Everything doesn’t work for everybody. A lot of people get upset and walk away from whatever project they are undertaking because of unmet expectations. This is especially common when you are in an industry with people who do the same thing you do. We all see people who are doing well and ask them how they are doing it. Some folks are reluctant to reveal the secret sauce, while others have no problem with giving away free game. The problem is, doing what they do or using the same platforms does not guarantee that you will achieve the same level of success as your peers.
Enter the gig booking platform GigSalad. I began my tumultuous relationship with this platform back in 2019 or early 2020. One day, as I was perusing my timeline on Facebook, I saw a post from a Texas based poet I was acquainted with. She put a screenshot of a review she had received from one of her recent performances. I asked her if that was on her website and she proceeded to tell me about a platform called GigSalad.
GigSalad is a platform for gig workers such as performing artists and allows those seeking talent to book them through this platform. A sort of one stop shop for people who need talent but don’t know where to find it. It seemed like it worked for my poet acquaintance, so I decided to sign up. There are three tiers, a free tier and two paid tiers. You can use GigSalad for free but have limited access to some of their features, or you could pay a subscription and access things like higher levels of visibility, the ability to accept higher deposit amounts, and so many other benefits.
When it comes to trying something new for the first time, I’m not keen on jumping out the window and paying for something that I’m not even sure will work for me. Blame it on the African American urge to ask, “Who all over there?” Black folks aren’t a monolith but for the most part we don’t play about our money. We don’t have it to waste. We can’t afford to spend hundreds to thousands on a venture and chalk it up as a “learning experience” if it falls through. All that to say, I was on the free plan then… and I’m on the free plan now.
But let’s get back to the title. Because, I do have a love-hate relationship with this platform, through no fault of GigSalad’s. Let me be clear, this is my experience with their platform. Once I signed up, I created a promo kit, which is the equivalent of an artist profile. It gives those seeking talent a snapshot of who you are and what you do. Here is mine below.
So everything you need to know about booking ya mans is clearly spelled out. This past Monday (January 10,2022), I received my tenth booking lead, and I’m afraid that it’s going to continue an almost two year trend of letting me down. But to get there, we need to go back to my very first gig lead.
I received my first gig lead in February 21, 2020. When you get a gig lead, you are alerted via text message and e-mail that you have a lead. The alert mentions that usually the first person to respond to the lead gets the gig, so they suggest you answer as quickly as possible. At this point I’m ecstatic, like, I’m really about to make some money on this platform. This could be a whole other revenue stream for me. Let’s get this work!
Unfortunately, I was in for a rude awakening. Let me paint the scene: a lady from a church in Cincinnati, Ohio wanted to book a poet for thirty minutes. She wanted said poem to utilize the various ministries of the church and assist with a team building exercise and teach them to compose a poem. Okay, bet! I can definitely do that! If you go back and look at my promo kit, you see clear as day that I service Louisville, Kentucky. My price starts at $200 off the rip. Like $200. Like when you pass go in Monoploy, you get that $200. So my thinking is this, I gotta travel like 2-3 hours both ways and I gotta teach people how to compose a poem? Off top I said $450.
Now that may sound like a lot for a half hour session, but that’s where people get into trouble when booking performing artists. You aren’t paying for the thirty minutes you are paying for the years of practice it took to be able to teach a group of strangers how to compose a poem. Also you are paying for the fact I have to leave my house and travel across a couple of states to get to you.
Tangent aside, I thought that was reasonable but the lady said that was beyond their budget. I was so desperate to close the sale that I cut it down to $250. That’s only $50 more than my starting price. I never heard back from the lady. I was devastated.
A month later I received another lead from someone out in Cincinnati. They were asking about having a poet come out and do a poem before they proposed. They reached out in March but the event wouldn’t take place until September. The event would take place at a bar from 12AM-1:00AM. I said $200 flat in my quote and never heard from him again. To be fair, the pandemic had just kicked off, so that could have ruined his plans. I don’t think that was it though. I think I priced myself out of yet another gig.
For the next year or so, I would sporadically get requests from folks from Ohio, Indianapolis, and various parts of Kentucky. The only problem was, they all fell through. The most disrespectful one to me was this virtual event that someone was trying to host. It seemed catered to women, so I suggested they book a woman poet. Come to find out they thought they were talking to a woman. They had accidentally messaged me! But once again, look at my Promo kit. How did you not know you were talking to a whole black man this entire time? Ugh. I had folks try to book me for festivals and all kinds of events, but once I hit them with my quotes, they never followed up.
I honestly don’t think it’s GigSalad’s fault, I blame the clients that approached me. Brandon Alexander Williams once said, “Many folks trying to book a poet, it’s their first time.” Folks don’t know what to expect price wise and perhaps my prices could be off putting. But here’s the thing: my prices are fairly low. I try to meet folks where they are and not beat them over the head, but that’s still not good enough.
To all my readers who don’t know, asking a poet to come to your event and perform for less than three figures is insulting. If they are just starting out, yeah that $75 and $100 is great. But as their skill grows and they obtain certain accolades, their price goes up. As it should. If you’ve been supporting them for a while, they may give you a discount or do it for free just off the strength of your relationship.
One of the things that I’ve been guilty of is not asking for my worth. I’m a husband and father, and everytime I leave the house to go do poetry I have to prove that it was worth missing out on that family time. I used to feel bad when I saw non profit organizations and events trying to book me, so I severely discounted my services. One of the biggest lies I ever believed is that non profits really don’t make money. Nah. Look up some of these non profits’ guide star reports, they are legally required to show how much they bring in every year. You’d be shocked, and you would probably wonder why they always crying broke if they bring in millions every year. That’s a post for another time though.
When I first got on GigSalad, there weren’t a whole lot of poets servicing the Louisville area. Now there are about 28 poets who service the area, although most of them are in Ohio, Indianapolis, Tennessee, and I even saw someone from Maryland on there. Most of us don’t have any verified bookings. I don’t know why, but maybe it’s because people don’t know that you have to actually come up off some money when you book a poet. For me, the days of $50-$100 in the city of Louisville are long gone, especially if I’m expected to travel a couple of hours to another state to perform.
And yeah, I could pay a subscription to be more visible on the GigSalad platform, but for what? Who cares if more people see me, or I can accept larger deposits, if the clients don’t come correct and expect to spend some real money? I’m so glad I’m on the free plan. At this point, I’ve made more money from my Facebook DMs and phone calls in the last couple of weeks than I have in almost two years of being on this platform.
I love the potential to make money and get booked through GigSalad’s platform, it just hasn’t happened for myself and a bunch of other poets. This is a lesson: you can’t depend on a platform to feed you, you have to go out and get it yourself. I’ve had a website since 2014 and artist pages on most of the popular platforms for a long time. I’ve spent a decade hitting up open mics, performing and building a name for myself as a professional poet. I’ve got a few television appearances, one of my poems was shown at a missionary conference in Greece, and a whole host of accomplishments I’m not going to get into. The point is this: I does this. I’m not playing poet. I’m a professional and expect to be compensated as much. As the saying goes, “If you think hiring a professional is expensive, try booking an amateur.”
I intend to stay on the GigSalad platform and I expect to one day get real bookings through them. I have no problem with their system, I think it’s kind of genius. But I won’t depend on them. I love the potential but hate my current reality on their platform. Maybe it’s working for you. If so, I’d love to hear about that. But again: what works for one doesn’t work for everyone else. Thanks for reading this.
Here’s a great resource that speaks to the pricing of poetry. Art and artists are subjective. The prices may vary. Just know that if an artist is asking for something that you may not expect, most times they can back that up. My wife says all the time that art is one of the rare fields where people ask how much they can use you for and not pay you, to your face.
What do you think? I’d love to read your comments and get some feedback. I know I’m not tripping, but I’m always down to hear what others have to say.
Update: As I was writing this, I was waiting on a follow up from that tenth lead. I used to give folks seven days to decide if they wanted to book me, but now I’ve shortened it to three. I look at it like this: either you want to book me or you don’t. It shouldn’t take a week to decide based off of my quote. This person wanted to book me in July to speak for fifteen minutes in a convention center and estimated that 5,000 could be in attendance. I know that this person’s organization pays dues, so they should have some money, so I quoted a modest three figure number. I also asked if I would have the ability to sell my book. I never heard from them again. I believe that everything I asked was reasonable but it still didn’t work out.
At this rate, I don’t even get disappointed anymore, I just laugh it off and look for the next. So ya boy is at 0-10 on GigSalad, but I’m constantly getting emails from the platform informing me of a chance to join a paid tier for 40% off. What do y’all think I do when I get those emails? Deleted. I don’t need that negativity in my life.
Thank you for reading this! Let me know if you have any horror or success stories on the GigSalad platform. Which tier are you on? other than your website and social media, what other booking platforms do you use and why?