Conductors’ Pay

I don’t know about today but years ago most conductors received surprisingly little for some concerts in this country but more as a visiting artist abroad.

A friend of mine, a professional conductor, tells me that he never gets to conduct “pro” bands in the UK, only amateurs. But when he conducts a professional orchestra in Germany, Holland, Spain or Scandinavia he is usually paid an inclusive fee of about £1,200 for a single concert, with any supplementary concerts paid at 50% extra. Of course, he has to pay his travel expenses, hotel and meals out of this.

Here in the UK, where he does the rounds of several amateur bands, the going rate for a 2½ hour rehearsal is £65 and a concert is £400. These fees are inclusive of travel, subsistence, etc.

It depends hugely on exactly what they are doing, of course. Many conductors who work for opera houses will be on a yearly contract, and will get a monthly salary, usually without regard to how many performances they conduct, or how many productions they are required to rehearse and supervise up to the opening night. But this is relatively rare.

More typically conductors are freelancers who are paid per project. There is usually one fee for the rehearsal period, and a separate concert fee for the public appearances.

Recordings are different once again – the conductor will usually be paid a royalty in addition to the sessions involved in putting it in the can.

When I was an employee the argument used to avoid giving us a pay rise was always “there are so many people wanting to do your job that we don’t need to offer any more than the minimum.”

I think if this principle were observed universally a good deal of money would be saved. I’d certainly apply it to opera singers, premier league footballers, racing drivers, and heads of public utilities such as water companies.

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