Quite often, a potential client seeking ceremony music for their wedding will stress the fact that they only need music for 20 or 30 minutes, the length of the ceremony. From experience, I know that it never is just a 20 or 30 minute event. My meter starts running when I start the job, which includes loading up the car, the time it takes to travel to the gig (occasionally it's close by, but most of the time it's anywhere from 1 to 3 hours away). In many cases, I am requested to learn a new song or two for the event. For the record, I do NOT factor in the time it takes me to practice and learn new material. That said, here are some of the criteria I use when bidding on a party:
1. The minimum I might make if I got hired for another party.
If I were to charge say, $150 because the ceremony is only 30 minutes and you hired me; then the next day another potential client asked if that date was available to play a birthday party for $800 - well, you can see what I'd be giving up. I average it out to the least amount I stand to earn for that day when I have multiple gig requests.
2. Demand for my music is mostly before Labor Day.
During the Spring and Summer is when most people have outdoor events and it's the time I get the most requests to play weddings, grad parties, luaus and backyard BBQ birthday parties.
3. Gig requests taper off in the Fall and Winter
After Labor Day, the demand drops off for outdoor parties. This means I have to survive on what I earned during the summer while trying to find work playing in local venues during the winter time. These types of gigs are usually just enough to tide me over till the warm weather comes around again.
4. A wedding is a milestone event.
The reason musicians charge more to play a wedding than they would charge a restaurant or bar owner is because it is a one-time event. A restaurant or bar owner might only pay $100 - $200 a night but it's usually for more than one time, for instance, every Friday during happy hour for 3 months. This means exposure, tips and it all adds up to enough to make a living. A wedding on the other hand is a very special occasion. You want the best you can get and someone with not only talent, but experience to be sure you and your guests have a day you will remember fondly for the rest of your life!
Let's suppose you're in Maryland. I am yours for the entire day. I can't accept another gig, unless by some crazy coincidence, I got hired to play another wedding taking place an hour later and they're only 15 minutes away. Truth is, it's one heck of a drive from NE Philly to Rose Haven or Rehoboth Beach, Maryland, and I will probably rent a car to be sure I am driving a dependable vehicle for the trip. Add in the price of gas and it's almost $200 more for me to be able to accept a job there.
These are some of the major factors in determining what factors I must consider when I quote a fee. Nevertheless, I'm always willing to negotiate, and I try to stay within a client's budget whenever possible!