Chris started us off by noting "the question has come up about what my minimum
fee is for calling."
Lisa gave a list of many items to consider when deciding whether to select a gig
and what to charge. My rule simplifies that-- I call for love or for money.
A city I want to visit, a dance community I enjoy, musicians I love to be
around, an opportunity to appear in a different part of the country, a good
cause-- all these tip the scale toward the first category. If I end up getting
paid, so much the better, but if I don't, I'll still be happy for these other
reasons. A wedding gig for folks I don't know, in a distant location or nearby
in a fancy location with an upscale caterer... that's a money gig and I charge
enough to pay myself and the musicians well. (After all, they're often the same
people who volunteer their time for the other events!)
In general, I find that when I follow my rule-- and we all know how hard that
is-- I come away content. It's those messy middle areas that cause the
I came up with the rule many years ago after finding myself dissatisfied with a
common situation-- driving an hour and a half, get to a gig early to set up the
PA, work hard for the evening, take down the PA and haul it back to the car,
wait while the organizers were still talking to people and tallying up the
money, and being handed $40 for the evening.
The complicating factor in your case, Chris, and an issue for other callers in
your situation, is that you want the gigs-- you want to gain experience working
with different crowds, you want an opportunity to try out new material (or to
hone older material.) You also want to become known, to give people in far-flung
locations a chance to get to know you and to see what you can do. And in some
sense, you're willing to subsidize an event-- e.g., by charging less-- in order
to get that exposure.
Bottom line, I think, is that you should ask enough so that, balancing all those
factors, you will come away from the event feeling good about having been there.