Jump to content
Maestronet Forums

Top soloist salaries for orchestras


Recommended Posts

This is an interesting article


It is slamming Anne Sophie Mutter unfortunately for her fees, it even goes so far as to call her greedy guts. It could really be about any top name soloist demanding those fees but I wasstruck by the conclusion that the management of orchestras should set reasonable caps on how much they would pay soloists regardless of who they are and let the ones who refuse to lower their fees skip getting engagements.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Replies 78
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

paganini made obscene amt of money performing, so did issac stern.

 my opinion is that as long as the market supports it, make as

much as you can as long as your provide a service that warrants

that.  if she charges too much, she gets feedback

from the market immediately and the writer of that article can find

something else to rant about.

the days for you prof performers getting sneaker deals or doing KFC

commercials may never come.  stash away as much as you can

before your retirement.  above all, you have a financial

responsibility to yourself and your family.

be a true artist when you can afford to.  

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My sincere recommendation: Before discussing the "correct" fee for

a soloist, please, consider the expenses such soloists have first.

Fees typically include travel. Insurances and pension funds have to

be paid from the fee

" text-decoration: underline;">after

tax. Most countries

deduct up to 40% taxes up front if the soloist is a foreigner,

the instruments needs financing ... and there other issues one

needs to know about before publishing an opinion.

This does not mean there aren't any outrageous fees being paid and

I know of cases were festivals were more or

 less blackmailed, just to make sure all the funds are

spent on one soloists so no money would be left for other, even

much cheaper ones.

If as a journalist I'd like to sell as many articles as possible

any subject around enviousness will do. So be careful about the

motives of a writer addressing "too high fees".


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Who is this guy?

10,000 pounds? I do believe Vengerov gets triple that.

I would agree these are excessive prices.

But one has to not only consider the expenses and context (as fmfischer notes), but the "worth" of such a soloist to the organization paying the bill.

Actors salaries are even more outrageously inflated. And sports figures. But in both cases paying the exhorbitant fees buys a kind of guaranttee to the producers that the film or the team will draw x number of viewers or fans.

Take Batman for example. Nicholson was paid some ridiculous multimillion dollar amount to show up, and then got paid a percentage of gross. I believe within the first year of it's realease he was paid 75 million dollars. But the film has no grossed over 400 million. So I think the producers consider it worth the price.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Opinions, opinions, here's one more, I agree with the writers assesment of her playing, as I believe she is a good concert violinist but not a great one. The money side has nothing to do do with the playing and I believe any classical musician should receive whatever they can. No one ever complains about todays rock stars and how much money they earn, but let it be a classical musician, then market forces are in play and used against them. Since only about 10% of the American public is interested in classical music, it has been and always will be a very difficult road to follow.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If the market can support it, more power to them. If the market can't bear it, that's another story. For example, last season Philadelphia requested guest artists and conductors to reduce their fees by 10% to offset their budget deficit. If you have a scenario in which orchestral musicians make concessions in salaries, pensions and health care, it seems reasonable to request soloists/conductors to accept cuts as well.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ok, an orchestra has got a budget which might be sound or messy or

out of balance or maybe just plain stupid.

A soloist with his/her supporting structure (agent, assistant etc.)

has got a budget which might be sound or messy or out of balance or

maybe just plain stupid.

According to Erika it's a reasonable scenario then when a

soloist asks for higher fees to get the soloist's budget back in

shape? It this case I'd recommend to any soloist to start a press

campaign,  explaining the relevant budget difficulties. This

should help in getting higher fees, shouldn't it?


Link to comment
Share on other sites

One way would have been:

1. Make sure the orchestral players' salaries compare somehow to
levels in other civilized countries first. So the soloists do not
have to fear feeding orchestral players on top of their own family
and other obligations.

2. Find out whether soloists are needed at all for artistic

3. Find out whether soloists are needed at all for "filling the
hall" reasons.

4. If the answer to 2 or 3 is yes, tell the artistic world how much
the orchestra is willing to pay for a soloist.

5. If the answer to both 2 and 3 is no, stop bothering.

6. Wait which soloists (agents) apply for a gig under the stated

7. Make up your mind which of those you like to perform with.

How about that?


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Leaving aside criteria #1 (I gather you disapprove of American orchestral salaries), I believe that is what most orchestras do. For example, the orchestra here in Indy is financially sound but trims down the number of programs involving top-paid soloists. So, for example, Bell and Hahn and Shaham (and others in that tier) come regularly, but Ma and Perlman have only been here once each in the past 7 years. I'm not saying Perlman isn't worth his fees -- he's wonderful, he deserves what he earns -- but that's the financial reality.

However, my understanding is that Philly's financial crisis came to a head after they had already engaged their soloists for that season. The cuts were requested, not mandatory, although as far as I know all the guest artists were agreeable. I presume a soloist/conductor could have held the orchestra to the original contract if he/she had wanted.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

No, I would not say I am in disagreement with the salaries. Only as

far the salaries make a proper cultural service more or less

impossible. So as long as an orchestra can function salaries are

OK. But there is another problem coming with relatively high

salaries: Controlling the rehearsal length versus controlling the

quality of the performance. Orchestras are about the only workplace

where "workers" making 50K$ and more count their working

(rehearsing) hours and virtually "drop the bow" to avoid

overtime. Most soloists wouldn't do that. Doctors wouldn't do

it. Not even most teachers making substantially less. etc.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Do you object because the overtime is paid? Here, anyway, the musicians have no complaints with overtime; management keeps it to a bare minimum, though, because of the cost. I don't think it's been brought up in any negotiations.

Didn't Boston negotiate some type of extra rehearsal time in their contract? I recall hearing about that, Levine wanting more leeway with rehearsals.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The main difference here is that sports and Hollywood are for-profit businesses. They make lots of money and have lots of money to pay out. Orchestras are not-for-profit and have finite resources. Ticket sales, even from a packed house, only cover about a third of budget. Some orchestras are required to balanced budgets as a condition of large endowment gifts. It doesn't bother me if a soloist makes $30K or even $50-80K and the orchestra is financially healthy and has the money available. Hey, more power to them.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I don't think that lowering anyone salary is an issue. People take

such an arbitrary approach... blah blah blah, actor's fees are too

high, athletes make too much. No they don't. They make what they're

worth. You think actors make a lot? You should see what the backers

get! Do you have any clue what some athletes make for their sports

teams? Merchandise sales make teams like the Yankees hundreds of

millions a year, and their cable TV deal is worth like $150

mill/year. So, as much as you might be outraged that someone is

getting paid that much, they are in a position to do so because

they are making 10x that much for whoever is paying them. If you

have a strong issue with it, then you're probably in the wrong line

of work.

However, I have  no idea how much bringing in someone like

Hahn will make for the orchestra. In financial terms the fees might

be excessive. Stern's manager always used to tell him to never ask

for more than what he could make for them. That is why his fee

(even under Hurok) wasn't as high as it could have been. And hey,

he was booked a lot.

I have a question: How much do soloists make for a recital? Does it

work the same way?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

Economics 101:

In general, I agree with most of the posts here. It is a matter of free market adjustments. If the soloist is overpriced, then they will not get hired. Some of the older, more successful soloists do not necessarily price themselves at what they are worth, but what it is worth to them to go play. I feel that Perlman, probably could care less if he plays another concerto again or not. he never liked the road, and has a good day gig in New York. It is the responsibility of the orchestra management to set their priorities straight. Often, many of these solosits are sponsored with money the orchestra only got to bring in said soloist, so in a sense it does not affect the overall budget.

One point, to all of those who have a general problem with anyone making a whole lot of money. Think very hard about what happens to that money. Do they put it in a bag and bury it in the back yard? No, they buy things, hire people, make donations, etc. etc. etc. This money is folded right back into the economy. Any money invested goes to capital used to fund new businesses which grows the economy. Economics is NOT a zero sum gain - there is not a finite amount of money out there, that if someone gets a dollar or a Euro, that's one less for you. Quite the opposite. This is often a very difficult concept for many people to grasp, but failure to grasp these concepts leads to persecution of the rich, envy, and greed. The accumulation of enough capital to invest is a requirement for any capitalistic economic system to function. That is why high taxes and excessive federal control ALWAYS suck the life out of free economies. People must see a carrot on the end of stick before they'll pull the cart - its not good or evil, but simple human nature. The great thing about capitalism is that it acknowledges how people are, not how we would like them to be.

Link to comment
Share on other sites


Economics is NOT a zero sum gain - there is not a finite amount of money out there, that if someone gets a dollar or a Euro, that's one less for you. Quite the opposite.

Paper money has little inherent value, otherwise nations could become as rich as they desire simply by printing more money. The value of money is inextricably linked with scarcity, which means there is a limited amount of money. Furthermore, you are thinking in terms of a "big picture economy" whereas in personal terms it may be that one person's extra dollar is quite literally another person's missing dollar. If I pay you 15 cents an hour instead of the $5.15 federal minimum, that's five more dollars for me and five fewer dollars for you.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Dr S, that is a very well written post.  

any institution has fiduciary obligation to its own fiscal

agenda.  it is responsible for developing a viable business

plan. there must be a profit motive, even though we can argue that

profit does not only mean financial gain.  even a non-profit

organization needs to work around a budget in order to demonstrate

enough competency for another year's support.

a luthier's shop works with a financial plan, so does a wall street

house.  this applies to any entity, including an


a luthier takes risks stocking certain brands of violin and

providing certain type of services.  a bank takes risks

investing its money for its shareholders.  an orchestra

manages its resources with the same principle.

if the soloist is expensive to book, there are 2 options.  yes

or no.  yes means that more investment and potentially and

hopefully  more gain.  no means not taking this risk but

looking at others.  if the scenerio is such that the orchestra

books the soloist knowing ahead of time that  it will be a

financial disaster, then it is simply not a good economic decision.

 no other ways to put it.  the show will not go on for


you can have sponsors, subsidy, but the bottom line is that it is

not a good viable long term business plan.

where is the audience when a luthier laments that he stocks the

wrong brand of violin or that the bank puts the money in the wrong


Link to comment
Share on other sites


if the soloist is expensive to book, there are 2 options. yes or no. yes means that more investment and potentially and hopefully more gain. no means not taking this risk but looking at others.

Isn't that exactly what happened in Mutter's case? The orchestras decided they wouldn't pay her as much as she was asking for, and eventually she was forced to accept a lower fee.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.

  • Create New...