How To Negotiate a Gig - Once you have located a club or venue that would be suitable for your band, try calling the venue and ask for the person who books bands for the club. Offer to send out your Band Press Kit and Band Demo CD and let them know you would like to call back in a few days. Call back once band booking agent has listened to your demo and reviewed your press kit. Club band bookers usually work at night, so you may have to call during the evening or at night. Now that you have sent your Press Kit (Including Demo CD) and have a potentially interested club booking agent, it's time to negotiate a gig for you band.
Start up bands may want to offer to play for free to get exposure for your band. Eventually, you may gain a fan base and shows and have to negotiate a paying gig. Once the club booking agent has listened to your demo, it's time to negotiate a price for the band. Many times a booker has a specific price or arrangement that they have for bands that play their venue. For example, there are a variety of ways a club can pay for a bands services. They may offer door or a percentage of the door amount. This means that they will charge a fee at the door to whoever shows up to see your band. Your band makes the amount of money based on how many people you can draw to the venue. The more people you get to the show, the more you will make for the gig. The club may also only give you a certain percentage of the door. It is best to negotiate this ahead of time so you know what percentage you will be making at the show.
A club owner may also offer you a Flat Fee to play the venue. For example, the club may offer $200 for your band's services. This is a flat fee and they should pay you that amount no matter how many people come to the show. You still want a good number of people at the show for exposure and to keep the club owner happy. A venue owner wants people in the seats to gain money for their establishment. Another way that clubs pay you is a flat fee plus door which means you'll get a guaranteed amount plus door or a percentage of door. Sometimes, you can negotiate free food or drinks for you band as well. Talk about all these things when negotiating with the club band booking agent.
Music Law: How to Run Your Band's Business below is a great resource for musicians on legal issues and band contracts.
One Tip to remember - Just because you negotiate it, doesn't mean that you will get that amount at the end of the show night. Some club owners may be more reputable than others. One excuse a club owner may use to short your negotiated fee, is that you didn't bring in enough people to the show. Please make sure that you properly promote your gig. If you don't have a signed contract with the venue, it may be difficult to get what you verbally negotiated. Most start up bands don't have contracts at the start of their careers and may just want to play music. While this may be ok at first, eventually you'll want to get a contract signed or have a booking agent that will take care of contracts for your band.
A booking agent will usually negotiate a standard fee for getting your band a gig. They will take a percentage of your earnings, but they should do all the negotiating for your gigs. If you want to learn how to work up contracts for your band, a great resource is the book Music Law: How to Run Your Band's Business. It comes with a CD containing all the basic contracts a band should need for their music career. It's a great do it yourself (DIY) resource for working bands.