How Much Should an Acoustic Duo Charge? Let’s Find Out!


If you’re looking to hire an acoustic duo or if you want to perform together with a friend and don’t know what to charge, this is the article for you. You’re in luck because I have a lot of experience with this topic. My father was a professional musician plus I have performed at a lot of venues! Here, I share with you everything I know.

An acoustic duo should charge a minimum of $140, a maximum of $3000 with an average of $650.

TYPE OF ARTISTMINIMUM PAYMENTMAXIMUM PAYMENTAVERAGE PAYMENT
Acoustic Duo$140$3000$650
Singer$50$800$250
Saxophone Player$90$450$250
Piano Player$50$450$250
Guitarist$100$500$250
Drummer$50$200$180
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The Major Factors That Determine the Price of an Acoustic Duo

Okay, the price an acoustic duo can ask for depends on a number of things such as:

  1. How good they perform.
  2. Their level of experience.
  3. If they are amateur or professional musicians.
  4. The location of performance.
  5. The type of instrument they play.
  6. The duration of the performance.

Let’s explore the details!

Disclaimer: The following information is not meant to be taken as legal advice. I highly recommend that you consult the appropriate authorities and licensing bodies in your country. This article is solely a starting point to make things easier for you.

Discover How the Price of Each Music Act Is Determined

So, you want to perform live? Whether we’re talking about a solo performance, a duo performance, a trio, or a full band, the payment each musician receives varies a lot! What I offer here are merely indications as the final price is calculated based on several elements such as:

  1. Where you live,
  2. The level of experience, 
  3. The quality of performance, 
  4. Your local competition (LA will have much more game compared to New York),
  5. The location time and day of the performance, 
  6. If you bring your own gear, 
  7. The primary genre you play,
  8. The instrument(s) you play,
  9. If you sing or not,
  10. How famous and well connected you are. If a local act is known, they can argue that they will bring more people in. Thus, the venue will make more because of them,
  11. Your level of negotiation and also your level of self-esteem,

You may have noticed above that I also listed self-esteem. This is because often, the number one barrier music professionals face is a mental barrier. Not always, but often, low self-esteem can translate in low income. If you don’t believe you’re good enough, you won’t ask what you’re worth.  

Cool Tip: If you wish to remove mental barriers, I recommend this life-changing book by Tony Robbins called Awaken the Giant Within.” (Click on the link to visit amazon)

Determine Your Asking Price Using These Questions

  1. For how long are we asked to play? 
  2. Do we have to bring gear such as PA or speakers?
  3. Is the venue charging at the door, or will we receive a standard fee? Charging at the door means that the more people arrive the more money you will get. A standard fee is a fix dollar amount you have agreed on.
  4. What type of venue is it? 

These Are the Most Common Venue Types

These are all different types of venues/places that have different prices.

  • Coffeehouses.
  • Restaurants.
  • Bars.
  • Wine bars. 
  • Public gatherings.
  • Private parties. 
  • Corporate events.

Personally, it is corporate events that I like because they are short, there is little to no drinking, and they usually pay very well. Also, weddings are great, a lot of money there but they can be hard because of the late nights. 

As a rule of thumb, restaurants pay better than coffeehouses. Wine bars pay better than bars, and private parties pay better than public gatherings.

This is because, in places where they serve alcohol, you can charge more;  in a coffee house, you typically charge less. Private parties are more expensive because they are “private” compared to a public gathering.

Remember to ask the venue manager to see what price they have in mind before you mention yours.

Follow These Pricing Guidelines When Performing Live

First of all, we will explore the pricing range of the acoustic duo!

An Acoustic Duo Should Charge Between $140-$3000 with an average of $650

As you can see, playing in an acoustic duo band can be quite profitable! But why does the price fluctuate so much? Well, this is because the price range I mentioned covers almost all types of venues and acts. Let’s break it down. 

We will first explore how much each performer usually gets paid, and then I will show you how much each venue pays typically.

Singers Make: $50-$800 with an Average of $250

The price range of the performing singer ranges between $50 and $800 per gig. One of the things that will influence the final price is if the performers are asked to bring their own equipment. If the venue does not have the right hardware in place, they will have either rent them from a local music shop or ask the performers to bring their own.

If you have to bring your own gear (apart from your instrument), you should ask for a higher pay since you will have to rent the gear, or if you already have bought it, you should pay off your investment.

Saxophone Players Make: $90-$450 with an Average of $250

Saxophone players can be hired for various settings, such as a romantic dinner night or even a Dj party. Sax players ad a notion of glamour and style to whatever venue they play.

If the performing location is big and crowded, they will 100% need a PA. Otherwise, they can do the job acoustically.

On a personal note, every time I see a Sax player performing, I stop everything that I’m doing, and I listen! I really enjoy seeing them perform maybe this is because as a child, I wanted to be a Sax player… Perhaps someday. 🙂

Piano Players Make: $50-$450 with an Average of $250

One thing that does affect the price is whether or not there is a piano in place. It goes without saying that the rent and transportation of a piano will lead to added cost, which will likely have an impact on the final price.

An easy solution for this problem is to ask the performer to bring their own midi keyboard or synth.

Guitarists Make: $100-$500 with an Average of $250

  • Jazz guitarists make between $100 and $500.
  • Classical guitarists make between $50 and $550.
  • Rock and pop guitarists make between $100 and $650.
  • Classical & Jazz guitarist

Fortunately, classical and jazz guitar players don’t have to bring a PA system. A simple guitar amp will do the trick; it’s because of their portability and minimum upfront gear investment that many ask for a relatively low fee. 

That said, if you want an excellent Jazz or classical guitarist, be prepared to pay extra! 

The extra fee is justified because these types of guitarists have spent years and years educating themselves, perfecting their craft. That is how they successfully master these very challenging genres.

  • Rock & Pop guitarists

Rock and pop guitarists are required to bring along a lot of gear. The gear they pack is often costly, combine this with a high-performance level, and they can easily ask a high fee.

The downside for Rock and pop guitar players is that there is a lot of competition. If your competitors are in the $100 range and you’re in the $300, I can see how this can become an issue. Therefore networking and finding the right price-value analogy is crucial.

Drummers: $50-$200 with an average of $180

Unless it’s a big band or genre that absolutely needs a drummer such as Blues or Rock, drummers will find it hard to land small and medium-sized gigs.

There are also other cheaper options, such as hiring a Cajon player. The issue is that playing on a Cajon is not that difficult; thus, don’t expect a high payment. As a Cajon player, you can ask something between $30-$80 per performance. Of course, there are exceptions, but generally speaking, don’t expect a much higher fee.

Lets now transition into venues and their prices. We will begin with coffeehouses.

Coffeehouses: This Is What They Pay per Performance

  • Watch out when performing at coffeehouses, the pay is low—somewhere between $40-$80 per person. Also, it’s not unusual instead of money to get offered just the tips of the night, some food, and a couple of drinks.
  • You don’t need much experience to play at coffeehouses.

Bars: This Is What They Pay per Performance

  • Also, if you haven’t much experience yet, start playing at bars! You can charge about $70-$80 per person for a couple of sets + drinks.

Wine Bars & Restaurants: This Is What They Pay per Performance

  • A) For Wine Bars and restaurants, you should ask between $100-$175 for 2 hours per person (drinks and food are optional).
  • This type of venue is for more experienced performers.
  • B) If you get a few more gigs under your belt you try to play at more luxurious restaurants; you could raise your price to about $100-$120 per hour per person + meals + a percentage of the till!

Private/Corporate Deals: This Is What They Pay per Performance 

  • I mentioned my opinion about corporate deals above. 
  • If you land a private/corporate deal or a birthday party shoot for $350-$600 for 2-3 hours, that is $600 for both of you.

Wedding Ceremonies: This Is What They Pay per Performance 

  • When playing at churches and ceremonies, you can charge about $125-$200 per hour per person. Usually, ceremonies last between one and two hours, thus bringing in a total amount of $500 for two people and two hours of work.
  • That said, don’t be afraid to raise your price! If they have the budget, you may get as much as $300-$350 per person.

Wedding Parties: This Is What They Pay per Performance

  •  For wedding parties, you can ask about $300-$600+ per person. 
  • The upside playing at wedding parties is that there everybody’s happy and in a good mood, plus they are used to paying through the nose for everything. That means you can name your own price and get paid really well!

What Does Playing for the Door Mean? 

If you are unfamiliar with the term playing for the door simply means that you get paid based on the number of customers that visit the venue that particular night.

If you’re well-connected or if you’re playing for something like a double birthday party in your sure that a lot of people show up playing for the door might be a good deal.

On a good night, you might earn as much as $600 $700 for a couple of hours for both of you, and at bad nights may yield for the booth of you about $150 or $200.

Learn How to Justify Your Pricing as a Music Artist

If at some point you ever get the “why are you so expensive” response, simply point out all the time and money you have invested in your craft. 

Mention all the years of learning, the money you invested in education, classes, and the gear you bring with you (if any). These arguments will be enough to justify your price!

A Note for Playing at Wedding Parties

If you decide you want to play at wedding parties (and not talking here about the ceremony), beware that it’s a lot of work. 

  1. Usually, you have to come in early to set up the gear and do the soundcheck. 
  2. Then you have to wait for the guests to arrive. 
  3. You’re also the first person in and the last person to walk out. I know these things because when my father was still alive, I used to join his band and play at wedding parties.

My father’s band and I would normally start around 8 or 9 o’clock PM, and sometimes we would finish 3 or 4 AM! 

In these situations, when you play with a full band for so many hours, you can easily ask between $300-$600 per person. Again this depends on your area of residence and the level of competition in that area.

Beware of Small Music Venues and High Competition

Keep in mind that small venues often try to pay as little as possible, something they often succeed. In a lot of areas, there is too much competition, which means that if your prices are too high, they will simply wait for the “next band” that will settle for less.

  • One reason I know of why bands play for a cheaper rate is to gain exposure.

The Dark Side of the Music Performance World

I now want to devote a few minutes to talk about the not-so-nice side of music performance. This is something you should be aware of. I am not trying to be a pessimist, but I feel it’s my obligation to give you the complete picture.

ISSUE 1: Your Performance Popularity Matters

One very important thing that will impact your payment is how many people (fans) can you can bring in. Every venue wants to book an artist/band that has a large following; they, of course, want to profit from that large following. 

Nothing wrong with venues wanting to make some extra money, but you must realize that some places won’t even consider booking your if you don’t have a large following.

ISSUE 2: There Are Too Many Artists for Venues to Choose From

Think about the fact that there are more than 30 million artists/musicians listed online and that there also a lot of amateur musicians and DJs who play for free (plus drinks and meals). With such artistic affluence, it’s not hard to understand why most venues demand a popular artist while insisting on paying them as little as they. 

ISSUE 3: There Is a Lot of Low-Cost Competition for Performing Artists

Don’t forget that you also have to compete with karaoke nights, open mics, and amateur nights. These tactics provide the value of live music for free.

Just where I live, there is an Irish pub which every couple of weeks organizes open mics. This means that from 7PM until midnight, amateur bands and solo acts are performing for just a couple of drinks.

Don’t get me wrong these nights are a lot of fun, and I really am glad I am part of the local community. It’s just that these acts don’t help the professional musician earn a living.

ISSUE 4: Performing Artists Also Compete with Streaming Services

As a musician, you must also compete with streaming services. Streaming music at a restaurant is dirt cheap; no need to hire anybody. They even don’t have to change the CDs or tune into a different station! They just fire up Spotify, and off they go.

DON’T GET DISCOURAGED!

Pheww! We covered a lot of not-so-nice groud here! I bet you’re wondering how do we solve the issues we just saw?

Well, I’m glad you asked 🙂 We will now transition into the three steps you should take that will allow you to beat your competition. This is our last stop for this article.

3 Steps Every Acoustic Duo Should Take That Will Make Them More Money and Beat Their Competition

These are the three steps that show you what to do to get the best deal possible and beat your competition, you should do these steps even if you perform solo or in a band.

1) STEP ONE Come Prepared Before You Visit the Venue

  • Before even visiting the venue to talk business, prepare a few different song sets, write them out and insert the information in a nice binder. 
  • When you’re at the venue negotiating and once the topic switches to what that night’s program will be, grab your binder and whow with how prepared you are. As you’re showing your song set, explain to them that every crowd is different, that you will “read the crowd” and use these sets as a guideline.
  • If you don’t know how to create a song set, simply make groups of 3-4 songs that share similar tempo and energy.
  • Also, make sure that your first song is a catchy one. If the venue has a dance setting, your first 5 minutes on stage should draw all attention! Don’t be shy to create some “noise,” be bold! 

Explaining to the manager how the crowd thinks and how you will entertain them will set you apart from most of your competition.

2) STEP TWO Demonstrate Your Performing Skills

Next, demonstrate your skillset. When you visit the venue, bring your musical instrument(s) with you and offer to play a couple of songs. Most managers get convinced that way if they like what they hear.

3) STEP THREE Offer Them A Special Deal

  • Now that you’ve demonstrated your skills and showed them that you are a true professional, its time to put the cherry on top. Cut the venue a special deal! 
  • Tell them that because you’re playing there for the first time and because you’re confident that they will ask you to play many more times offer to play for a meager price (about $100 per person).
  • This kind of offering is designed to make them say “YES,” this is also an investment in your performing future!
  • However, DO NOT bring this type of deal on the table if you think that this is a one time gig! Our target is to get your foot in the door, and eventually make money, not lose money.
  • After everything is set and the deal is done, make sure to invite everyone you know, also tell them to bring all their friends. You want to show that you have a big following here!
  • Do your very best to make this a fun and unforgettable night. Open your act powerfully, preferably with a well-known song. 
  • Interact with the audience and make them feel special, 
  • Buildup expectation and eventual end the night with a grand finale.

Our main goal is to show the manager and owner that what you do, they can’t get anywhere else. Once the show is done and if the manager is happy with the performance, book a follow-up meeting to talk about upcoming concerts and the actual “real” price per person.

We reached the end of our (short) journey; I hope you found the information helpful. If you want to know more about music marketing, click here , or you can scroll down to discover my latest articles.

And, always remember… Your music matters!

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