A Break Even Gig

Since about June of 2013, I have been playing bass every week at a Tuesday Jazz Night at the Mason Lounge in Madison WI. It is a pretty late night for a school night. Thanks to carpooling with the drummer, the gig only put about 30 round trip miles on my car, which made it almost a break even gig against the $15 base pay we would get each Tuesday night (using the IRS mileage conversion as a basis). It’s actually a slight loss because the mileage conversion rate was $0.56 cents per mile in 2013. But when you factor in the meager tips, it probably about compensates for the extra few cents per mile. Plus, I drive a Prius that is low maintenance and high MPG. But the IRS doesn’t really care about that. They base it only on miles (or a percent of total cost if you want to go through the trouble of keeping all your receipts, which I totally do not).

I decided to back off from jazz night a bit in 2014, since I started my new job. Wednesday mornings are more difficult for me now, and I think I would be better served using my Tuesday evenings for other things. In addition, the drummer I was carpooling with is no longer doing jazz and now my round trip commute in 2014 is 50 miles. I would have to make at least $25 per jazz night to make it a wash.

I should also note that jazz night goes from 9 PM to midnight on Tuesdays, with a brief break around 10:30. I have to leave my house about 8 PM to get there at 8:30 PM to set up. We rock for three hours, and then I have to tear down and I am lucky if I get home by 1 AM. Even if I don’t include the hour round trip commute in my calculations, I am still on the job for 4 hours minimum. Getting paid $15 for the entire gig is not even a legal wage in Wisconsin.

On the other hand, I get better at jazz and there is some non-monetary value in that. I am not sure how much. I need to think about that. But the point is I do not want to be on the hook for jazz every week. I want to do it maybe once a month and have someone else do the regular performing, who does not have as far to drive or any Wednesday morning responsibilities.

In general, I am trying to be more diligent about running my professional music writing and performing business as a music business, even if it is just a small moonlighting operation. I am an LLC, and with that comes a responsibility to be professional, manage my budget, and turn down gigs that don't meet a minimum standard. I like the jazz group and performing the music, but the costs kind of outweigh the benefits. If it paid double what it pays now, I would continue to do it. But the current cost/benefit analysis does not favor it.

What are your thoughts?

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