Sunday, April 12, 2009

More About Festival Accompanying Rates

Earlier this evening, s@bd left an excellent comment on the previous article about how to charge for festival accompanying, which appears below in full:
I am a voice teacher and here's the system I've worked out with the pianists I work with:

I have nine students singing thirty-five songs in twenty-seven classes at an upcoming festival. I hire a pianist on behalf of all of my students and usually negotiate a fee on a per song basis - regardless of the difficulty level of the song AND regardless of whether several students are singing the same song. So every students knows when they sign up for the Festival that they will be paying on a per song basis ...

I give the pianist the music in advance (obviously) and arrange Performance Classes of about two hours in length that occur the week before the Festival. The are five to six students at each Performance Class and each student is assigned a certain number of their songs to sing at the Class. The class is the rehearsal time with the pianist as well as a chance to perform for peers. I assign approximately seven to fifteen minutes per song (depending on how much ensemble and performance things will need to be worked on), which generally works out to about three two-hour rehearsal times.

So, the pianist gets paid for 35 songs at $25/song ($875), which covers about six hours of rehearsal and their time at the Festival.

Keeping in mind that I always work with local pianists so that there's no travel cost incurred, and keeping in mind that the pianist is literally being paid for accompanying, NOT for coaching, how do you feel about this arrangement?

It seems to me the best way to make sure the pianist is being paid fairly but also that the students can enter as many categories as they like without it becoming prohibitively expensive ...

I'd love your thoughts ...
In the original post, my opinion regarding how to charge for playing at the festival was to charge a set rate per person per class in addition to rehearsal time. In the case of s@bd's studio, she has a fair number of singers entered in the festival, all of whom are entered in multiple classes. 

I see s@bd's goal as threefold--1) to get all of her singers set up with pianists, and 2) to maximize rehearsal time for a lot of singers performing a lot of rep, and 3) to ensure that her students are paying for pianists in a fair and equitable manner. Thus, she works out an alternate arrangement with payment per song negotiated with a single pianist for ease of organization and uniformity of cost for singers in her studio. 

Although this arrangement is quite different from the one I mentioned in the original post, it seems like a logical course of action to pursue if you're a teacher with that many students in the festival. It's also a sizable chunk of money for the pianist that agrees to play for the studio. The main difficulty with this arrangement is finding a pianist to be present and reliable for all the hours with no NA's and his/her ability to play the rep at a uniform level, all based on a vocal contract between pianist and voice teacher.

One thing I need to emphasize is that festival accompanying work exists in a free market economy. Pianists can charge as much or as little as they feel appropriate. Performers, their teachers, and parents can set terms for how much they wish to pay for the desired rehearsal and class times to be played. If one party disagrees with the other, they are welcome to negotiate if they see fit, or to stand firm. I know some pianists who will refuse to play for a single festival class for under $150. I have also encountered parents who have told me that my rates for playing festivals are completely inappropriate. If pianists and performers/parents/teachers disagree on payment terms, they are welcome to negotiate, and if they don't agree on payment terms, any party is welcome to walk away prior to a commitment being made.

The important thing for both parties is to agree on hours and payment prior to any commitment being made, and then stick to it. Or they'll never work in this business again. Just joking. No I'm not.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Chris -
    further to my initial comment, it might interest you to know that this is the way I negotiate the pianist's fees for RCM exams.

    RCM Exams:
    $20/song and $10/vocalise or recit.
    So an intro exam (with two songs) will cost the student $40 in pianist fees and will include 1/2 hour rehearsal, whereas a grade 8 exam (with five songs, a recit. and two vocalises) will cost $130 in pianist fees and will include two 1-hour rehearsals. (For exams beyond grade 8 I expect my students to work with a coach in the months leading up to the exam and to work out a fee system directly with them.)

    For the June RCM sessions, I send an average of five to six students for exams and usually have the same pianist playing for all of the exams. I also attempt to line up all of the rehearsals on a Saturday in one location so the pianist merely has to show up at a certain time and I send the students in one after the other.

    Again, your thoughts are appreciated.