Anna and I briefly discussed what it means to have a value proposition in episode 41 of the podcast.
The primary reason to create a value proposition is so that others can benefit from your musical efforts. At the very least, you make mutual advantage your goal for every negotiation. If your mindset does not allow for others to win, then what I’m about to discuss won’t be of much benefit to you.
Value Proposition: What is it?
In the aforementioned podcast episode, I gave the example of live performance in creating a value proposition. Although there are definitely other areas where you can add value to the people around you, the performance example is a good one, and I will be using it here as well.
Musicians often talk about how music venues and events aren’t paying as much as they used to. Some aren’t paying at all. Worse yet, some are asking musicians to pay for the “privilege” of performing at their venue.
I think the real message here is that musicians don’t feel like they’re in control. When a venue or an organizer dictates how much you get paid for your performance, you are at their mercy. They can hire you and fire you at will.
That drives a musicpreneur nuts, because they don’t want to put their opportunities into someone else’s hands.
A proper proposal will allow you to gain back control. By creating terms that are value-adding, both for you and for the event coordinator or music venue, you can start dictating your own provisions again.
A value proposition is a proposal that entices music venues to want to book you, and simultaneously, it allows you to stand out from the crowd.
Creating a Value Proposition
There are plenty of musicians out there that are willing to play for free. Perhaps they simply want to take any opportunity they can get. Maybe they don’t care about the money. Maybe they don’t understand why that might be bad for other musicians.
For this discussion, we’re going to assume that you are an experienced musician. Fair warning: if you aren’t there yet, you might find it challenging to create the type of proposal I’m talking about here.
So, assuming that you’ve had considerable experience under your belt, you need to affirm the fact that you’re not just starting out. You need to see yourself as a professional. You are worth paying for (because you’ve put in the time and effort to be the best you can be right now).
Then, you need to figure out what a venue owner or event coordinator might consider added value. Here are several ideas worth considering:
- When they book you, they book an entire night of music, courtesy of two other acts you’ve made an agreement with.
- When they book you, you agree to create and distribute a press release so that the event gets media coverage.
- When they book you, you bring your own volunteers or team to handle the little things: door, merch, sound, cleanup, teardown, etc.
- When they book you, you agree to display a graphical banner on your website promoting their business.
- When they book you, you send them a promo pack (posters, pamphlets, cards, etc.) that includes a few extra goodies for the staff.
- When they book you, you give them a handwritten “Thank You” note at the end of the night.
These are just a few examples of what you could do. You can mix and match to your heart’s content.
Just remember: the greater the value you create, the more demands you can make. The above examples are small gestures; you can go bigger if you want to. Just remember – small things can make a big difference.
Don’t Sell Yourself Short
You don’t have to take every opportunity that is offered to you just because you can. When you are first getting started, there may be value in exposure. However, as you gain more and more traction, you should begin selling yourself at incrementally higher prices.
It’s the way inflation works, and no amount of complaining is going to stop it from happening. Every year, on average, the cost of goods increases in price by 3%.
Don’t let organizers get away with murder. I know that’s kind of a graphic thing to say, but you know as well as I do how much time and effort goes into preparing for a performance. You don’t have to prostitute yourself out to get a gig.
You could just as soon approach a local business about performing and set your own terms. You could book a show in a community centre and set the ticket prices at a fair value. Don’t act as though you don’t have options, because people who are good at negotiating can smell it when you can’t walk away from a bad deal.
The biggest hurdle to seeing yourself as worthy is self-image, and the only way to improve your self-image is to work on your mindset.
Oftentimes, there is a solution to the problem you are facing. I’m not saying that a value proposition is a cure-all, but it is a very entrepreneurial way of looking at things. Entrepreneurs train themselves to problem-solve, and in the competitive world of music, any edge you can gain is helpful.
Don’t be a jerk, but at the same time, know your value. Don’t give in to unfavorable terms just because others are.
Author: David Andrew Wiebe
David Andrew Wiebe has built an extensive career in songwriting, live performance, recording, session playing, production work, investing, and music instruction. In addition to helping musicians unlock their full potential, he also continues to maintain a touring schedule with multiple bands.