Bernard Resnick is my entertainment lawyer and friend. Affectionately nicknamed Bernie the Attorney, he’s held my hand through about a million sketchy music deals, licenses and various other business transactions over the past decade and half. Bernie knows what’s up. Besides a solid grasp of the law, he’s also taught me some other things that matter.
Years ago I got a gig to do a remix from this awesome artist in LA. We were all set and psyched except for one key piece. We hadn’t decided on the fee. I was kicking ass in various ways at the time, but I’d only done a few remixes before this. I was a little nervous. I was going to ask for $500. I could probably do the whole thing in a weekend and I’d be thrilled to walk away with five shiny Benjamins.
When I discussed it with Bernie, he got in my face. No way should I charge that little, he said. I had hundreds of songs on TV shows, I won this big international music award. I was worth way more than five hundred bones.
Years before I should have learned this lesson. I was a freelance writer when I took a meeting with some company. They gave me the details of the job. I knew I could knock it out in an afternoon. I told them I was in for three hundred. They smiled a bit too much. We shook hands. I got nervous and rolled out of there.
When I got home I called a freelance writer friend and told her the tale. She said this gig was worth about $1200. Oh, crap. I called the employer back and managed to raise the price a bit. Whatever, fair enough. But I (thought I) learned something big that day.
Your value is not based on how long it takes to do the job. It’s not based on how easy or difficult it is for you. It is based on whatever value the buyer believes it is. Just because I could write that job up in four hours doesn’t mean it’s four hours of work. What about the zillion hours of writing it took me to get good enough to be a pro writer?
Same goes for music. If you get a thousand bucks to play an hour gig, somebody is paying you back for the hours and hours and hours that you surely spent practicing y
our instrument, writing songs, recording them, blasting it out on social media, etc. Yeah, you only worked an hour on that stage, but it may have taken you a decade or more to get onto that stage.
Which brings me back to the remix. After getting an earful from Bernie, I asked the artist for three grand for the job. He knew I’d kick ass with this thing. Without any haggling, dude agreed and FedEx-ed the check that afternoon. He was thrilled with the remix and I was psyched that I made six times more than I was originally going to ask for. It’s not all about the money. But ya gotta pay the rent.
So why am I riffing all of this in your direction? Because you are worth more than you think. In the market place. And in the world.
One of the unfortunate commonalities of most people running around America these days is that we believe at some level that we are ‘not enough.’ We are. And one way to express that to the world, ourselves and the Universe is to value our art forms, our talent, our experience. And get paid appropriately for it.