Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Recital Fee Question

Earlier this evening I received the following comment on a previous post:
I'm curious what to pay an accompanist for a classical voice recital I'm doing in another city. We did a concert together already and this upcoming program would be almost completely if not completely the same repertoire. We will probably have two rehearsals. The concert is a few hours drive from where we live which would involve spending the night out of town. I will also probably give a vocal master class and would like to pay the same accompanist to accompany that. Many thanks for any advice!
Thanks for the question, anonymous poster. I'm going to give a ballpark estimate and then my readers can weigh in regarding whether or not I'm on the mark.  Here are the services you've mentioned--let's assume an hourly rehearsal/master class rate of $50 per hour:

2 hours rehearsal @50 per hour=$100
1 recital @$300
2 hour master class @$50 per hour=$100
Total=$500 plus the cost of accomodating your pianist.

However, if the venue in the city you are travelling to is paying you to do the master class, they could pick up the tab for your pianist, perhaps monetized via an accompanist fee charged to the participating singers (this is standard practice for NATS events in my experience).

Again, these figures are ballpark only. The recital fee would depend on the length of the recital, level of the performers, (ie. student or pro), size of venue, the singer's stature, the pianist's stature, and whether or not it was a paid or free recital. Recently, many singers I work with pay their pianists half of their fee and share expenses if there is travel involved.

Are my figures close to what the standard practice is for these types of activities? Too high? Too low? Leave a comment and I would be very interested in hearing your thoughts on this subject.


  1. Anonymous9:53 AM

    Interesting to hear your thoughts, Chris. I have no idea what standard practice is, but:

    I've been working with the same pianist for over five years now, and we've done I'm guessing about 50 or so recitals all over the world for a very wide range of fees. I don't pay him any kind of hourly rate. (unless I ask him to come to a voice lesson or use him for an audition).

    If the total fee is very small, then I tend to pay him a higher percentage of it. Very often a lot more than half. I try not to ask him to play a recital unless I'm prepared to somehow give him at least $500 for it (more, if it involves flying somewhere). I figure that even though it's an equal partnership, musically speaking, these low-fee performances are usually accepted because they serve a musical or a networking or a publicity purpose that I, as a soloist, stand to gain more from than he does, so I feel like he needs to be as well-compensated as possible so that it's worth his time and effort, so that he's never doing me any 'favors', (even though he's a good friend).

    If the total fee is mid-range, then I pay him half or slightly less than half that, after manager's commission.

    If the fee is on the upper end, then I pay him less than half, maxing out at around $2400 (though if I were to drag him to the other side of the world for a week to only do one concert, I'd probably try to pay him more for all the extra time involved).

    (It's interesting that often the most prestigious venues pay very little (because everyone wants to perform there), while a tiny private college in the middle of nowhere usually needs to pony up a big fee if they're going to convince musicians to make the trip out there.)

    I'm curious to know from Chris or anyone else if my approach sounds reasonable. It's hard to have perspective on all this because I've used the same pianist for so long, and I don't often talk to other musicians about money issues.

  2. Another comment on this issue is pasted below from the comment thread on "Should Accompanists Charge Clients for Practice Time?"


    "Chris, I agree with your fee chart completely. Having 'monitored' the happenings on campus I'd say your suggested rates are right on. The only slight deviation might come with the actual recital fee, as you stated, if the performer or rep warrant a higher or lower fee. Overall, I believe a pianist must have a basic rate for rehearsals and performances and then may make small adjustments as circumstances require."

    Thanks for the comments so far--keep them coming, and feel free to post anonymously if you feel the need.

  3. I should add that as singers we never charge less if we've done the music in the past,and we should never expect the same from our pianists.

  4. Vashti1:43 PM

    I don't know that this has already been covered somewhere, but I'd love to read a post on charging for Festival accompaniment. 1 song in 1 class vs. 5 songs in 1 class. I've always charged per class my hourly rate no matter how many pieces played, but would love to hear some other points of view.

  5. Vashti, it shall be done.