Getting Paid in Cupcakes: 9 Ways to Save your Stomachs and Reputation

As a promoter, I once had a band that wanted to be paid in cupcakes. They were a hardcore punk band and even though I had agreed to their advance guarantee they got high and determined cupcakes were the only suitable form of payment.  There were leftover cupcakes from the headliner’s rider so true to their request, they go paid in cupcakes.

Don’t be that band.

How to make sure you don’t get paid in cupcakes:

  1. Have one designated band member to collect payment (this could be your tour manager at the show too if you trust them)
  2. Know this- It’s rare indie bands will be paid in advance online via email transfer
  3. Don’t ask to get paid until AFTER your performance. Just like a job you have to DO the job first to get paid
  4. Negotiate your performance fee in advance of your performance through a booking contract.  You don’t need a booking agent. Legit promoters normally have a template but sometimes just email confirmation, e.g. “Please confirm that we will be paid $250 guarantee on Tuesday, August 19, 2014 for our show at Buddha Bar.” [YouRockRed can show you how to make your own band booking template!]
  5. Be wary about door deals.  Promoters will use phrases like, 80/20. 80 of pass the hat or PWYC to the band and 20 percent to the bar to cover security/sound guy.  Check out their website and social media, talk to other bands.  It’s common practice in smaller acoustic cafes and lounges during weeknights that act as good filler for bands traveling from say, Red Deer to Vancouver.
  6. If food is provided, make sure you’re not paying for it unless you’re comfortable with that. Promoters offer buy-outs in lieu of providing full riders. This means that each member would get like $25 for dinner.
  7. BEWARE if you eat AT the venue. You don’t want the price of food to be deducted from your guarantee so be clear that the food is being provided FREE, at a “band discount” or just whip out your debit card and PAY!
  8. Don’t spend all your money on restaurants. You’re on tour. You’re living the high life of being a rock star- woo-hoo! Don’t buy the appetizer. Get only a main and put that app money towards gas or better yet, hit up a grocery store for healthy meals you can quickly make in the van and share so you don’t have to stop at every Timmy’s.
  9. Don’t eat the headliner’s rider. This is bad karma.  If the headliners are friendly and INVITE you to share ONLY then should you say yes. You could totally fuck yourself over with future promoters if you steal food.  This goes especially if you see a big bottle of Grey Goose on their rider layout- it WILL be noticed if something goes missing.

True, when you’re first starting it can be amazing to get any form of pay at all.  If you’re in a super punk rock or poor indie band and the promoter offers a pot of chili or vegan curry I totally get why getting paid in food is better than no pay. When I started at 17 I would at minimum feed my bands and THEN divide the door admission appropriately. I quickly learned though, there weren’t that many people who did that though.

Food doesn’t buy gas or gear. Bands shouldn’t be paid in cupcakes. Be informed and you’ll be able to get your band paid, and maybe eat a cupcake too….