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Paying performers - different models for venues and artists

You'll Discover:

  • Types of artist payments.
  • Award rates for musicians.
  • Laws and awards covering musician payments.

There are a few options for artist payment when it comes to gigs. Below we have listed the most common ones.

When considering a payment offer from a venue, bear in mind that under each arrangement the venue incurs costs regardless of attendance, including additional staffing and security, sound engineers, equipment maintenance, utilities and higher insurance costs.



You are entitled to this fee regardless of how many people attend the event.

Worth noting:

  • Good for small venues that want to budget a set cost for entertainment. Also cuts down on paperwork as the performance fee doesn’t change based on the number of patrons or tickets sold.
  • It’s rare for newer, emerging acts to secure large guarantees.
  • Guarantees are very handy when budgeting for performers’ expenses and for that reason, are often preferred by touring acts.
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Door split

A door split occurs when a performer does not get a set fee for performing but instead, take a percentage of ticket sales or the cover charge on the door. Independent artists and small scale venues are most likely to use this payment type.

Worth noting:

  • The band's payment is directly tied to the event's attendance (more = better).
  • Your portion of the door split may vary to other bands on the bill based on their notoriety and pull. Find out what your % of the door split is prior to performing.
  • Your own efforts to promote the event and therefore bring more ^punters^ will result in a larger payment.
  • There’s less risk to the venue under these payment terms, but bear in mind that the venue incurs costs regardless of whether you draw an audience.
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Versus deal

Under a versus deal a performer gets a fee (guarantee). In addition, if ticket sales are above a certain amount they will also get a percentage of sales (door split).

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Award rates covering musician fees

The Musician’s Union of Australia has set out clear terms for payment and minimum rates, based on the two relevant Federal Awards.

The ‘pay’ section of their website explains:

  • The Live Performance Award 2010 covers musicians performing live, whilst the Broadcasting and Recorded Entertainment Award 2010 covers musicians who are being recorded and/or filmed.
  • The minimum wages in both awards are the legally required minimum wages that have been set by the Fair Work Commission (previously called ‘Fair Work Australia’) , and must be paid to all persons who are employed as musicians. The Musicians’ Union actually recommends that professional musicians should be paid more than the minimum wage based on their expertise and subsequent market value.
  • Rates usually change in July of each year but changes can also occur at other times.
  • Under the current Live Performance Award rates vary depending on how the musician is engaged with the venue (e.g. musician performing at a venue weekly versus a one off performer). You can find out more here.

Please note: door deals are not always equal to award rates - they are often decided upon based on other factors like venue costs incurred to program music, how much the artist needs to break even, their ability to get audiences in the door and other costs.

Have more questions? Get additional information about tax and finance for bands.

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