By Bobby Borg


Musical equipment is another important factor to consider when arranging your deal with an employer. Instruments and protective travel cases may be provided via your employer's recording and/or tour budgets. For instance, a musician hired to play drums on a band's record negotiated to have the group pay for the rental of high quality drums for the session. In another situation, a drummer needed heavy duty travel cases for an upcoming European tour, so the group paid over $3,000 to have the cases custom built. When he parted ways with the band, they offered him the option of purchasing the gear.

Equipment Endorsements.

Your employer may cover minor equipment expenses for maintenance or usage of items such as guitar picks, guitar strings, amplifier tubes, drum sticks, and drum skins. If your emplyer doesn't cover the cost of these expenses, you may obtain sponsorship from a variety of equipment manufacturers if your group is already successful, or gaining additional exposure from radio play and record sales. Most companies will begin your relationship by offering you a reduced price on equipment (usually 60 to 70 percent off the retail price). If you're currently working regularly for a very large and successful organization, some companies may offer you free equipment and advertise your name and likeness with their product.

Develop as many relationships with manufacturers as possible, but focus on companies whose products you truly desire; a company will want to know that you're not just looking for free equipment. Introduce yourself in a telephone call or at trade shows such as the National Association for Music Merchants NAMM conventions). Send manufacturers your recent record releases, updated tour "itineraries" (i.e., performance dates and locations), performance reviews, and magazine articles. "Show manufacturers that you are attracting attention from the community, especially from the demographic of fans between the ages of 18 to 24," advises Bill Zildjian, vice president of the Sabian cymbal company. "This age group is more likely to buy manufacturer's products, and that makes manufacturers happy!"

Equipment Techs.

The care and maintenance of your musical equipment is critical, both in the recording studio and out on the road. When you're working for employers with larger budgets, they may hire studio techs to tune and maintain your equipment when recording. On a tour, road techs are usually hired to handle the set-up of your musical equipment and to ensure its proper functioning before a concert performance. Techs help when a guitar string or drum head breaks, a vocal mic needs to be replaced, or a cord is accidentally pulled out of an amplifier. At the end of the night, techs are responsible for breaking down musical equipment and making sure that it's loaded in the vans, trucks, or buses. A tech adds to the professionalism of a tour by allowing musicians to concentrate on their principle job at hand—performing. Should an employer fail to provide you with a tech, negotiate your fee accordingly, so that you can afford to hire one yourself. Note: If your musical equipment is lost or damaged on the road (e.g., if an amplifier is dropped from a truck or a guitar is left at the last gig), the group's organization or, in some cases, the venue in which you are performing should cover the repair or replacement costs.

Travel and Lodging.

Although your employer will generally cover or reimburse you for travel costs and lodging, the quality of service is usually uncertain. Employers with larger budgets may take more care in providing the best possible travel and hotel accommodations. You may be provided with first class airline tickets and/or single hotel room accommodations. Though this may seem unimportant, after being out on the road for several months it can mean the world to you. Whether you receive this type of special treatment or not depends on your employer, but keep in mind that it does exist. (Note: Hotel "incidentals" such as, phone calls, room service fees, and movie rentals are your responsibility. So be careful! Incidentals can add up quickly—especially telephone and on-line costs.) Employers with larger budgets also pay for the costs for traveling to gigs in or around your hometown (such as mileage on your car, parking expenses, etc.), as well as the costs of cartage (the costs of transporting heavy or multiple pieces of musical equipment).

Special Clothing.

If specific clothing that is not "standard" or "ordinary" is required for a promotional video shoot, stage show, or tour, the group will usually reimburse you for the cost of that clothing. For instance, one musician was allotted $500 to buy clothing for a video shoot that only lasted a day. The artist and video director specifically wanted the band and dancers to dress in black studded leather pants (in case you're wondering, the shoot was for a hard-core rap artist). Keep in mind that the money you're offered depends on the specifics of each individual situation.


In times of temporary unemployment, such as during a break in a tour schedule, employers with larger budgets may provide you with additional benefits such as a "retainer." A retainer enables you to maintain an income while your services are on hold. You are expected to be more-or-less on call and are thus limited or excluded from taking on other work. A retainer is usually 50 percent of your weekly salary. Retainers are most common when you're working regularly for one artist.

* [Contact the AFM at (800) 762-3444 or at]

* [Contact AFTRA at (212) 532-0800 or]

Bobby Borg is the author of "The Musician's Handbook: A Practical Guide To Understanding The Music Business," published by Billboard Books. For more or .

Wanna publish this article on your website?  Click here to find out how.

See How TAXI Works

"I received a giant BMI check from TV airplay that I probably wouldn't have earned without TAXI."
— Julie Ann Bailey,
TAXI Member

"I've gotten one solid offer from a record company/publisher . . . and two other songs of mine are on the desks of A&R executives at major labels. Quite simply, TAXI works!"
— Paul Schwartz,
TAXI Member

"Business is business, but TAXI has a heart. I wanted to send my praise to you for creating this "family" of members."
— Tom Johnson,
TAXI Member

"As writer/artists from another country, we see TAXI as the single best opportunity we have for direct exposure to the US music industry."
— Peter Martin,
TAXI Member