payment will be received. While we obviously prefer our payments before or immediately upon arriving at our performances, we must be clear about our expectations if this will not be the case. If payments are past due, we must be professionally courteous, but also uncompromising. Consider how large businesses handle collections; usually with a reminder, then a more aggressive warning, and finally with some form of legal or financial penalty. If you have a signed contract, you can include last resorts, such as arbitration and small-claims, so you will have options in case your client does not honor your agreement.
If you’re confident about your pay, you’ll be more comfortable during your performance.