I've started a show here in Westchester, and i'm trying to gauge whats too much or too little to pay someone to come up here (its only a 35 minute train ride from grand central). I consider it a road gig so i'm happy to pay for gas/train tickets. But whats the right amount to pay each comic? One way to look at it is "well they don't get paid much or anything at all in the city, so they should be happy to receive anything here". but another way is "should i give a percentage or just a flat fee? should it be based on tv credits? how long their sets are? how much money is made at the show?" etc.
I for one have a small budget for my show, so i've been stressing over how much to pay each comic. Is it best to say - i'll distribute $500 amongst them, with the most going to the headliner and the rest being paid evenly? or does everyone get paid differently depending on their credits?
I know my show is considered a "road gig" even though I make the trip into the city pretty much every night and don't get paid for shows, so I want to pay the comics for "leaving the city" (even though it could very well be the same distance from some parts of brooklyn to manhattan) Obviously there are so many factors. I personally just did a road gig in NJ as a host (a friend who was featuring brought me along) and I wasn't paid anything. I wasn't really expecting anything, but I thought there was a chance. Do you think comics do road gigs expecting to be paid every time? I personally am going to pay every comic that does my show, but that's just because I hate that most comics never get paid and I think it's nice to be able to offer that to my fellow comics.
Also, I know some headliners demand certain amounts of money, but what justifies that money if they aren't bringing in any people with their name? My audience is consisted of 95% people who are there to see me. One question I've been wondering is, do headliners feel like they should get paid more for a 45 minute set than for a 20 minute set? or are they just happy to get the extra 25 minutes? Certainly my goal is to run a great show with top-notch comics, so I guess if you have any thoughts on a good pay scale for a venue like this, it would be greatly appreciated.
But whats the right amount to pay each comic?
There's no right amount. Depends on the gig. Colin Quinn gets paid thousands to do a corporate gig. And he shows up at Whiplash to do a set for free. It all depends.
That said, I asked my buddy who is a music booking agent: "What % of the door (or profits) should a promoter give to a band and what % should he keep for himself?" His answer:
Well I dunno about should, but a rule of thumb is the bands get 1/2, the
house gets half (for expenses and profit). So a lazy guess is take the capacity, X ticket price/2 = what a band makes.
So if we assume the same rule applies to comedy, let's say you're getting 60 people to pay $8 each. Do the math and it comes out that you'd split $240 among the comedians. (Note: Rock clubs usually provide sound equipment, soundman, and door guy so the formula could be different depending on if the venue is providing those things.)
should it be based on tv credits? how long their sets are? how much money is made at the show?
Whoever does the longest set should get paid the most. And you should have the funniest person do the longest set. Usually that's the person with the best credits. But not always. And as mentioned above, how much you make at the show should def affect how much you pay the performers.
Do you think comics do road gigs expecting to be paid every time?
Depends on the comic. Established guys will def want to get paid to do a road gig but up and comers will often be happy to get the stage time. (Esp in NYC where it's tough to get paid ever.) If someone's traveling a long way, I'd at least try to get them food/drinks and cover their travel expenses.
Distance matters too: I'll go to Staten Island for a cool show with free food/drinks. I won't travel 4 hours upstate for the same thing though. Not worth it to me. Your show sounds in between those two.
What justifies that money if they aren't bringing in any people with their name?
The quality of performance they deliver. Sure, people may come out to your show because they know you. But they probably won't come back if the show sucks ass. Part of why you pay people is because they deliver a product that's worth paying for. That makes people want to come back and tell their friends.
Do headliners feel like they should get paid more for a 45 minute set than for a 20 minute set? or are they just happy to get the extra 25 minutes?
Yes, I think you should pay a guy more for doing 45 mins than for doing 25. It's more time and more work. And it should be the funniest person doing the longest set.
Overall, it's cool that you're thinking about this stuff and wanting to be fair to the comics. Lots of folks in this biz are worried about a quick buck but setting up long-term relationships with the comics you book and the audience members who pay to come to the show will help you out in the long run.
So that's my (skewed NYC-centric) take. If you've got thoughts on this, chime in at the comments.