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Recitals & Performing
How to turn down gig offer that is lowballing & unwilling/able to negotiate? (karma: 1)
By sjerosemember has saluted, click to view salute photos Comments: 1263, member since Thu May 11, 2006
On Fri Jan 22, 2016 07:37 AM

I don't know if I need support, or assistance on wording something here. I'm a musician, primarily performing Celtic-style music. While I don't perform much, my gigs are paid. Periodically I'll perform with a friend of mine as a duo, and it seems to go over pretty well in the community.

Last fall, we got asked last-minute to perform at a Pirate festival nearby, as their music act fell through in the eleventh hour and they really needed help. My friend and I decided to do it. However, their budget was less than half of what we normally charge for our rate. We ended up able to negotiate that they'd feed us lunch both days we played and that my husband could also get in free, but that is it. My friend really needed the money, so we did it. It was hot, sunny, and hardly anyone came to watch us (so minimal tips).

I didn't expect much to come out of it (since we don't normally do the ren faire circuit), but we've been asked twice now this year to perform at renaissance events this organization is putting on - one this January, which we turned down due to scheduling conflicts, and again for their larger ren faire this May. But here's the thing: They still want us to perform for less than half our usual rates, and I feel like they're unwilling or unable to haggle. While the exposure would be nice (since we don't play too often), we'd have to drive an hour one-way both days, to play at sets scattered throughout an entire day, for payment that will hardly cover mileage.

Writing it out, it makes it seem like the obvious choice to turn this gig down. While I LOVE renaissance faires and have always wanted to perform at one, this just feels like too much of a cost. I used to wonder why this faire couldn't get better musical acts in the past (thinking my friend and I would rock that sort of venue); guess now I know why.

At first we'd accepted, because we were under the impression that they wanted us to perform one of the days at that given rate, but then they've come back saying that they actually want us to perform BOTH days, twice as much as we'd thought, at the same rate. We've been emailing back and forth all week, asking for details and I've sat on it a bit to think about it, but now they're pressing for a response (which I don't blame them in the least). But how do I turn them down without sounding selfish or burning a bridge, especially after being so enthusiastic at first?

How would you word a refusal due to the price being just too low? I'd appreciate any input people would be willing to share. Thanks!

7 Replies to How to turn down gig offer that is lowballing & unwilling/able to negotiate?

re: How to turn down gig offer that is lowballing & unwilling/able to negotiate? (karma: 1)
By TheMidlakeMusemember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member Comments: 11321, member since Sun Nov 23, 2003
On Fri Jan 22, 2016 09:49 AM
Edited by TheMidlakeMuse (78507) on 2016-01-22 09:50:24
As a photographer I deal with this all the time.

My standard response (edited for you): "At this time I/we don't have the resources to perform at reduced rates (or "at such a reduced rate"). I hope we can work together in the future."
re: How to turn down gig offer that is lowballing & unwilling/able to negotiate?
By sjerosemember has saluted, click to view salute photos Comments: 1263, member since Thu May 11, 2006
On Fri Jan 22, 2016 10:40 AM
Thank you so much for replying so quickly! I used your suggestion as a base to craft a reply, and just hit send (hello, anxiety). I hate the fact that I have to turn it down, but I've been learning to respect myself and my time better. I really do hope they are successful.
re: How to turn down gig offer that is lowballing & unwilling/able to negotiate?
By TheMidlakeMusemember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member Comments: 11321, member since Sun Nov 23, 2003
On Fri Jan 22, 2016 12:05 PM
It really is a hard thing! Especially how women are socially expected to show deference and "be nice" all the time. It's funny, though, I find that when I do my work at a reduced rate those people end up being very, very difficult clients because they don't value my work. This isn't true across the board, of course, but I've learned to stop lowballing myself and just say THIS is the price. If I really want to work with them, I can make an exception, but those are usually very close friends whose situations I know instead of some rando off the street who's just looking to pay the lowest price.

I hope you get all the well-paying gigs you deserve soon!
re: How to turn down gig offer that is lowballing & unwilling/able to negotiate?
By SarahdncrPremium member Comments: 634, member since Wed Jul 29, 2009
On Sat Jan 23, 2016 07:19 AM
I tend to be a bit more blunt and business like about it, but I spent a lot of my career doing contract negotiation's, where we keep it civil but directly to the point. I'm a woman too, but I wasn't nice when it came to dealing and negotiating with companies that were constantly trying to cheat the government (whom I represented), and hence the tax-payer's when bidding on jobs.

Tell/remind them that you and your friend were asked to do them a big favor to help them get out of a jamb they found themselves in. Remind them that you were not seeking out work from them at the time then, they came begging hat n hand to you. Tell them that you did it for them as a One Time good deal for them.

Next, then tell them what your standard rate is, which is non-negotiable. Tell them if they don't like your going rate then fine. End of discussion. And as you get up from the table to walk out the door, wish them good luck in finding the quality musicians that they are seeking, but for whom they want to pay a pittance to.

P.S. - If it is worth it you, you/your friend may want to consider picking up union musician cards, that way anyone who wants to engage you knows up front that they must pay musician union scale wages.

P.S.S.-- A question. Are most of the younger,(and I guess older folks who are SERIOUSLY into the Ren Faire scene/community kinda poor to start with? Reason I ask is that I have bumped into a few folks now who are really into all the Ren Faire stuff, all of them are in their mid-late 30's/early 40's and by and large for the most part are still living at home with mom and day doing the poor starving student thing. Just asking.
re: How to turn down gig offer that is lowballing & unwilling/able to negotiate?
By balletmom42 Comments: 10, member since Sat Nov 28, 2015
On Sat Jan 23, 2016 06:51 PM
I find it hilarious that artists/dancers/musicians are expected to perform for free or at a very reduced rate and feel grateful for the opportunity!
You wouldn't expect your mechanic to work on your car for what is less than the going rate, but often a professional dancer/singer/artist is expected to dance/sing or provide their talents for free or for "exposure"!
If you are charging a reasonable fee and getting gigs as a professional musician, do not feel guilty saying no.
re: How to turn down gig offer that is lowballing & unwilling/able to negotiate?
By Theresamember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member Comments: 34891, member since Wed May 22, 2002
On Sat Jan 23, 2016 09:59 PM

P.S.S.-- A question. Are most of the younger,(and I guess older folks who are SERIOUSLY into the Ren Faire scene/community kinda poor to start with? Reason I ask is that I have bumped into a few folks now who are really into all the Ren Faire stuff, all of them are in their mid-late 30's/early 40's and by and large for the most part are still living at home with mom and day doing the poor starving student thing. Just asking.


It attracts all kinds, just like every other hobby in the world. My husband looks forward to the Ren Faire every year, is in his early 40's, holds down a full time job that he's paid very well for, and doesn't even live in the same state as his mother, much less the same house. Be careful with the assumptions, you know what they say about assuming...
re: How to turn down gig offer that is lowballing & unwilling/able to negotiate?
By sjerosemember has saluted, click to view salute photos Comments: 1263, member since Thu May 11, 2006
On Fri Jan 29, 2016 09:37 AM
Thanks everyone for your support. Even though I don't dance anymore, I know my fellow dance community would understand where I'm coming from here. I got a brief but polite "ok, thanks!" reply, so thankfully there appears to be no hard feelings.

And Theresa is correct, Sarahdncr - there are all sorts of people and demographics that enjoy renaissance fairs and similar events. Unfortunately, I get the sense that many of the events themselves run on shoestring budgets, and are not always available to afford higher-quality entertainment (at least the smaller ones in my area). That's doubly unfortunate because then their patrons get the impression that they're not investing in their event and lose interest in returning because they feel they're not really getting the bang for their buck. And while that may be where you're getting that 'poor' vibe, it's really a much more complicated situation behind the scenes.

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