Should Musicians be Paid?

Amanda Palmer

There’re a ton of interesting (and depressing) events happening on many different musical fronts.  The latest bit of news from the pop world is Amanda Palmer’s asking musicians (horns and string players) to play for free during her upcoming tour after she raised over a million dollars in support for marketing and producing the CD and help support the tour.

Amy Vaillancourt-Sals, a horn player in the bay area, writes an open letter chastising Palmer and Cellist Erica Mulkey, otherwise known as Unwoman, writes a why she’s fine with playing for Palmer for freeHere is Amanda Palmer‘s original blogpost shout-out for players.  Plenty of comments in all links debating both sides of the issue.

On another front, violinist Michelle Jones and former cellist-turned-author (and a long-time friend) David Beem have talk about all the things they see that is wrong with Classical Music and offer some advice to budding young classical musicians on how things can more smoothly be transitioned into a world which may have fewer Symphony Orchestras.  Florida State percussion instructor, John Parks, explains why he thinks this kind of viewpoint is a bit off.

Drew McManus (and in a comment on this post) and my former cello teacher and also longtime friend and colleague, Eric Edberg, talk about this issue from the side of contract negotiations and how there’s been a push for reduction of pay and benefits (in both Orchestras and Academia) by filling positions on a more temporary basis with subs and adjunct professors.  On the tail end of what’s happening with Orchestras in San Antonio, Indianapolis, Minneapolis and St. Paul things might seem pretty grim for many classical musicians.

On another note, I was mistaken about the lack of data about gate revenue as a proportion of total revenue by the last of the four major big US sports organizations (the National Hockey League).  That info was contained in one of the graphs though not mentioned in the piece itself which I came across as I re-read the piece.  And while earning 34% of total revenue through gate revenue puts it at the high end of the sports leagues (the NFL earns about 20% of total revenue through the gate) this is still on the low end of ticket revenue as a proportion of total revenue earned by Orchestras–the irony is the former (Sports) we talk about being profitable industries while the latter (Orchestras) are considered not so profitable.