Open Forum

Subject: Musician pay

1.  Musician pay

Posted 12 days ago
Hello.  I am in a full-blown dispute with one of my musicians from my just completed musical production.  My fault lies in my failure to obtain an upfront quote.  He was asked to play by our regular accompanist.  We had a vague conversation in which I asked him his rate and he said he could work out some hourly figure.   He was at 5 rehearsals and 3 performances.   I am new at this school and was launched into producing the show quickly.   When I got his bill I was in shock.  He charged for study and preparation hours, outside rehearsal time, in rehearsal time and performance.  He charged $25 an hour. (That is, by the way, more than the union rate in this metro.)  His final bill was about 1/4 of my total budget and twice what the music director was getting paid.  I counter offered about half what he requested thinking I was being generous and he is now calling me unprofessional in bold letters and saying he is taking his case to my principal.   I know I blew it when I didn't get a solid quote up front.  However, we never had a contract and the understanding is it would be a fair rate.  We have a 300 seat theatre and charge $4 and $7 a ticket.   Am I being delusional?   The amount I put in to pay him pretty much wiped out the remainder of my budget.  Advice?

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Gloria Goodwin
Kansas MO
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2.  RE: Musician pay

Posted 11 days ago
Of course you should have had a contract upfront. We all know that but sometimes things happen  . . . 

I have never paid a musician for study and preparation time or outside rehearsal. They are paid by the event. If I cannot get them to agree to a flat rate between $200 and $400 I will pay them a fee per event: $35 - $50 per in-house rehearsal and performance.

The question now is do you want to work with this musician again? If so, pay the money. If not, tell them how much you can pay and let them take it or leave it.

I would also be sitting down in front of my principal and confessing my sins before they do. Make sure your principal is armed with information before their phone rings.

Good luck.

--
Mark A. Zimmerman
Theatre Director,

Akron School for the Arts
Firestone High School
470 Castle Blvd
Akron, Ohio 44313

330-761-3275

FirestoneTheatre.com






3.  RE: Musician pay

Posted 10 days ago
​I am trying my best right now to get a SMALL amount paid to the music director, vocal director, rehearsal pianist and choreographer for our spring musical. There is no district-paid stipend, even though three of these people are district employees and have agreed to the situation. I want to give them something, so thought to pay them out of our ASB funds, which is where we get our operating budget...funds which have come from ticket sales from previous shows and fund raising. I have been told I can't use the funds because they are for the greater good of all students, not just those in theater. Also, anything that is paid to district employees must be negotiated through the union.

I think we all should join in and make our voices heard. This concept that athletics are more valuable than the arts needs to be addressed loudly and often enough that our administrations, both school and district take notice.

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Ellen Di Filippo
Tracy CA
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4.  RE: Musician pay

Posted 11 days ago
I am a choir teacher: from my experience I have had NO ONE ever request to be paid for preparation.  Yes for rehearsal time and performance time and travel, though.  I had one that was 25$ an hour and the rest just request a flat fee. As a musician, I understand why this person wants to get paid for practice time, but its just simply not how things are done realistically, especially at a school. (side note, how difficult was the music? He could be literally throwing and number at you he wants...) It is just as much the other person's fault as it is yours that no fee was previously discussed.

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Sara Giambalvo
Arnold MO
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5.  RE: Musician pay

Posted 11 days ago
What he thinks is reasonable and what you think is reasonable is the question. When does his request get denied - $30 and hour, $50 an hour, $100 an hour? He could have picked any number - that does not mean you have to pay it. What were the other musicians paid? No, you did not have a contract - but NEITHER did he. Hold your ground. Be fair, but don't destroy your program.

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Ann Hileman
Indiana Executive Board
Maconaquah High School
Bunker Hill, IN
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6.  RE: Musician pay

Posted 11 days ago
You're correct that without the initial quote, disputes like this one are hard to solve. I never pay for prep. I'm hiring seasoned, skilled musicians who have probably played the show multiple times.
Rehearsals and performances are paid the same.  One flat fee per evening.  My rehearsals never exceed 4 hours.  My musicians don't get paid more for longer shows nor by "the number of notes" they play.

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David Kramer
Mt Sinai NY
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7.  RE: Musician pay

Posted 11 days ago
This guy is gouging you.
Go talk to your principal before he does, and explain everything you've said here.
And of course, put it all in writing in advance next time.

Billy Houck





8.  RE: Musician pay

Posted 11 days ago
I commiserate. I ran a theatre for 14 years and stopped doing musical, except with just a pianist. Then hired a music director with a flat fee for everything; paid comparable to the choreographer or assistant director. The reason I stopped using musicians, is that even though we lived in a mid-sized town with no union musicians, I was being asked to pay union scale, often to high school students.

I asked myself, "I run a theatre. Why am I paying musicians and not the actors." 

As to your problem. Go to your administration first. Yep, you made a mistake. Let your principle know what happened and what steps you have taken to rectify the problem. It sounds like you are being reasonable.

In the future create a budget for yourself. Then when hiring an accompanist, tell them you have a set amount you can pay and what you expect of them. And they can either accept or reject the gig.

Of course this is harder after the fact. Buy let this musician know that what is asking is wiping out your budget. If he is indifferent to your problem, then at least you have a measure of his character. 

You can also let them know that you could not recommend them if anyone asks. You cannot say anything negative about them as it could be construed as slanderous, but you can say that you would never work with them again. Just state the facts, as you have here, and let people draw there own conclusions.

Good luck. 





--
"All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players." - Shakespeare





9.  RE: Musician pay

Posted 11 days ago
Maybe the accompanist is equally at fault for not securing a pay rate when he was hired. If you shared your total budget with him, and the current rate for union musicians in your area, I would hope he would see reason and agree to something that works for you. His reputation is on the line and it may be challenging for him to find future work if he is so uncompromising.





10.  RE: Musician pay

Posted 11 days ago
I am sorry this happend to you.  I am a voice teacher/musical theater director.  $25 an hour is reasonable, however, he should not ask you to pay him for HIS rehearsal time.  If he cannot play the music, it is wrong for him to charge you for his practice time.  At least you can subtract this from the total bill

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Corinne Walker
Private voice teacher
Musical theater director
Mesa, Arizona
corinnewalk4.wixsite.com/mesa
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11.  RE: Musician pay

Posted 11 days ago

You're either being taken advantage of or this musician isn't quite up-to-speed on this kind of work.

I have been a professional musician and have done tons of theatre gigs. Yes, there should have been a contract, but I would never have gone into a gig not knowing what I was getting paid. So, that is on your musician, as well. Also, I was almost always paid a flat fee per evening of work.

Most importantly (I think, and what makes me think you're being taken advantage of), a professional or semi-professional musician should never charge for their home practice time. I might ask to be reimbursed if I had to rent a specialty instrument for the job (alto flute, etc), but then it'd only be the cost of the instrument's usage, but other than that, I can't think of any other charges beyond the evening's work. I have had to walk in an hour before a show and read it during a performance. This is no accounting for practice time in that situation, you just have to be able to do it. If he couldn't, that's on him...I'm finding the more I type, the more irritated I am at your musician...

For reference, when I need a solid guitarist for a show, I pay my guy $300 for the 3 nights of the show plus 2-3 rehearsals. It might work out to $20 an hour, but that's just for time playing. It's not as much as I'd like to pay, but I know it's relatively comparable for this kind of work in my area.

Also, if you want to put things in perspective, the current base rate for a Broadway musician is about $222 per evening. I don't know what your guy is asking, but it sounds like a lot. Especially in comparison to your budget. 



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Patrick McGuire
Drama Director
Round Lake High School
Round Lake, IL
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12.  RE: Musician pay

Posted 11 days ago
I hire a pianist for our musical each year. He rehearsed with the pit for about 4 or 5 weeks (about 10 hours a week) and performs in out 3 shows. All in all here is here about 60 hours. I pay him 1700 for this work. That comes to about 28 an hour. I think that is completely reasonable.

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Jeremy Riggs
Director of Theatre
Blue Valley North
bvntheatre.org
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13.  RE: Musician pay

Posted 11 days ago
I just went through a similar situation with the choreographer I used last year on our Spring musical. We had agreed upon a set price (and the music director was a witness). After the show when I was turning in the paperwork to get her paid I revisited the topic of pay with her to make sure I remembered the amount. She tried to add on an extra $200 to the total and used extra time she had to put in outside of the agreed upon rehearsals, etc. I stood my ground and paid her what we had originally agreed upon. I will never use her again. There are many other choreographers and musicians out there that will be honorable in their agreements for you to use. However, I did learn the lesson to always have everything on paper.

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Stephen Ingle
Drama Teacher
Jefferson High School
Jefferson, GA
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14.  RE: Musician pay

Posted 11 days ago

Let's look at the elephant in the room. The big issue is not what your musician is paid for a show, the big issue is why are Drama teachers given so little a budget for directing a show at a school that a musician's wage is 1/4 the whole budget. 

Doing the math – the rehearsal and performance times you mentioned, plus I'm adding an arbitrary 10 hours of personal rehearsal and preparation (sounds like he's a guy who takes his worth seriously), I'd guess he's billed you around $1500 - $2000?   That doesn't seem like an unreasonable wage to me (for what is about a 2 week time period, where he can't take on any other gigs). But what is unreasonable is your pay. And why is your music director being paid so little. And why is your budget so low. Yes, it's the same in most schools, but why, when a cross country team (for instance) can hire a running coach, a jumping coach, a pole vault coach, a hurdles coach, even someone to be a timer, or a football team can hire a kicking coach, a running coach, a catching coach, a throwing coach, ticket takers, the list goes on and on, each at about $2000 per season – why then can we not hire a singing coach, a band coach, music support, a lighting coach, a set coach, a sound coach and so on? 

This is a systemic problem at high schools in our country, which we all buy into. One person mentioned "its just simply not how things are done realistically, especially at a school", but does it have to continue to be that way? Should it be? When you go to your principal (when we all go to our principals), perhaps the conversation to have is how many students are 'served' by putting on a play (more than any sports team), how long the rehearsal process is (as long as some sports 'seasons'), how many "coaches" it takes to serve/supervise/mentor/train the students and how many hours they put in. I know, all administrators say they don't have money, but they do, they just don't have an understanding of the value of what we do. It's up to us, collectively, to take the elephant to the principal's office and have the conversation; not to lower someone's wages to fit within our budget, but to raise our budgets to a reasonable share of the principal's budget, so that we can properly support the education of our students.



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Beth Rand, EBMS
High School Theatre Operations Coach

Next HS Theatre Management Training for Drama Teachers online course: Winter Session starts Jan. 15 (limited to 8 students).

Author of "High School Theatre Operations" and "The High School Theatre Safety Manual" and several more books on Amazon and also at http://www.presett.org/helpful-books-for-you.html.

www.PRESETT.org
Westminster, CO
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15.  RE: Musician pay

Posted 11 days ago
I may or may not have been humming "Do You Hear the People Sing" while reading Elizabeth's post. :)

While we're on this bus, in my district, most of the head coaches in my district get $11,300 to coach their sport. For their season (with some conditioning duties during the rest of the year.) The assistant coaches get between 6 and $9,000 for the season. My stipend is $4,000 for the year (which I recognize is way better than a lot of places) for our two mainstage shows (with a potential third starting next year). With the exception of about 2 months during the year, I have rehearsal every day. My assistant makes about half that a year and also does our Reader's Theater series on top of our mainstage shows.

It's pathetic and something I've been trying to get changed in our contract since I started in my district 14 years ago. When our contract is up, it sounds like they're going to address the disparity, but that's 3 years from now.


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Patrick McGuire
Drama Director
Round Lake High School
Round Lake, IL
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16.  RE: Musician pay

Posted 10 days ago
I believe you have a good case in not paying him any more than what you offered. First of all, you need to go to the principal and let him/her know the situation. Since they insisted you produce and you’ve had no experience doing that, I’m sure the principal will cut you some slack.
The musician also messed up. You asked for his rate and he refused to give you one in a timely fashion, that’s his problem and proof that he isn’t very professional.
Why was he working without a written contract? He should know better.
I hope he has learned a lesson to never perform a service without a written contract, and it sounds like you’ve learned your lesson. Good luck!




17.  RE: Musician pay

Posted 10 days ago
For future use:  We pay our accompanist thru an extra-curricular duty, coaching-type contract.  Our master contract has listed "Drama Accompanist 2%".  The 2% is figured off teacher base pay and does not come out of my department line item, it is paid thru somewhere else.  (I make 17% as Director of Theatre and the head varsity football coach makes 25%, but that discussion is for a different place and time. :-/ ).

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[William] [Myatt] [Director of Theatre]

[Pleasant Valley High School]

[myattw@pleasval.k12.ia.us][563-332-5151][Bettendorf][IA][USA]
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