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high class gig; cheesy pay

  • Jerusha
    Jerusha Amado

    Hi all,

    I guess I'm here to complain...just received a mass email from a staff member of one of the prominent resorts in the city looking for a musician to play three hours for a Thanksgiving Day buffet.  The pay is $100!  I declined, but I suspect that they will find someone to do it.

    I wonder--is it that the resorts have little discretionary money, or are they taking advantage of a bad economy in order to offer peanuts for payment?

    Jerusha

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    replies to "high class gig; cheesy pay"
    • Unknown
      Unknown User

      I don't think some people have any IDEA how much harpists get paid! I have a gig for 2 hours for $75, underpaid but I need the money and I'm only a student.


      --- Natalie

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    • Kay
      Kay Lister

      Did you tell them that you would play, but here's my rate?  Some people just don't get it . . . frustraiting isn't it?

      Kay

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    • Jerusha
      Jerusha Amado

      Hi Natalie and Kay,

      They made it clear that price was non negotiable.  It is frustrating!  I'm still wondering whether they're broke or just cheap!

      Jer

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    • Unknown
      Unknown User

      My teacher went to a restaurant that told her they consider all employees equal and therefore pay the musicians as they pay the waiters! My teacher walked out and I don't blame her, minimum wage for years of training?!


      --- Natalie

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    • Jennifer
      Jennifer Buehler

      Even worse, minimum wage for tipped emplyees is 2 something an hour.  Yep.  That's right two dollars.

       

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    • Jennifer
      Jennifer Buehler

      And did any of you see this posting for a wedding harpist?

      http://www.harpcolumn.com/forum/message-view?message%5fid=23581906

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    • Jerusha
      Jerusha Amado

      Hi Jennifer,

      I didn't see this posting.  The poster probably thinks that she is paying quite a bit for one song ($100).  She appears to be very ignorant of all that is involved when harpists play for a wedding or how to price accordingly.  I'm glad that you responded to the post.

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    • Jerusha
      Jerusha Amado

      Hi Natalie,

      I'm glad that your teacher sets appropriate standards for herself.  Harpists are a rare commodity, and ones who are well-trained should be paid accordingly.

      Jerusha

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    • Carl
      Carl Swanson

      I wonder if it is worth trying to educate the potential client about pricing. If I were a working harpist, I think my approach would be to emphasize that TIME IS MONEY. In other words, let the client know that, from the moment that you start loading your equipment into the car for the gig to the moment when you are home again and everything is unloaded, the amount of time involved is____ hours. So it doesn't matter to you if you have to play one song or the whole service, the time involved is the same.


      Maybe the way to price these jobs is to start by telling the client how much time is involved, as described above, and that you charge X dollars per hour. Not per hour of playing time, but per hour of time taken up for the whole gig. And give them a low hourly figure: maybe $45 or $50 per hour. Then, explain that there is an equipment rental fee on top of that. The harp, music stand, bench, amplifier, etc. are charged separately at X dollars for the job. Maybe breaking the whole thing down into smaller bits that they can understand will 1) Make your fee look logical and reasonable, and 2) make their offer of $100 for 'one song' look idiotic, without coming out and saying it.

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    • Evelyn
      Evelyn Tournquist

      Don't you think that education starts with the musician? Everyone complains about low pay yet there is always someone willing to take the job.


      Why make a fuss if you're going to take a two hour job for $75.00 and then try and justify this by saying you need the money or you are a student. No matter what the excuse or supposed mitigating circumstances, it is this behavior that has been a major contributing factor to the public perception of what a musician is worth.


      Quite simply, if you are being payed less, it is because you have agreed to work for less.

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    • Dwyn
      Dwyn .

      Any harpists who imagine that they are exempt from the basic economic law of supply and demand are delusional.  People who are paying $75.00 for a two hour performance by a harpist are not expecting an awesome virtuoso, and have probably correctly assessed the intended audience as not knowing or caring about the difference between a world-class professional harpist and a good local student harpist. 

      There is little demand for fully-trained professional harpists, and while there are many measures that might be successfully undertaken to increase the demand for this service, arrogant refusals along the lines of "I'm too good to work for that low a fee" isn't one of them . . . especially in this economy, where most of the people you'd be speaking to are personally acquainted with highly trained and experienced professionals in other fields who are completely out of work and desperate.  The harpist who happily agrees to do a two hour gig for $75.00 may well be helping increase the demand for harpists in general, including for higher-paid harpists.  In the grand scheme of things, it's rare for most people to even think of hiring a harpist for anything but a wedding, and $75.00 harpists doing gigs at small restaurants or low-budget community events or little girls' "princess" themed birthday parties or office building lobbies at lunchtime can only help change that.

      Payless Shoes hasn't put Salvatore Ferragamo out of business and Natalie doing gigs for the $75 she can presently command isn't going to put fully-trained, highly experienced harpists out of business -- but they risk putting themselves out of business if they stubbornly ignore the law of supply and demand.

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    • Evelyn
      Evelyn Tournquist

      My Dear Dwyn,


      First of all, we are not speaking of skill level as that is not relevant to the discussion and has no bearing on what people are willing to pay for you anyway.


      Secondly, your shoe analogy doesn't make sense because... everyone buys shoes. Economic theories notwithstanding, harpists have always been a niche market within a niche market - unique.


      Thirdly, your comment that a harpist playing a low paying gig may help create demand for more harpists is completely erroneous as this is exactly what is driving down the market. Once the price goes down your perceived value drops and the price will never go up again.


      Let's look at a wedding and make a comparative analysis. Consider what is being paid for the gown, the venue, cake, food, flowers, photos, entertainment etc. against what you, the musician, are being paid assuming you are collecting your regular fee.


      The musician is almost always the lowest paid item in the budget, yet people will fork over unbelievable sums for almost everything else. Why is this? The answer is: Perceived Value.


      Somehow, the cake has become the star attraction at receptions and is displayed as a work of art - brilliant, huh? Perceived Value


      DJ's have now been elevated to celebrity status and can rake in tremendous fees, why? Perceived Value.


      The illustrations are endless.


      You paint broad strokes of the laws of economics but fail to realize that we are the fine print. We exist in a micromarket and, as such, are subject to the effect of each ripple created in our tiny pond.

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    • Carl
      Carl Swanson

      Dwyn- I have to disagree with you on this. Firstly, the vast majority of people(brides) who hire a harpist assume that a harpist is a harpist is a harpist, meaning that they all play exactly the same way. Remember, this is probably the only time any of these people have hired a musician or ever will. Secondly, that two hour gig, under the best of circumstances(the church is 5 minutes from the harpists house) is going to take a total of 4 hours to do. So that harpist is going to earn less than a cleaning lady for the same amount of time, AND, has to lay out money for gas, insurance, upkeep on the harp and car, wardrobe, plus put in extra hours just to be able to play the instrument. So in fact, the harpist who is playing a 2 hour gig for $75 is at best playing for maybe $10 an hour in terms of profit. And once the harpist or harpists in any given area start playing gigs for that money, then that becomes the norm. Everyone will expect to pay that amount. If playing the harp professionally has come to this-$75 for a two hour gig- then it's time to retrain for some other profession, because anyone doing this to make a living is on a downward economic spiral.

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    • David
      David Ice

      If I may weigh in here with Carl and Evelyn, I agree.   Sometimes, if I get that little gaspy moment of silence on the phone when I utter my fee, I will explain that just to go out the door, I have invested close to $100,000........two harps, music, teachers, my minivan, equipment such as chairs, stands, amplfiers, pickups, strings, clothing; car and instrument insurance.....I just go down the list.  I then ask if my fee is inappropriate considering what I have paid, out of my own wallet, hard cash--to come to their event.  Always, the response is "Oh, I didn't think of it like that!"

      Also, tangentially, I had been considering posting a question here, and this is as good a time and place as any.  I recently had a very ugly situation occur at a wedding.  And I guess the fact that it is still resonating inside me indicates I need to process it further.  I guess the question is:  at what point do you, the harpist, stop being a "good guy" at a wedding (or event) and end an abusive situation?

      I found myself, in a nutshell, just short of being physically attacked by an out-of-control groom.  I pointed out that the contract did NOT allow for me to play over twice the stipulated and contracted time.  But yet, I was at the center of a  ferocioius malestrom in front of EVERYBODY.  Some have told me I should have just walked out of there, waving a contract.....others understand that I didn't want to futher cause more dramatics and a "scene" and be known as "the harpist who ruined X's wedding." 

      I think we've all been there at some point....we try to be polite, professional, and helpful (and not a heartless, unfeeling psychopath) but at what point do you say "enough is enough, I'm outa here" ?

      Ruin a wedding in front of everybody?  Swallow your pride (and your wallet) and just HOPE that people realize what is being done to you?  Stoop to their level?  Raise above it? 

      It all does come down to money....."High Class Gig, Cheesy Pay."

      PS  If this groom would have touched me, damn right I would have called 911 in a heartbeat.....but I didn't want it to come to that.  It did come perilously close, though.

      Dave Ice

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    • Catherine
      Catherine Rogers

      Could you have asked for overtime? Or did you and he refused? Maybe he was just nuts. Poor bride!

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    • Carl
      Carl Swanson

      David- Did your contract have an overtime clause? Did your contract state how long you would play/be available for the amount of money they initially paid? I'm not saying this was your fault. It wasn't. But that would have been your best defense, that you had done what the contract called for and if they wanted more music, the contract clearly stated the terms and conditions for that.

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    • Evelyn
      Evelyn Tournquist

      David, Wow! That's a pretty amazing story! Groomzillas - there's an idea for a new reality show.

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    • David
      David Ice

      Aargh....Carl, I had written an explanation, then the website crashed and along with it everything I wrote!

      Yes, I did have a contract.  And a little bit of it was my fault...but just a little. It was an outdoor Greek Orthodox wedding. Those run long, so I had told the bride I would add "a few minutes" on to the one hour time "because I'm not going to pack up and leave during the middle of your wedding" and "because I know those weddings run long and I'm just sitting there." I've done this in the past, added about 15 minutes, as my gift to the bride and groom.

      But this groom seemed to think that "a few minutes" was over 2 hours of time.

      I did clearly state that the contract was for one hour of time, but here lies the rub: what do you do, as a professional, when the groom is screaming at you "F.... you, I want my f....ing money back" and worse IN FRONT OF THE PRIEST, the whole bridal party, the bride, the parents, everybody? And he's almost nose to nose with me, just itching to punch me out?

      I try to be accomodating and flexible with a client (hence my offer to stay "a few minutes longer" because of the long (and harpless) nature of a this religious tradition's wedding.     Do I sink to the groom's level? Do I become known as "that harpist who ruined X's wedding"? Do I suck it up and play the extra time in order to (1) keep the peace and sanctity of the wedding and (2) protect myself physically?

      I did make it very clear to the groom and everybody that what he was demanding was nearly $200 over what he paid me, and I nearly got punched out because of saying that. Bear in mind, had he physically touched me, I would have called 911 in a flash, wedding be damned. But he didn't, and he played me--and the situation--to try to intimidate me (and God only knows how many other vendors, later) into submission.

      I don't think it's just a guy-on-guy thing (too much testosterone!) I think we've all had situations where the person in charge will ask "will you please play a few extra moments until we open up the ballroom?" and the "few extra moments" becomes 30 minutes or more.....and then they refuse to pay because "you agreed to play longer." It's your word against theirs...and they shoot you looks of "if you dare to pursue this further, you'll never work here--or in this town--again." Many times, especially if the bride has been nice, I play a few more minutes (i.e. 5-15 minutes) as my gift to the bride and groom, especially if I know they have had a really traumatic time on the wedding day with other fiascos. No problem.  

      But, on the other hand, I have stood up to people and told them flatly, "You know, I've survived 57 years without your business, and I think I can survive another 57 without your recommendations." And left.  But this was in private....not in front of 1500 guests.

      But I guess my dilema is: what is that fine line between "being nice" and "enduring abuse"--and where do you stand up and yell "I'm not taking this anymore"?

      Having the "F bomb" screamed at me repeatedly is clearly abusive. And being put into the position of being seen (and gossiped about) as "that awful harpist who ruined everything" is simply not fair. But at what point do you stop being helpful, kind, respectful, and accomodating?  I'm really looking for answers.

      My only consolations are this: BOTH mothers (the groom's and the new mother-in-law) came up to me privately afterwards and apologized for the groom's behavior and for me "being spoken to in such a manner." So I know that groom really stuck his own feet in it, deep--way to go, pal, behaving so badly that your in-laws and your own parents have to apologize for you before you even have your first dance with your new bride! What a GREAT way to start off with your new in-laws!   I predict that she won't be with him longer than 2 years, if he has such anger management issues.

      But it also reinforces the notion that "no good deed goes unpunished."    I offered to add on some time, just because I was trying to be nice.  I even did an arrangement of the bride's mom's favorite tune.  And I get "F you!" screamed at me for doing so.

      So....what is the professional thing to do? Sink to their level (and truly risk physical injury), or rise above it--and be furious for being manipulated by such people for whom money is the only object?

      Somehow, this time, rising above it makes me feel cheapened and demeaned.

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    • Amber
      Amber M

      Wow, that's terrible!!  So sorry you had to deal with that. (especially after your bride story from the wedding show...how do all these people find you??)

      Personally, I would think that your politely mentioning you had accomplished the terms of the contract and going your way wouldn't have been considered stooping to his level.  As someone else mentioned (Carl?), you may just want to build in an overtime charge into your contracts if you don't have it already.  No one witness to that groom's outrageous conduct would ever think less of yours...they probably were embarrassed about him and impressed you remained polite! 

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    • Unknown
      Unknown User

      If you should like to find me a job for better pay than please do Ms. Evelyn.


      I have been paid higher for others but the owners of the restaurant I play at are friends and I plan to find other gigs to compensate.


      This was also my first "regular" job and I couldn't demand $250 an hour when I'd had no past experience, $75 is enough for me. I'm multiplying a 17-year-olds average pay ($7.50 an hour) by 10!


      I can't help but feel insulted by the way you phrased your response so I'll stop here. God Bless!


      --- Natalie

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