I got this link on Facebook today to an article about fees and the date of the arts. It’s written by a singer I have met who has a good career of many strands, but who, like many of us, is feeling the pinch as we are often asked to work for free or food.
Following on to my previous post about being friends with singers, I began thinking about making recommendations.
I said before that you should always choose the better singer over the better person. However, I do think a bit of balance is needed.
The most important thing to remember about your recommendation is that not only their reputation, but your reputation, hangs on their performance and behaviour.
To that end, I try to recommend the best singers I know for all work I can, but there are people I don’t recommend due to their attitude or behaviour. I think this is particularly important on the amateur/choral society circuit, since they are not paid to be there, they have paid to have this experience in their spare time. It is important to engage with them socially as well as musically, to smile and thank them and be interested in their music making. If I don’t feel my recommendation will behave well I won’t send them.
On working for free…
I know this is a really thorny issue, but here are my thoughts.
Sometimes payment is not monetary. Occasionally, even more than occasionally, I do a gig for the experience, to learn the rôle, to sing in front of someone who will be there, to add something to my cv, to repay a favour, to help a charity, in short, I speculate to accumulate. All of these outcomes can help me to get more work in the future. In an ideal world we would never be asked to sing for free, as a favour, pro bono, but this world is less than ideal so I choose to see my fee always arriving into my life but not always into my bank account.
On the other hand, if someone has money to spare but is just being tight or unrealistic, say no. To sing for people who can afford to pay you, for instance if they are paying someone else but not you, undermines your status as a professional.
This is so tough for us all, but we have to evaluate on a project by project basis. Some things I might say yes to, others would say no to and vice versa. You must be your own police on this issue, striking a balance between missing out on opportunities and becoming classified as an amateur.