Pricing your Band ~ A Lesson in Economics

My favorite things in life don’t cost any money. It’s really clear that the most precious resource we all have is time. ~ Steve Jobs

I have been running the Microsoft Jumpin’ Jive Orchestra for approaching 12 years. Three to four times a year I get a call from potential customers who, upon hearing the price, respond with, “But you did (names the one charity gig we do a year) for free.” More often than not, this kind of customer wanders off when they hear our price.

The cost to our own band members to play a free gig can be high. For example, consider these costs:

1. $100 to $200 for 20 musicians to drive to gig and pay for parking.
2. $50 to $200 for subs to cover the folks who can’t make it.

And that is the least it costs us as musicians. For our last gig the band shelled out $250 just to play for a gig that paid $400.

If you look at the picture below, can see the stand fronts that my wife created for us. These have to be redone every two years because they wear out with hundreds of uses.


So I’ve created some rules that I use to price my band. Remember, we don’t get paid, only the subs do. But I have been to enough horrible gigs that I have priced some at extraordinarily high prices because, well to be frank, we don’t want to do those kind of gigs.

    • If you want us to play what amounts to 2 hours of music over a 5 hour period, that costs the same as 5 hours.
    • If you want us to play more than 2 hours, the rate doubles.
    • If you want us to play outside on a hot day, even if we’re in a tent, the rate triples.
    • If you want us to play past mid-night, the rate doubles.
    • If you want us to play on a holiday, the rate doubles.

16585138769_f7d474a29b_zAm I the only one who schedules a band like this? Thank goodness we have day jobs. Thank goodness that this band is a taxable non-profit venture. There is no money in this, we play for the love of the music. And if there is any serious money, we have in the past donated them to various charities.

More reading: Here is an example of how another group of bands are booked.

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Music Notation Software Update 2015

Saw this article and wanted to put it in my reading file. The bottom line:

Upgrade bottom line:


  • If you use Sibelius 7, I think that’s a good version to stick with for now. (that’s the version I use for most of my work.)
  • If you use Sibelius 7.5, that’s fine too. (This version added some small new features, but it also changed the file format, so it’s annoying to share files with people working in earlier versions.)
  • If you use Sibelius 6, that’s a little tougher call. It’s acceptable to work in, but there are some limitations and it’s now several versions back. I would recommend moving on from that version before long.
  • If you use any version prior to 6, I would recommend you upgrade to 7 or 7.5 before you get trapped in the version 8 licensing scheme. But act quickly, you’ll need to buy 7/7.5 from a retailer who has existing stock since Sibelius is no longer selling those versions.


  • Finale 2014d is pretty stable and it’s the version I tend to use for most projects. But opening old files in new versions of Finale can cause problems, or in some cases it won’t even work. Finale’s free NotePad is surprisingly the best choice for opening old Finale files and allows for simple editing.
  • If you use a version of Finale prior to ver. 2012, it’s time to upgrade.
    Notation software is absolutely essential for virtually anyone who needs to write down a musical idea. I have about 70,000 music files on my computer, and I’d estimate 2/3 of them are in Sibelius format, the rest in Finale and SCORE format. I don’t foresee abandoning Sibelius or Finale any time in the future, and I am reasonably confident the programs will remain functional and useful, even if they don’t add any significant new features or fix the glaring problems that remain. Perhaps Steinberg’s entry into this market will shake things up and force some serious competition among all of the programs. Despite all of the grim news here, I remain optimistic and hopeful.

Read more:

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Belgium Sax Note

Gotta luv a saxophone loving country. And why not the country that brought us the creator of the sax. Antoine-Joseph “Adolphe” Sax was a Belgian musical instrument designer and musician who played the flute and clarinet, and is well known for having invented the saxophone. He also invented the saxotromba, saxhorn and saxtuba.



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Pheasants in the Backyard

Be as a bird perched on a frail branch that she feels bending beneath her, still she sings away all the same, knowing she has wings. ~ Victor Hugo

pheasant pair_4098Suzy and I wandered into the kitchen just in time to see two very happy pheasants feasting on the fermented seed from our bird feeders. They are very skittish so we moved slowly so as not to bother them. Living next to protected growth patch of land has it’s privileges. There is so much life happening there and we get to witness it year-round.

The male has a call very much like a vintage car. The female is quiet and well camouflaged. The move up and down the street for an area about a mile long and a quarter mile deep. I have borrowed these pictures from the Internet because I can’t quite get close enough to snap a shot myself. But these pictures very closely capture what we are seeing, delighting in the nature that surrounds us.

pheasant pair2

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Wall Ornament du Jour

The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls. ~ Pablo Picasso


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Does Your Car Say a lot about You, Your Life?

“Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?” ~ George Carlin

CrackWindshieldI was taking my wife out to lunch and we passed a car on the highway that was a disaster. Not only had it apparently never been washed, there was a shirt flying partly stuck out of the back window. For such a relatively new SUV, it appear to be in poor repair with a low tire, busted side mirror, and very cracked windshield.

dirtybeardThe windshield and rear windows were so smeared, even though you could still see the squeegee marks from a half-hearted attempt to clean the windows. I was surprised the driver could even see to drive. The fellow driving the vehicle had a long, unkempt beard, was chewing tobacco, wore a spit stained t-shirt, and looked like he never washed his face as there was dark smears.

Part of me was like, some people are their own worst enemies. I also thought this is someone’s kid, someone’s dad, someone’s everything. But if this vehicle got in an accident (and again by the looks of the side view mirror), what’s to keep the average person from thinking it may have been deserved.

Then my mind wandered to the question, “Can you tell a lot about a person by the condition of the vehicle they drive?”  Right, there are no absolutes in this world, and very few things that are always true, but still …

When you have an accident, and there is no ‘if”, it’s when, will the condition of your vehicle contribute to the escalation of events? Will you suffer more injury because of broken aspects of your vehicle? Will the windshield shatter because of that crack? Does your seatbelt work or do you even wear one? So many things come into play during that split second when the shit hits the fan.

M728_Armoured_Combat_Engineer_Vehicle_USA_04Now before you wonder if I’m a neatnik, my car gets washed 2 or 3 times a year, but it does sit in a garage 98% of the time. I have a goatee that sometimes needs a trim. But my vehicle has no cracked windows, when that happens I get it repaired quickly. And I don’t have things dragging from my vehicle as I drive it down the road. My tires are serviceable and well maintained.

Having spent 20 years in the military, I appreciate the value of a well-maintained vehicle. I know that being clean cut can have benefits. I do suspect that judging people too quickly based on their appearance could result in disrespecting a really fine person. But are those good people, people who look like crap, drive unsafe vehicles, and who don’t appear to give a damn about anyone, spewing cigarette buts and beer cans indiscriminately … are they really good people? How would you like to have them as a neighbor?

I don’t have the answers to these questions, but I do feel that many times, people can be their own worst enemy, even in the best of cases. 

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Not in my Neighborhood ~ Homeless Squatters

“You can spend the money on new housing for poor people and the homeless, or you can spend it on a football stadium or a golf course.” ~ Jello Biafra

abandonedHouseRecently some homeless people were discovered squatting in a house that used to belong to Sam, an older neighbor. There’s a lot of land on this property but the house was never really finished. You see, Sam couldn’t get a permit to redo his septic system because it was too close to a river. He had about 20 tires holding down a tarp on the roof after some storm damage destroyed it’s efficacy. This is not a pretty house. And the county access standoffs for rivers (150 yards either side) and the gas pipeline (50 yards either side) really cut into the available property for building.

Much to the neighborhood’s satisfaction, the county immediately decided to purchase the property to turn it back into a natural growth preserve. But the price point was going back and forth and a year later the two sides had not come to an agreement. To make it even more interesting a third party had a lean on the property. Turns out someone loaned ol’ Sam $300,000 for his house and property a few years before he died. Note, they apparently approved the loan without looking at the property because, even on it’s best day, it’s not worth very much.

PoliceAbout a week ago, two young men started squatting on the property. They were brazen, unapologetically parking their bicycles in the front on the building, entertaining older men who should have known better, and using candles at night in the house that could be seen by the neighbors. Eventually the county and police got involved and after escorting the boys off the property twice, they just kept coming back.

Today on our daily walk we saw that the county had sent a work crew to put up plywood over the windows and bar the doors. They had already put up huge Jersey barriers to keep the cars and trucks from parking there to loot the empty building. The county says they intend to tear the building down if they are allowed to buy it. The house straddles the creek. So this would be a very good thing on many levels.

This activity has really opened my eyes, I really thought we didn’t really have homeless in my backyard. No, really. I remember watching a nature show about coyotes and seeing a map of where they are. Guess what? They are everywhere and as nocturnal animals, most of us have no clue. This map isn’t the same one I saw, but it gives you an idea of how ubiquitous that creature is.


So I wonder how ubiquitous the homeless are. Look at this, especially if you think you don’t have much homelessness in your state:


My state has the 7th largest number of homeless people. Who knew? The number one state is Hawaii, I bet there is a back story about that. Bottom line, given any night, homeless people are most likely moving about in your neighborhood. They are looking for food, easily stolen items for quick cash, and opportunities to find a place to sleep for the night or longer.

In our community we have a number of shelters, but I’m guessing a lot of the transient do not want to stay there. Most homeless are people who have been given up on by family and friends. A scary percentage of the are not sane at the worst and less than trustworthy at best. At what point will the numbers of transients get high enough that communities will have find solutions to protect their population?

securitycamsI have a lot of security suggestions for anyone who wants to discuss that. But the top three things that I recommend are:

1. Know your neighbors: communicate, share contact info, be helpful.

2. Assuming you are a decent person, own a dog. My dogs have always alerted me to people on/near our property way before I would normally notice. Since she sleeps by my bed, we help each other in so many other ways too.

3. Make your house more secure than other houses. The old joke about the bear (I don’t have to run faster than the bear, just faster than you) comes to mind. Deadbolts, motion-sensor lights, security system … you know the drill, can convince a potential thief that another house would be easier to break into.

But perhaps most importantly, be aware. Be aware of your surroundings, new vehicles in the neighborhood, people where they should not be. Report these to the owners asap, that is how we got rid of this group of homeless people. In most cases, it’s the oblivious types who end up becoming victims. Be safe out there.

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