What fees do groups pay for professional musicians? Survey summary tables.

This page summarises some of the results from our survey in January 2016, and then gives full findings on each type of musician, including average, lowest and highest fees, and ranges.

Summary and rates paid to professional musicians by Making Music groups

Summary - numbers
  • 98% of respondents do engage professional musicians, of these 8% engaged only a conductor and/or accompanist.

  • 87% engage soloists to sing/play with their group and 76% engage conductors

  • 97% of instrumental groups engaged orchestral musicians in the last 3 years

  • 82% of instrumental groups engaged an orchestra leader and 21% of instrumental groups engaged section leader(s)

  • 79% of vocal groups engaged an ensemble or orchestra in the last 3 years

The numbers engaged average 26 per year, but range from 1 to 250. The central range was between 5 and 40 musicians per year. Entire ensembles were engaged by vocal groups an average of 4 times over the last 3 years, with an average 22 musicians and an average cost of over £2,700 per engagement.

Clearly, the amateur music sector contributes considerably, and significantly, to the sustainability of professional music careers and to the professional music sector.

Summary - rates

We asked about soloists, choristers, orchestral musicians (percussionists/harpists separately), musical directors/conductors, accompanists, orchestral leaders, and section leaders. Below are the results. Some notes:

  • The range always starts at £0, for all roles
  • By comparison with the last Association of British Orchestras/MU agreement that Making Music was party to, Making Music members often pay more, particularly when engaging entire ensembles, probably through ignorance of the terms of the agreement (17% of respondents were unaware of the agreement, only 5% used it)
  • Over 50% of respondents offered additional benefits to the musicians they engaged, from flowers or bottles of wine to food, free tickets etc.

How are rates determined by groups?

Groups will most frequently (86%) decide how much they can spend and then negotiate accordingly. Groups tend to take advice from their conductor or from fixers/agents.

Comments throughout the survey suggest that if professional musicians cannot be engaged for fees the group can afford, groups generally change their programme. What also comes through is that groups appreciate the skill of professional musicians and their need to make a living, and are keen to ‘do the right thing’ where they can.

The overall picture is one of amateur music groups engaging a huge variety of professional musicians in a range of roles, for differing lengths of time, on one-off or regular contracts. Unsurprisingly, therefore, the range of fees is vast, too.

Definitions: ‘professional’; ‘central range’

Professional means different things to different people in different contexts. A future MU agreement would seek to recommend rates for:

  • The full-time musician earning their entire living from performing
  • The part-time musician earning part of their living from performing (e.g. music teacher or part-time worker in music industry)

But ‘professional’ might also encompass – and attract varying levels of payment for

  • The professionally trained musician who now has a full-time job doing something else (e.g. full-time music teacher, working in other role in music industry, became an accountant instead)
  • The full time music or peripatetic teacher who does not perform professionally but likes to still play, and does so in an amateur orchestra
  • The amateur who has come up through the ranks and plays/sings/conducts well enough to be in demand
  • The recent music college graduate who is trying to build up a career
  • The current (pre) music college student trying to build up experience.

Central range – where this is referenced, we have based this initially on 60% of respondents to a particular question; however, because in many cases so many answers are the same either side of the central range, this means the central range does vary from question to question, and is often much larger than 60%, but it is always at least 60% of respondents.

SOLOISTS

Average fee

Range

Central range

£ 269

£0 - £2,000

£ 150 - £ 350

Lowest average fee

£ 177

£ 100 - £ 250

Highest average fee

£ 385

£ 200 - £ 500

Notes:

  • Soloist refers to any instrumental or vocal professional engaged to perform with an amateur music group for a concert.
  • 87% of all groups engaged soloists We asked for an average over the last three years, excluding expenses.
  • Fees refer to concert including one rehearsal.
  • For ‘central range’ definition, please see "Definitions: 'professional; 'central range'" above.
  • There are payments which fall well outside the norm and which we have excluded, for instance one member who had raised funding for an exceptional soloist to perform with them, at a cost of £20,000.
MUSICAL DIRECTOR/CHORAL CONDUCTOR

Average

Range

Central range

PER YEAR TOTAL

£3,137

£0 - £13,000

£1,370 - £4,500

PER REHEARSAL

£78

£0 - £335

£50 - £105

PER CONCERT DAY incl. rehearsal

£369

£0 - £2,400

£150 - £500

PER CONCERT DAY (no rehearsal)

£146

£0 - £700

£0 - £250

Notes: 

  • This is about the leader of a group, whatever their role may be called
  • 76% of all groups engage one
  • Conductors are most likely, of all types of musicians engaged, to have an annual contract
  • The concert day overwhelmingly includes a rehearsal with the conductor as there were only 56 respondents to ‘concert day no rehearsal’ (183 answered the option ‘concert day including rehearsal’).
  • Figures exclude expenses
CHORISTERS

Average fee

Range

Central range

£ 35

£0 - £200

£ 0 - £ 80

Lowest average fee

£ 32

£ 0 - £ 80

Highest average fee

£ 41

£ 0 - £ 100

Notes:

  • Chorister is any voice engaged to sing as part of a vocal group, for instance to beef up one section
  • Only 16% of vocal groups did so in the last three years
  • We asked for an average over the last three years, excluding expenses.
ACCOMPANIST

 Average

Range

Central range

PER YEAR TOTAL

£ 1,882

£0 - £5,224

£ 1,120 - £ 2,385

PER REHEARSAL

£ 54

£0 - £228

£ 38 - £ 70

PER CONCERT DAY incl. rehearsal

£ 162

£0 - £500

£ 100 - £ 230

PER CONCERT DAY (no rehearsal)

£ 101

£0 - £380

£ 0 - £ 200

Notes:

  • Accompanist also includes organists engaged for concerts
  • 94% of vocal groups engage one
  • Accompanists are less likely than conductors to have an annual contract and more likely to be paid per rehearsal or concert
  • You might also like to compare these figures with those published by ISM recently, following a survey of their members who work as accompanists: http://www.ism.org/advice/accompanists-fees
  • Figures exclude expenses
ORCHESTRAL MUSICIANS and PERCUSSIONISTS/HARPISTS

This table is about individual orchestral musicians, excluding percussion and harp (see separate table below) engaged to play as part of an instrumental group, for instance to supply or beef up one section.

Average fee

Range

Central range

£ 97

£0 - £450

£ 50 - £ 130

Lowest average fee

£ 77

£ 30 - £ 110

Highest average fee

£ 144

£ 80 - £ 200

Notes:

  • 97% of instrumental ensembles have done so in the last three years
  • We asked for an average over the last three years, excluding expenses.
     

This table is about individual percussionists and harpists engaged to play as part of an instrumental group.

Average fee

Range

Central range

£ 117

£0 - £548

£ 60 - £ 110

Lowest average fee

£ 100

£ 50 - £ 135

Highest average fee

£ 148

£ 75 - £ 200

Notes:

  • Whilst higher than for other instrumentalists, fees generally include expenses, e.g. on transport, which are routinely incurred by percussionists and harpists

Previous ABO/MU agreement

Below, please find the comparison table of fees currently paid by Making Music members and the fees as stipulated in the last ABO/MU agreement to which Making Music was party (April 2014 – April 2015).

  Last ABO/MU agreement MM central/ average MM harp/ percussion Orchestra leader Section leader Entire orchestra
Principal £108.20 £143 (£100 - £183)
Sub-principal £100.80 £117 (£60 - £150) £66 (£0 - £115)
Tutti £95 £97 (£50 - £130) Average £125 (£83 - £133)

 

ORCHESTRAL LEADER

Average

Range

Central range

PER YEAR TOTAL

£767

£0 - £3,500

£0 - £1,650

PER REHEARSAL

£45

£0 - £119

£0 - £70

PER CONCERT DAY incl. rehearsal

£143

£0 - £475

£100 - £183

PER CONCERT DAY (no rehearsal)

£43

£0 - £150

£0 - £80

Notes

  • 82% of instrumental groups have engaged one
  • Far fewer orchestral leaders are engaged on an annual contract than is even the case for accompanists
  • The most frequent mode of engagement for orchestral leaders is for a concert with rehearsal
  • Figures exclude expenses
SECTION LEADER(S)

Average

Range

Central range

PER YEAR TOTAL

£212

£0 - £2,000

£0 - £0

PER REHEARSAL

£15

£0 - £87

£0 - £35

PER CONCERT DAY incl. rehearsal

£66

£0 - £150

£0 - £115

PER CONCERT DAY (no rehearsal)

£9

£0 - £85

£0 - £0

Notes

  • 21% of instrumental groups have engaged one
  • Even fewer section leader(s) are engaged on an annual basis than orchestral leaders, and if at all they are engaged for concert days, including rehearsal.
  • Figures exclude expenses
ENTIRE ENSEMBLE/ORCHESTRA
If groups engaged an orchestra, they did so an average times:  4x (range 1x to 14x)
Central range: 2x - 6x
Average number of musicians involved per engagement: 22 (range from 3 to 68)
Central range: 12 – 30
Average cost per orchestra per engagement £2,740 (range £100 - £10,000!)
Central range: £1,000 - £4,000

How were rates determined?

We/with help from MD decide on a fee we can afford and then negotiate with individual musicians or whole orchestras directly

 61%

We use a fixer (orchestra management, or leader, or agent/agency) and pay the rates they ask 39%
We don’t know – MD has budget/overall fee and does it all 6%
We have been using the ABO/MU agreement (17% were not aware of the ABO/MU agreement) 5%

 


See the full report