One of the things I do every once in awhile is book shows for bands, and one of the things I'm finding lately is the price venues are willing to pay for quality entertainment vs the rate bands are willing to play for are seeming to become an increasing variance which makes it difficult to book events. Now don't get me wrong, when the pandemic is put into play, venues have suffered, and musicians haven't had the opportunity to really get out and perform. As a result, from an economical standpoint, the cash flow just isn't there and needs to be replenished. But that's for both the musician and the venue.
Now, as a former performer that's played in numerous dive bars and special events around North America, I recognize there's been times my band's been forced to play for less than what we considered as our worth, and other times we played for free, simply because it was a fun event or for a good cause. We never played with the thought of the "exposure" or a chance for more fans. Minor league sports teams pay for their players, professional artists pay for their backup artists, and local businesses still pay a wage to students when they earn work credits for school. Even those who do craftwork as a hobby or pastime have the option to sell their creations at fairs, events, or through local merchants. In all of the fore mentioned examples, the recipients are paid what is considered a fair wage based on market value, a wage range analysis, the current market for the role, the list goes on.
In the case of determining a fair price for a band, the following criteria needs to be considered:
1) skill level/experience. If a band has been around for a few years, has had very little changes in their lineup, can handle requests from the floor without disrupting their show, and can recognize whether or not they're truly entertaining a crowd... You'll be willing to pay more for them than the band that's just gotten themselves together, practiced on 15 songs and think they can start going out in public.
2) travel. Whether the band a venue hires lives across town or is from outside of town, the band still needs to load the gear into a van/truck/trailer and haul the drums/guitars/amps and in some cases mics/backline/ lighting.
3) advertising. It sounds like a petty item to consider, but bands will advertise the venue they're playing at to attract their fans in the same manner venues will advertise the bands that are coming. At first glance, it's a fair tradeoff. But from a marketing perspective, Consider this: A venue will throw on their social media the week's lineup, or highlight the band for the evening, but the venue does not have the time bands make to go much further than that. Bands will splash the upcoming event all over their social media pages, and the local scene groups they're a part of.
When considering item #3, I think I must point out the bands at times do more than "hey, we're at Slum Dog