Frequently Asked Questions (return to home page)
Questions from Vendors Questions from musicians Questions from both!
Why should my farmer's market use live music? Do you accept every band? TC, what's in it for you?
Do markets have to pay the bands? How long should we play? What if the weather is bad?
What do the bands expect to make in tips? What if we need to cancel?  
What do the bands need? Can we play Original Music?  
What if the band is too loud?  
My name is TC Smythe. I am a full-time musician with 15+ years of touring experience and a large network of musicians. I'd like to introduce you to a whole community of musicians who are discovering what I already know - that farmers markets are great places to play.
Why should my farmer's market use live music?
I believe farmers are passionate about three things:
1) promoting local products,
2) making money doing what they love and;
3) Expanding their customer base.
I also know that musicians are passionate about three things;
1) promoting local music,
2) making money doing what they love and;
3) Expanding their customer base.
We have a lot in common! We are self-sufficient sole proprietors and we have the same difficult job: getting people to leave their homes to spend money. Markets and musicians can enhance each others' ability to do this. Shoppers tend to linger longer at markets where there is something exciting to hear and see. The longer they stay, the more they spend. Music fans also look for trendy new venues to see live music.
Do markets have to pay the bands?
The short answer is: It's up to you. But consider this:
Markets with deep pockets choose to pay as much as $150.00 to cover multiple band members' transportation costs and to reward them for bringing customers. Very small markets are not in a position to offer anything more than electricity, water and overhead cover. Your markets are as different as our bands!
You each have your own financial goals & limitations, and you should decide what you can offer before signing up with  For 501(c)3's, I recommend a minimum $25.00 gas stipend so the band doesn't take a bath just for trying.  It's common sense that if tips & CD sales are non-existent, but the band is consistently good, a gas money stipend is a reasonable request. Over time, this will seem a trivial way to maintain a band with a big mailing list or fans that will come to shop because of them. On the other hand, a band that is just starting out might use the opportunity to develop their skills by playing for tips.
So what do the bands expect to make in tips?
The least I ever made was $85 and the most was $425. My own duo typically makes $200+ in two hours. There can be a difference between a market that's been around 5 years and a market that's new!
At new markets, customers are surprised to hear music in the morning, but most enjoy it. It may take time for them to catch on to the idea of tipping for it. The bands hope to get house concert bookings, and love it when vendors put veggies in the tip jar! That's the equivalent gesture as a band giving a CD to a vendor. It's a huge compliment!
Here's what I've told the bands: "Do the math". At a typical nightclub gig, band members usually earn $100 each to play 4 hours, (or $25.00/hr per member). At a farmer's market gig, they have the chance to make the same $100 each for only 2 hours of playing (or $50.00/hr per member). They *can* double their Saturday income by adding a farmers market to their schedule.
Do you accept every band?
No, I do not. Some bands are not the right format and others just aren't ready for prime time.
What do the bands need?
I ask the markets to provide one electrical outlet near the band, water, and some sort of overhead cover to protect the sound equipment. If you do not have an extra canopy, let me know so that I can tell your bands to pack garbage bags or tarps to cover their gear in case of rain. While the bands are required to bring a sound system, most bands do not own canopies.
How long should the gig be?
I ask the bands to play a minimum of two hours with a break in the middle. If the market is obviously a power-house, the bands will ASK to play longer!
What if the weather is bad?
Anyone can stand freezing weather for a little while, but guitar players' fingers don't do very well on steel strings if the temperature is below 50 degrees and the wind is blowing. If the temperature is below 50, or over 95 the musician may spin CDs or find another way to interact with the audience. The only show-ending condition will be rain blowing sideways! Otherwise you need to be braodcasting SOMETHING. If you show up, you get paid, no matter what. If you cancel without finding your own replacement, you will not be able to book at that market again.
What if I get sick?
Illnesses can't be predicted, but in a foreseeable situation, I have required the bands to find their own replacement from among the pre-approved acts in the roster for that market. The cancelling act will forward their paypal payment to the substitute themselves. Bands are encouraged to barter gigs if it is advantageous to both parties. 
What if the band is too loud?
If the market manager or the police ask the band to turn down the volume, the band should do so immediately. This request is not a reflection on their ability to play, it simply means the vendors can't hear their customers. I recommend that if the sound is too loud, the vendor should notify the market manager, instead of stopping the band mid-song. The easiest solution is to have the band turn the speakers away from that vendor's booth. If that fails, then the volume knob will be turned to the left.
Original Music
I have told the bands that they may play original music as long as it is family-friendly. Creativity should be rewarded in this environment.
TC, what's in it for you?
My reward is being able to select my own dates to play at the market. My definition of personal success is to be able to pay the bills doing what I love. This network benefits the live music community. I hope you will consider participating. Please call me if you have any questions, or think of a way to make it more successful. 832-715-5226