Earlier this week, British pianist David Shenton was invited to accompany Sevi Regis at the Presidential inauguration ceremony of Donald Trump. Naturally he enquired about the fee and was told there is no fee due to the prestige of the event. Apparently there was also no option to claim expenses for this gig. Not surprisingly Shenton declined the invitation, as apparently did a number of other musicians although perhaps not just due to the lack of fee.
Sadly this ignorance is rife the world over when it comes to engaging musicians for events. There appears to be an assumption that musicians will gladly give up their time for nothing because every gig is ‘a great chance to showcase their talents’. Unfortunately, however, the rest of the world doesn’t quite work in the same way. Recently I was asked to supply a choir to perform at a weekday afternoon event in Wiltshire. The organiser was terribly keen because they had heard how good some of my choirs are. Obviously that’s always nice to know. When I enquired about the fee I was told, ‘There’s no fee but we have lots of people coming to the event and you’d get great publicity‘.
So, with this in mind, I went to have a chat to the cashier at my local BP station and was told that no i couldn’t have a free tank of fuel in order to attend an event which would apparently help to raise the profile of my choirs. I also contacted the bank and was advised that they wouldn’t sub me a day’s worth of mortgage payments just because I wasn’t earning any money even though it was all in a very good cause. Then there are the choir members to consider. Whilst choristers do not get paid as such, I do believe that in some circumstances there should be the opportunity for them to at least recover expenses. After all to attend the event in question, half of them would have had to take time off from paid employment.
Now, although this may sound like choirmaster getting on his soapbox again, actually I am always very keen to support charities. Last year my choirs raised in excess of £10,000 for various charities and I hope to do even better this year. I’m also keen to give my choirs a chance to perform at interesting venues and locations. We don’t always have to be paid but there does need to be some incentive. For example just before Christmas I was asked to take a choir to Longleat to sing during the Festival of Light. There was no fee for this, but every choir member was given free entry for them and their families along with a £5 voucher per person to spend in the cafe. In some cases this was worth around £100.
My biggest gripe is with people who put on fundraising or promotional events and then think that it would be nice to ‘get a choir in’ to enhance their event. I was recently asked to bring a choir to one such event for a large global company. Their purpose was to showcase some new products and entertain their customers at an open evening, presumably in the hope of new orders being placed for said products. Despite this, I was still told it would be a great opportunity for my choir to sing in front of lots of people and as such there was no fee.
In his inauragation speech today Donald Trump stated ‘We will follow two simple rules: Buy American and hire American.’ Clearly he hadn’t yet thought of the latter half of that statement when attempting to hire the British pianist David Shenton, although it does perhaps explain why he wasnt offering to pay for his services.
Jules Addison is a slightly grumpy, middle aged Choirmaster who will sometimes bring choirs to Charity events for free. He is also a great fan of cake and wonders if any purveyors of cake would like to supply free cakes in return from some great publicity in his next blog post?