Adventures in Entrepreneurship, March 2016: Beyond a Chicken Dinner and a Love Offering

I was quite intrigued by a number of hot Facebook conversations yesterday about gospel artist Tasha Cobbs and her booking fee for her performances. A member from a church in Montgomery, Alabama wrote a snarky post complaining about Cobbs’ $23,000 booking and rider fee to which Cobbs accurately replied, “If you have to ask how much, then you can’t afford it!”

Tasha_Cobbs-VA2

I silently said an “Amen” at my computer screen and proceeded to watch all of the conversation that arose about the validity of charging $23,000 for a 60-minute gospel concert. It was very interesting to see that there is still a very strong conversation about paying people in the spiritual arena with the equivalent of chicken dinners and love offerings.

I can relate to Tasha Cobbs as I had my own Come-to-Jesus moment about my pricing last weekend. I had the pleasure of attending Jena Rodriguez’s Be the Brand conference in Houston, Texas. I had a very intense moment when Jena challenged me to declare how much I wanted to charge for a premium package within my business. It took me a full 45 seconds to state what I wanted to charge for that service. I recognized that my hesitation in confidently declaring that price is because I am still in the process of truly understanding the VALUE that I bring to the table.

Now that I’ve been home for a few days, I am beginning to see that my pricing isn’t just about paying for my WiFi, firing up my laptop, and covering my Brooklyn rent. My pricing also includes my VALUE, which encompasses my 15 years of editorial experience, the nearly 30 books I have brought to life, and the extraordinary caliber of authors I’ve had the pleasure to work with over the years. I share my experience not as bragging rights but as a TESTAMENT to the VALUE ADDED experience that I know I can provide to my authors.

I can attest that when I was first starting out, I was just happy to be considered for the work, and I would just let people tell me what they were willing to pay. There is nothing like a relocation to New York, becoming an entrepreneur, and working with a savvy business coach to make me realize that I have every right to place the right number on my services that accurately reflects my time, my experience, my quality of life, and how I choose to grow my life and my business.

So many times in the spiritual arena we are used to telling people what we think they are worth instead of paying them for their known VALUE. I strongly believe that we have to break out of this mentality of compensating people with a hot meal and few hundred bucks. I’m sure the hospitality committee at that church in Alabama can hook up some great fried chicken, mac-n-cheese, and greens. But a filling plate of soul food and a paltry honorarium does NOT cover travel, lodging, a team, or company overhead.

Some of the commentary I saw yesterday also talked about Tasha Cobbs becoming exclusive and limiting her accessibility to a wider audience. Instead of being snarky on social media, the church could have been creative and partnered with another church to split the cost for Tasha’s booking fee or maybe they could have negotiated with Tasha’s team for pricing for a shorter set. Service-based providers and performers are always willing to negotiate (within reason!) for clients and projects that make sense for their business.

Tasha Cobbs now has a number of albums, a Grammy Award, and multiple Stellar and Dove Awards. Heck, I don’t think $23,000 is ENOUGH for the caliber of her talent and the appeal of her voice. So if a certain church can’t pay for her services, there is definitely an organization or ministry who understands her VALUE and will have no problem with INVESTING in the musical experience that she will provide. She has certainly done the work to not have to settle for a price point below her value.

For me, it has been a very vulnerable and scary process to confidently declare and implement a fair and worthy pricing scale for my services. Some potential clients have blinked in awe at my pricing while others have simply asked where to send the check. I’m learning that it’s really OK either way. But what I will no longer do is diminish my VALUE in the marketplace. Who I am and what I KNOW I can provide is certainly worth a whole lot more than a chicken dinner and a love offering.

16 Comments Add yours

  1. curvyceo says:

    Ok, while I fully support YOUR pursuit of every single last coin…and even Miss Cobb’s…I do think her response (“If you have to ask you can’t afford it”) isn’t exactly godly. I’m not saying she should show up for a chicken dinner and love offering…BUT, it seems to me that she started the snarkiness. I know it takes a lot to perform – travel, accommodations, hair, makeup, the band, etc. But she didn’t have to present the answer in such a manner as to offend. Even though I fully believe that it is critical that modern churches and Christian artists operate with more of a business mentality, we also have to remember to whom Jesus ministered and how. It makes me think of this song by Steven Ray, “Would Jesus Wear a Rolex?” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qYgRKHrmrM8

    1. Dr says:

      I fully agree that her response was very off .. I being a pastor for now 10 years and have done Gospel Celebrations and booked people like Dwayne Woods, Myron Butler, LiL Mo , Kelly Price, Daryl Coley, My list goes on and I understand her valuing a 60 minute performance at 23k and I agree the set could have been shorter , and they could have partnered with another church .. But it is also ministry so that should be looked at also with these artist that because a church that seats 500 can’t afford me at 23k and a church that sweats 5000 can I should consider that also as an artist this is why they have the questionnaires that ask how many expected to attend .. How many seats .. You would think that would be to determine the fee .. In addition to cover charges .. This flat rate and her response shows that she will be like slot of artist that win a bunch of awards one year and they back down from 22k to 8k in 2 years ..

  2. soulwriter9 says:

    Thank you, as always, for reading, my friend! I hear your point, but I just get frustrated when we tell Christian artists/preachers that they should be humble and not ask for what he or she DESERVES. I suspect that Tasha’s comment was based on frustration and probably anger for being told that she wasn’t worthy to receive her fee. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with paying a person what he or she is WORTH. I’m even OK with someone in that arena who chooses to use their earnings to buy a Rolex or a house of their dreams. What I’m not OK with is people judging artists for simply knowing their worth and charging accordingly. If that ministry can’t afford the fee, that’s OK, but don’t put someone down because she’s above your price point.

  3. cteague8 says:

    At the end of the day, my father gave me some of the best advice that can be applied to anything… He was talking about a house I was thinking of buying, but it works here: “Something is only worth— what someone is willing to pay for it.” As a business owner, I know this to be true…

  4. Ronald Smith says:

    Great article, The challenge is that church folk are in the mindset anything gospel has to be free or a love offering because salvation is free. They do not realize this is a business and for an artist at that calibre is merely a gospel entertainer because this is how she makes her living. The only reason I would obtain an A list artist like her is to make money off them. I can get the same effect from an indie artist who is cheaper. The difference is the numbers. An A list artist like Tasha Cobbs can bring in revenue compared to a indie artist.

    1. soulwriter9 says:

      Thank you for reading. Such a good point. We have to stop believing that just because something is declared a “ministry” that it should be free.

      1. Kelley says:

        This is so true and as a minister, singer, author, and book publisher, my greatest frustration is that when you do give a discount, a payment plan, or anything else to work with someone, they don’t appreciate it and they become the hardest people to work with. I have determined not to give any more breaks, discounts, or “hook ups” unless God tells me directly because every one that I have given in the past has blown up in my face. We have to learn to do business better, period!

  5. Well….asking how much something costs is actually the FIRST question ANY smart business person poses; it’s how they STAY in business and make sure that they are making appropriate financial decisions. Spending money without asking questions isn’t “boss,” it’s reckless.

    It’s also the first question poor people ask; the kind of poor people who attend small churches around the country. Small churches that are a training ground for young singers and musicians who practice on these small churches until they bloom into talented, award-winning singers that rise above “chicken dinners and love offerings,” perhaps at the tune of $20K.

    Gospel as a genre was born in and lives among a community of poverty-stricken African Americans where, ironically, most of the demand for it exists. It must be difficult to turn to members of that same community years later and say, “you can’t afford me.”

    This is the issue with, “gospel music;” it’s a dichotomy. On one hand, the mission is to “spread the gospel,” “minister to souls,” and “reach the lost” by any means.

    On the other hand, the experience can be priced at a premium, considered strictly, “business,” and become lost in capitalist conversations about assigning “proper monetary value” in the same breath.

    We have to decide. Either “soul-winning” is a business with a price tag or it’s ministry—which is interpreted as “service,” and there’s nothing wrong with receiving a love offering to meet your needs as a result of providing Christian “service.” In fact, I’m fairly certain that’s how it was done in the Bible. I don’t remember Saint Paul having a rider.

    Personally, I just see it as a business (packaged as spirituality), so it doesn’t bother me. What DOES bother me is when people pretend that it is anything more than business; I see that as disingenuous.

    Charging celebrity prices for appearances is a reflection of our capitalist culture, and has nothing to do with spirituality or the Bible. It’s our entrepreneurial nature, which try as one must, cannot authentically be linked to the message or mission of “Christ” in any way.

    Let’s call it what is is—BUSINESS, and BUSINESS alone.

    1. soulwriter9 says:

      Such great points! I think that the spiritual community has to be honest about the nature of BUSINESS. The functions of a church, a ministry, or a gospel artist can’t be run on a wing and a prayer. These operations require M-O-N-E-Y. As a collective community, we have to rise beyond expecting people to give us a “hook up” and demanding full service without putting in the appropriate financial investment.

      I think a ministry and a business can operate together. We just have to be HONEST that these things are not free.

      Thank you again for reading. Your points are SPOT ON.

      1. Natasha Rones says:

        Ministry operations do cost real money. Which is why ministry requires real faith in the true source which is God!

    2. Natasha says:

      Yaaassss! To this comment! Ministry is ministry and business is business. I am sure those sacrificial animals they were selling in the temple had value and were worth every penny charge but the commerce didn’t belong in the temple and some things shouldn’t be sold!!!!!!!! #fixitJesusforreal

  6. Jasmine says:

    Dear writer,
    You make some very valid points; however, I think you should research this particular incident a little more.
    The man that requested her services was not in the gospel music industry, he is not connected to a church or ministry and he was not familiar with the celebrity and award winning Tasha Cobbs that we know. He heard her song on the radio, thought she’d be great for his fraternity convention/lodge and proceeded to seek her out. We must exercise some grace in his lack of knowledge of who she is and how the business side of ministry operates. I’m not even sure he was Christian and my concern(if he is not) is how turned off he must be by the way kingdom citizens came for him and clapped back at him. That man did not post that status with the intent to receive the notoriety that it did. As my brother above commented, this is ministry first and our responses to him should reflect the Christ we claim and serve.

    Lastly, I’ve always been torn about the price of artist and preachers, because if a smaller church/ministry can’t afford you do you turn them down and say no? Has your gift become to big to share the gospel everywhere? Surely, that isn’t a reflection of Jesus or true ministry.

    There must be a balance between ministry and business. And, maybe people need to be more honest with themselves and call a spade a spade–for them it’s solely business, point, blank, period.
    And, charge accordingly with no thought, regard or consideration. A large corporation isn’t going to flex their price because one can’t afford it, so If that’s how you operate then cool, but I don’t think we should mask that spirit in the name of ministry and spreading the gospel.

    It has always been my prayer Lord, if you allow me to be used and get to a place that I can place an honorarium on my gift, keep me humble enough not to despise small beginnings and think I’m too big for small ministries or small accounts. My prayer is that God blesses me to the point that I can go wherever my calendar allows whether it’s an audience of 5 or 5000!

    I just pray we don’t miss an opportunity to to win souls or heal those in need because they couldn’t afford us. May God continue rising up those that don’t mind going into those dirty, cheap, less glamorous and ugly places and still spread the gospel as fervently as they would to a sold out arena.

    P.s I’m not saying you go for free, because there are other cost to consider and it’s okay to know your worth/value; however, this isn’t as black and white as one would like it to be.

  7. Rocki says:

    Yes! All of this!

  8. Yes! I love this! Being in entertainment myself, we have come across a couple of people who have challenged our price. That can make a person initially doubt his/her value, but the people who don’t want to pay are the people you don’t want to do business with anyway. They like you enough to want to book you, but when you’re out of their price range, they get angry.

  9. Rishonda Wallett Miley says:

    God has already equipped us for our divine appointment,we just have to be prayerful n know when the time has come to excel to the next level. Not per man but by almighty god. We are bless and favored by an awesome God. Hallejuah

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