How Dropping your Price actually affects YOU

Posted by: on November 26, 2013

We have all heard a lot of buzz recently about what is an appropriate price and how important it is to keep it high for the community, for the market etc etc. You might even feel a little like Big Brother Aerial is watching you. And if you get found out, someone named Boris is going to take out your knees (which he will. Or Laura, she’ll do it too). And yes, of course, the community is important and dropping your price below market rates is not nice or fair to others. And it is better to think long term rather than short term. Working for peanuts isn’t sustainable, yada, yada, yada.

But really, doesn’t it feel like you got away with something?! I mean, you are working right? And all the time, right? You are still getting to do what you love and getting rewarded in at least some way, you know?! I mean who will know? Just this one time, and that’s it. You won’t do it again. You swear. You need just a little more experience really, then you will charge more. The market is terrible, you HAVE to do it or you won’t work. You live somewhere where people just won’t pay those kind of prices. You desperately need money to pay whatever it is that came up this month. Real artists do what they do for love not money. Why should anyone else dictate your price to you? It’s okay this time, because it is an easy gig. Hey, it pays for rehearsal space right? You just need to get your foot in the door, then you will raise your price. You will just pretend to everyone you are charging more.

Just. This. Once.

Excuses often sound like well, excuses. We’ve probably all made them at one point. I know I have! But soon you will start to realize that charging less than everyone else means you think you are WORTH less than everyone else is. People have a way of finding out if you are undercharging, they just do. And it all feeds on itself. You can see them seeing you as worth less. Worthless.

I strongly suggest you keep your self-destructive behavior to the kitchen or the bedroom. Eat a bag of cookies, have sex with someone you just want to throw out the door with his/her shoes flying after them, but value your art. Your art reflects your very essence in a way. And yes, that is hard to put a price on, but that price certainly isn’t less than others who do exactly what you do. If you think you aren’t really good enough to be a professional yet, then hang back. I know you are itching, but a little more time won’t hurt. Practice more, get advice, do recitals, LEARN RIGGING. Don’t put yourself out there until you are confident you can play with the big dogs. And when you are, charge what they charge with confidence.

Don’t be grateful for scraps. Don’t be ready to get talked down. I remember one time that Chase tried to tell us they had no money for their Christmas party. They are a BANK. They store the stuff. I asked them if I could get a mortgage for half the going interest rate because, I just couldn’t afford it otherwise. Yeah, right. If people can afford you, they can afford you. If they can’t, they can’t. Even if you lose a few gigs (and you will, for sure), you will walk away feeling better about yourself. You train people to value you and what you do on a very personal level. The only way to do that is to start with valuing what you do yourself. I’m good enough, I’m smart enough and godamnit, I’m worth a lousy $800.

Now with everything, there are exceptions. Artistic shows or cabarets are big ones, but they can make you feel worthy in other gratifying ways. You can be edgy, try out new material etcetera. The main thing is: do you walk away feeling good or just kind of good enough?
Living the dream is awesome, but so is feeling good about yourself. If you still don’t believe you can do it, seriously explore with a professional therapist what makes you look at yourself so harshly. I know this sounds a little corny, but here it goes, I’m saying it… Dare to believe in you.

Dare to imagine- Angela Attia

PS. Please share thoughts and comments. Sorry about the lack of visuals but I’m out of town and my IPad is a bit handicapped.

Comments

  1. Holly Newstead says:

    Thank you, Angela!

  2. ImaginAerial says:

    I appreciate it. thanks!

  3. EChO says:

    What did Chase say? Awesome post btw!

  4. Melanie says:

    I appreciate your words. More circus artists need to hear this and live by it.

  5. ImaginAerial says:

    They actually couldn’t understand what I meant, but we got the job anyway, they just didn’t get everything they wanted.

  6. Françoise Voranger says:

    Thanks not just for writing this but for living it. Not to be rude but I believe that people selling work cheap are not too different in principle to the guys who sell fake Luis Vuitton on the street, bootleggers will take anything because that’s the hustle, but the boutique… You already know.
    I was 18 when we met, didn’t know you at all, and you approached me with respect, professionalism and a more than fair offer. When relationships start like that faith and trust is built at their foundation. That kind of honor is real and it lasts. Seriously thanks for being a good example for us we pay that principle forward.

  7. ImaginAerial says:

    Thank you, F. Means a lot from someone I have such an incredible amount of respect for

  8. Winkie says:

    I do hear a lot about not dropping your rate below market standards? But how do you know what standards are? No one publishes their rates…

  9. ImaginAerial says:

    Hi, the best way is to simply ask. Most professionals are happy to tell you. We don’t publish it on our site because it will vary with clients depending on how complex the situation is and how much drama they are. Also, Laura says it well in her blog as well. http://www.laurawitwer.com/2012/07/26/workin-cheap-how-shortsighted-ninnies-are-killing-our-profession/

  10. Hi Angela, this is a really great take on a very old dynamic.

    You bring up some really interesting points, but one of the things I think drives this dynamic that doesn’t ever get mentioned is the fact that money itself is psychologically charged. It takes otherwise reasonable, self-respecting folks and, without too much effort, turns them into backstabbing haters. The greed that money stokes is also a major factor in lowering your prices, i.e. ya gotta hurry up and get the gig right now, can’t let the lead on the phone call someone else, can’t turn down money, etc.

    I did a blog just yesterday that touches on some of this, it was primarily about how to deal with getting your soul crushed in the entertainment biz but tells some first-hand undercutting stories too.

    http://firebythepalm.wordpress.com/2013/11/26/keeping-perspective/

    Thanks!

  11. Thanks so much for this article. Great words and things to remember. You’re so right – one’s dignity and self-respect is quite wrapped up in doing pricing.

    Holding onto one’s pricing does take strength – and you don’t get all the gigs you want. And what you aren’t saying is that a lower priced gig is often a bad experience. Been there, done that too many times.

    Thanks again for just showing you understand.

  12. MF says:

    This is spot on. You can charge less and work more, or you can charge more and work less. With the latter, you do better work for more money. And really, if you’re an artist, do you want to be known as a great performer, or as the cheapest option?

    Don’t be afraid of rejection. I talk to 40 or 50 people who pass for every 1 gig I get. I don’t beg, or drop my price, or do a hard sell. I just tell them that if they are shopping on price alone there are hobbyists they can get for less money.

  13. Anne-Marie says:

    Dear Angela:
    Thank you for your blog. It’s awesome to be seeing more & more of these conversations being shared on social media. I saw the link to your article on my fb newsfeed that a friend posted. I have been in the entertainment industry for 25 years. I have been passed on many times for significant promotions because of my position to always honor artists first and foremost since in my opinion, w/out the artist(s), there is nothing to attend, experience, transform, or appreciate. I have also been a loud speaker (of sorts) for artists to own (& charge for) their artistry/skill/magic. In my experience, the issue that you are addressing lays in the depths of personal self worth. Paradoxically, money and issues of self worth are profoundly embedded. Here are a couple of things that I’ve learned along the way: 1) Make a distinction between a MUST and a SHOULD. Artists (or anyone really) make the $$ they MUST make not what they SHOULD make. Once that concept becomes clear, your MUST will take over and your status WILL change because it becomes a MUST, not a SHOULD. 2) How you do anything is how you do everything therefore any type of self destructive habit (in kitchen or bedroom) will reflect in your artistry. Seeking excellence in every area of our lives requires more work. The rewards are always epic. Happy Thanksgiving to you & yours.

  14. Paul Roffman says:

    Well said! It is important to know what you’re worth. As a magician and actor, I have worked hard to achieve what position I have. When I value myself so does the client. The mistake is to think that every enquiry is a booking. It is not. It is just an enquiry. People will either want you or not. If it is just based on price, you can never win.

  15. Leigh says:

    I did not read all thee comments but the gist is wrong for me. I do value and honor my work. I don’t want people to be “victimized” (by procedures that help with costs) to become more whole. since I can pay my bills then I want to pay it forward.

  16. ImaginAerial says:

    Hi Leigh, thanks for your input. I guess it’s unclear what you are talking about. For example, asking a bank to pay full price for an event doesn’t victimize them. Are you talking about charities or cabaret spaces? Just not sure who is getting victimized by what.

  17. Bizzaro. says:

    The problem is not the working pros, it’s the weekend warrior asshats who have a “back-up” job so they can work for nothing.

    Of course you get what you pay for BUT the purchaser seldom (if ever) sees it that way. It’s the performers fault bar none. When an act is bad it reflects poorly on all of us regardless of how much they got paid.

    Now on the flip of this, yes I have done gigs for little to free BUT as stated I did get something else out of it that I wanted/needed. The secret of course is not to TELL anyone what you are (or are not) getting paid.

  18. Leigh says:

    Hello…I am irrelevant here I realized. I have such strong feelings about the fees in my profession that since this article appeared it was a “venue”. I am friends with Tamela but am an old psychologist so i was just in wrong place. (To clarify, I believe that psychologists decided they wanted to earn as physicians and so to do so required the use of diagnosis….or living in New York and being willing to be in debt for years to one’s analyst….for many diagnosis is reductionistic and does not honor the depth of soul-work people are doing…they are anxious of course but a cookbook of anxiety management is not the development of a workable story. Sorry if I inconvenienced you. I do pay the tickets for Tameela’s performances and have paid to be in classes long ago. I don’t go to her local solo performances as it is in a bar and parking in limited and i would bee out of my milieu….not against drinking but couldn’t do it alone.

  19. Eric says:

    I disagree. I am very fortunate to have a nice luxurious and lucrative performance contract now, but if I didn’t have that contract, I would do what I love for $1000/week. And if I couldn’t get $1000/week, I would do what I love for $500/week. And if I couldn’t get that, I would do what I love for $300/show, and if I couldn’t get that, I would perform on the street and put my hat out.

    In fact, that is exactly how I got started, busking at Covent Gardens. I certainly won’t disparage anyone who performs for cheap when they are starting out. It doesn’t mean that they value their art any less than someone who charges $2500/show. It just means that the value they place on their art isn’t measured in dollars.

    If you need money in order to measure the value of your craft, perhaps you ought to consider investement banking.

  20. Charles says:

    Eric. I’d like to politely disagree that busking and dropping your prices are related at all. I also began my circus arts career as a busker. But busking is something you choose to do, when and how you want to do it. Someone contacting you for entertainment, on a certain day, at a certain time, pays full price.

    Money is not a bad word, and it is necessary in our culture for us to survive.

    When you have plenty of money and all your bills paid, there is no need to even take bookings, just rock up and do your art when and where you like. Like an Urban Artist.

    When money is tight, and you drop your prices, self-worth becomes under-attack, for almost everyone. There are exceptions, but I know dozens of people who have done this, and then end up hating their art and giving up altogether.

  21. Leigh says:

    It probably does have something to do with where you are in your life…however, I remember seeing the performers in Covent Gardens and then I knew more about art on the other side…
    Take my friend Tamela Hastie…would i have ever known there were performers in my city who did her art if it weren’t for the free shows at the Art Bar? And then we became paying customers at other venues. And i became an ad for her and her associated performers. AND I am so glad they are not at Colonial Center where prices are so high that it has little to do with the artist as to whether to attend. I love our circus performers here…you should see them!

  22. Eric says:

    Charles, I am not saying that money is a bad word or that it isn’t necessary to survive. I am saying that it is a poor tool for measuring artistic value, or the self-worth of an artist. It is good for paying rent and buying groceries, and if you are an investment banker, it might even be good for measuring how successful you are, but it is not good for measuring the success of an artist.

    If someone couldn’t buy groceries because they spent all of their money that month on rent and health insurance, then when Chase calls and offers them $500 to come perform, the person who pridefully tells Chase that they won’t work for anything less than $800 won’t go home feeling good about themselves for sticking to their guns, they will just go home feeling hungry.

    The person who swallows their pride and takes the $500 will go on stage with the lights and the roar of the crowd and then they can measure their self worth by the collective gasps as they do their big drop, and the thunderous applause that swells as they take their bow. After that, they can stop at the store to get groceries on their way home.

    I would like for the performers who have to make those sorts of choices to feel supported by the rest of the artistic community, instead of feeling afraid that the Aerial Cartel will send Boris to take out their knees.

  23. I love the line about keeping self destructive tendencies to the kitchen or bedroom! I completely agree with this. 🙂 <3
    I very much dislike when people talented or not undercut our prices to get a gig. It devalues what we do as performing artists. If everyone could do it, it would be free. If everyone put the time and energy into perfecting and strengthening their technique, it would be free. If everyone spent the money on equipment and costumes and makeup, etc and so on…
    Thank you so much!

  24. I do agree with Eric on starting out and needing to busk to get up and going. It can be a wiggly flexible rubberband of money games!