When you’re still classified as an indie artist, it seems to be hard to know when you’re eligible to get paid for features and shows. Some feel that because they’re still indie that they should do everything for free in order to work their way to the top. On the flip side, there are some indie artists that request payment, but are nowhere near worthy. As an artist, you should know when it’s time to start getting paid for your services. You should also be aware of your status. Just because you rap doesn’t automatically deem you worthy of payment.
First off, rid yourself of the “I have to do everything for free to work my way to the top” mentality. If you are an artist who has been putting in work, built a buzz outside of your market, and developed a strong fan base, it’s time to get paid. Once you’ve done those things, your demand goes up. If you’re in demand, you deserve to get paid. I can’t tell you what you should charge for shows and features, but start off with a reasonable price. I know some artists who are regional, but get paid up to $10,000 for a show simply because they have a strong following. Promoters will pay you if they know you’ll bring a crowd out to their event, and an artist should pay you if they know that you will bring them more attention simply because you're featured on their track. Again, be reasonable when setting your price. Really take heed to your status. As an up and comer, you must stay humble at all times. Don’t get greedy, especially if you haven’t established enough of a buzz.
Now…there are SEVERAL indie artists who think just because they rap, or that they’ve put out a few mixtapes and gotten some downloads, that means they can start charging for everything. WRONG. Demand is key. If there’s no demand for you, you don’t have the right to charge for anything. Ask yourself these questions before you get gung ho: do you have a strong web presence? Do you have a loyal fan base that follows you to every show, and downloads or purchases everything with your name on it? Finally, are you being requested on a consistent basis? I see so many artists that have the nerve to charge for features and shows, but have no real buzz. Nobody cares if you’re known in your city. Are you known in MULTIPLE markets outside of your state? If I Google you, how many pages of results will I get? Be realistic. You come at a major label or artist, or industry tastemaker with that "pay me" nonsense and you have no real fan base or buzz, they're gonna laugh in your face. If you are not in demand, you don't need to be charging for anything. Put in more work and earn that fan base before doing so.
You'll know when you're in demand. You'll get more calls for booking, you'll see more and more people showing up to see you at shows. You'll see more support on the blogs and from the DJs without even asking for it. Bottom line, you'll have less time on your hands.