I'm looking for some advice. I am a solo fingerstyle guitar player. Up until now, I've been playing open mics and gigs for tips. I may be able to play for a professional party, for 1 to 2 hours. I was asked how much I should charge. I don't have a clue as to what is reasonable. Suggestions?
Is is a "home concert" atmosphere, where you are "on stage," or are you providing background music? Home concerts encourage CD sales and collect "donations."
Are you bringing and setting up equipment?
Both of these need to be factored in. Private gigs should START at $100 or more, if this is not a "friend's party."
Norman, do not UNDERCUT yourself for a COMMERCIAL gig, as they will expect that price moving forward. Commercial gigs should be charged even more than "private parties," since the money is coming from an "event budget," not coming out of anyone's personal stash. $100 MINIMUM is more than reasonable, and probably too cheap. Hourly rates don't make any sense, since they just undercut your set up time, driving time, and gas expenses.
By the way, my day job is corporate event management, and I have no problem paying a piano player $200-$300 for a background gig, when as a musician myself, I know he haggles to get $100 from his lounge gigs. That's just the nature of the business.
P.S. If you are neither a singer nor a comedian, "shut up and play your guitar," as Zappa said.
I agree that you should not undercut yourself on this. The price you charge should be based on what will fly in your market and that is different everywhere, but I would start by calling up any musician in your area that does wedding receptions and finding out what they charge for two hours work. In almost any market, I don't think anyone would expect to pay less than $300 for entertainment, and oftentimes much more.
If you think about low-balling it, remember all the money you've spent on instruments, strings, lessons, music books, etc.; and all the time you've spent learning and practicing. How much is all that investment of time and money worth? Factor in your transportation, set up time, etc. Don't do yourself, and everyone else in your market who has spent similar time and money, a disservice by charging too low. If you're not being asked to negotiate down, you might have asked for too little.
I'm in the UK and I agree it can sometimes be a tricky conversation about fees. Some well known guys and girls will have a "set" fee for different types of gigs - clubs, festivals, corporate, etc. I, on the other hand, tend to be more "flexible". My first response is to ask what they normally expect to pay and work the conversation around that. Bottom line is that I'm unlikely to turn down many gigs on the basis of the fee offered if I'm satisfied that the booker is not trying to be cheap in order to maximise his / her own gain.