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Thread: how much pay should an student musican expect for performance?

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    Senior Member Lunasong's Avatar
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    Default how much pay should an student musican expect for performance?

    My son is a college student horn player who often plays in the pit for musicals around town. He recently contacted an orchestra director for a musical and was offered $75 for 11 services approx 20 miles away. (His most recent performance was for 7 services 30 miles away @ $200). After talking it over with his professor, and attemping to negotiate with the director, he turned down the gig. The professor's reasoning was that
    1. You don't want it to get out in the local horn community that you are willing to accept cheap gigs because it cheapens the value of the whole community and makes you look bad.
    2. Your time and skill is worth more than that.
    The professor said to counter with an offer I thought was a bit outrageous (minimum wage for approx 33 hours).

    The orchestra leader was not willing to negotiate because he said that was his budget for musicians. The director said that he was not getting paid anything, and the musicians should do it because they enjoy it.

    I agree that a musician's time is worth something and they should only accept pro bono (or virtually so) gigs if they want to support the particular organization seeking their services. I think the stipend should at least cover gas money! However, my son is an amateur and trying to build contacts, and this was one of the more prestigious organizations for which to play (I have no idea why their budget is so cheap, though; tickets are $13 for a 240 seat theatre; 7 performances. Selling 4 seats pays for one musician).

    At what level would you accept a gig? Do you agree with the professor? Would you want to at least not lose money on the deal?

    How do you decline this offer graciously with an attempt to educate on the value of a musician?
    "To be a musician is a curse. To NOT be one is even worse." Jack Daney

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    Senior Member PetrB's Avatar
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    I wholly agree with the professor. Whatever the institution, if it is prestigious and has built that reputation taking advantage of any of its performing personnel, it is not 'that prestigious.'

    Locally, it might give a player a little bit of a 'boost' as to word of mouth. In reality, he's 'just another player in the pit' to 99.999% of the community, and that 'reputation' will be worthless.

    There is NO GRACIOUS WAY TO DECLINE AN OFFER TO PERFORM AT A PROFESSIONAL LEVEL FOR $6.18 PER ENTIRE EVENING FOR EACH SHOW. Don't even try. Use the 'white lie / gracious technique,' I'm sorry, I am not available due to other commitments,' and call it a day.

    Who, in their right mind, would take a job that puts them in the negative on transportation costs alone? That is not a job, that is a charitable contribution....

    There is a general attitude: 'our' community theater has good quality productions, 'serves the community,' yadayadayada.

    It may provide some quality entertainment for the community, but it also lies to that community about the real cost of entertainment of that quality. The playing for next to nothing or free is part of that lie. The promotional lure to get young, talented and eager musicians working within any and all genres is "You Get Exposure."

    Perhaps, and only perhaps, if that local theater gets reviews, written by professional reviewers from Major Newspapers, it might be worth the sacrifice. If it is only covered by the local also half-or all volunteer community paper, it really ain't worth it. Your son, and others like him, are planned upon, free, dispensable and interchangeable fodder. Little of any worth, if any worth, is gained for him by way of experience, repute, publicity, etc.

    Taking the pay at the rate offered for that gig says more about eager desperation than anything else: that is not what your son wants to be known for.

    [[ADD; P.s. Since when is minimum wage per hour 'outrageous?' Even in corporate coffee / barista millls and hamburger slinger chains, the new employee trains for two weeks while getting minimum wage. Your son is already trained for this job far beyond that!]]
    Last edited by PetrB; May-02-2013 at 14:00.

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    I am a manager of musicians in the UK. I also administer a Facebook page which campaigns against the blatant abuse and exploitation of musicians. Musicians have never been taken seriously. In the 18th century they were considered little more than servants and people have continued to undermine them ever since. This strange concept that one needn't get paid to do a job one enjoys could be extended to other 'vocational' professions - architects, artists, doctors, lawyers, chefs - you name it. I think you would get very short shrift if you asked any of them to make a net loss on a patch of work. So what makes musicians any different? It seems that because people enjoy LISTENING to it, it somehow appears from nowhere, performed by people who were born rich, have no rent to pay and who played like a virtuoso as soon as they left the womb. The reality is very different, as any professional musician here will know. The amount of sacrifice and training undertaken by a musician probably exceeds that of a heart surgeon, yet no-one would consider expecting a heart surgeon to operate for nothing.

    I realise we're talking about a student here, but I presume your son is studying in the hope of becoming a professional. The definition of a professional is someone who sells their craft or skill for a fee. Now, there are plenty of amateur musical bodies around (the UK is known for the wealth of its high-quality amateur music-making) and if a professional decides he wants to offer his/her services for whatever reason, or to do a free gig in support of a cause he/she believes in, then that's fair enough. Everyone has a choice. However, what is NOT OK to expect young would-be professionals to effectively subsidise a commercial production and be out of pocket through it.

    You are quite right that professionals would probably take a dim view of your son helping to perpetuate this completely unsatisfactory situation. I also don't think one has to worry too much about being overly gracious (after all, one doesn't want to be asked to perform for a loss again!), but turn it down he must.

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    Senior Member PetrB's Avatar
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    Additional: I should have thought of this when I wrote, but it has been quite a while since I've worked 'out' and your narrative had me seeing red :-)

    Not 'Gracious' but at least a bit graceful while making the point,
    "This is my rate. (pause.) Unfortunately, I am not presently in a position where I am able to subsidize your production. (pause) If you had caught me at a time when I was able, I happily would have provided my service. Perhaps some other time. Thank you for your consideration."
    Done.

    For several years, I accompanied (for which I was paid fairly well) a very fine chamber choir, most of the members were volunteer, while the three principals of each, S.A.T.B, were also pretty well paid. (I'll interject my respect for all those volunteers, who met all the professional standards, including never being late for a rehearsal, ever.)

    The lead tenor told me about a call he had received from the program coordinator of a church, from a fairly wealthy parish. It went like this,

    "Mr. ______, we've heard so much about you, we'd love to have you come sing for us."

    "Fine, let me check my agenda. Yes, I have it now. What date were you wanting?"
    The conversation went the normal route, a date settled, etc. The tenor then said,

    "My fee is $____."

    "Oh, my goodness! We'd heard that you had a gift from God, and we thought you'd like to share it with us."

    "Thank you ma'am, I am grateful for the gift, but God did not pay for all my lessons."

    True story.
    Last edited by PetrB; May-02-2013 at 13:51.

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    Senior Member arpeggio's Avatar
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    Default Turned down a gig because of distance.

    I was offered a gig to play in the pit orchestra for a Gilbert & Sullivan. The rehearsals were several time a week and the distance to the rehearsal hall was thirty miles one way in the maryland suburbs of Washington, DC. I live in southern Fairfax county in Virginia. In Washington traffic this would have been a forty-five minute drive during the end of rush hour to the rehearsal.

    The performances were at a theater that was 20 miles away in Rockville, Maryland. They had performances every Friday and Saturday over three weekends. The money would not have paid for my gas so I turned it down for that reason. No problem.
    Last edited by arpeggio; May-03-2013 at 02:23. Reason: grammer and clarification
    It is impossible to make anything foolproof because fools are so ingenious. And I am a very ingenious fellow

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    Senior Member hreichgott's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lunasong View Post
    I agree that a musician's time is worth something and they should only accept pro bono (or virtually so) gigs if they want to support the particular organization seeking their services.
    100% agree. Same is true about low-paid training/interning opportunities for students; you're donating or near-donating your time in exchange for quality training, and if the training opportunity is not really the best available and most valuable to you in your area of interest, then either ask for more money or look elsewhere. For what it's worth, my only paying gig ever on my secondary instrument (double bass at the time) was 3 services with a not-very-prestigious local orchestra playing at a corporate party/benefit in town for $75, in 1990s dollars. As a high schooler on a secondary instrument.
    Heather W. Reichgott, piano
    http://heatherwreichgott.blogspot.com

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    Senior Member ahammel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Delicious Manager View Post
    In the 18th century they were considered little more than servants[...]
    To be fair, in the 18th century they were servants.

    Agreed that he should turn it down. That's a ridiculous offer, bordering on insulting.

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    Quote Originally Posted by hreichgott View Post
    100% agree. Same is true about low-paid training/interning opportunities for students; you're donating or near-donating your time in exchange for quality training, and if the training opportunity is not really the best available and most valuable to you in your area of interest, then either ask for more money or look elsewhere. For what it's worth, my only paying gig ever on my secondary instrument (double bass at the time) was 3 services with a not-very-prestigious local orchestra playing at a corporate party/benefit in town for $75, in 1990s dollars. As a high schooler on a secondary instrument.
    This brings up an interesting point about internships. When I was managing orchestras we took interns on a 6-monthly basis. They didn't get paid, although their travelling and incidental expenses were completely covered, as well as a free lunch (yes, there is such a thing!) every day. We got an extra pair of hands (albeit a sometimes labour-intensive pair, as one has to train them to do the required tasks) and they got first-class 'on-the-job' training and experience of the sort that no college could ever teach you (these were all graduates anyway). With only one exception (and she was a lazy cow), all of them walked into decent paid jobs on the back of the professional experience they had gained with us. It's a two-way investment, but it works very well.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ahammel View Post
    To be fair, in the 18th century they were servants.
    That's not fair at all. They were perceived and treated as servants by their employers, but the musicians then were no less intensively trained, dedicated and hard working than they are now, so it was an unjustified perception in my view.

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    Senior Member PetrB's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Delicious Manager View Post
    That's not fair at all. They were perceived and treated as servants by their employers, but the musicians then were no less intensively trained, dedicated and hard working than they are now, so it was an unjustified perception in my view.
    At least they were paid enough to house themselves and eat....

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