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The Trombone ForumCreation and PerformanceThe Business of Music(Moderator: BGuttman) What is a realistic salary for a professional trombonist?
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« Reply #40 on: Jul 05, 2017, 06:31AM »

But they were the Beach Boys long ago and still are. A cynic might say that they're in the nostalgia business now..

I don't care the age, gender, orientation, etc of a player - as long as they sound good. And it doesn't follow to me that older people should only play older music while younger people get to play younger music. The arts - of all things - shouldn't work that way. A competent player should be paid whatever the market will bear - regardless of age, sex, etc.

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« Reply #41 on: Jul 05, 2017, 06:39AM »


Let's compare some worst-case scenarios:
(1) You have a desk job, a day job, that you hate. But it's stable,

Far from worst case then, innit? Worst case would be more like "you have a service industry job that you hate, it doesn't pay well or have enough hours available, and your coworkers are mostly losers with poor work ethic. After you get fired from this job, you realize how good you actually had it as you slowly sell your action figure collection online to pay for your internet connection (allowing you to continue eating ramen in your Dad's basement by selling the last of your action figures). When the internet finally dies and you find yourself living under a bridge with nothing but the bell section of your Conn Director to use as a a weapon to fend off the roving packs of wild, rabid chihuahuas and a bottle of Listerine mouthwash to help you fall into an uneasy sleep at night, you wonder where it all went wrong.

Sally had said that you should have been more serious about business or trade school, and she had always been urging you to keep up with her grades. How pretty she had been, looking back on it -- only 21, so full of life, her hopes and dreams as plain to see on her face as a white blouse hanging in the breeze on a clothesline. It had been ten years since she dumped you for getting C's and D's in Music Theory 4 and Trombone Studio, and the final 40 pounds of weight you had gained junior year. If only she could see how fit you were now -- ribs plain as day for all to see. And how could you have gotten better grades with only a Conn Director? At the collegiate level? The Shires had only lasted a day -- constructed with a thin red brass 11" bell, matching red brass slide, red end crook, red tuning slide, and solid sterling silver valve tubing and carbon fiber leadpipe, it had been a thing of beauty to behold. $7500 had been worth it. Why then, had your teacher stomped on it and crushed the bell with his bare hands during your weekly studio performance of Blue Bells of Scotland? Oh Sally, you think, where did it all go wrong?

You swirl a capful of Listerine around in your hand, as the drip drip drop of the first beads of rain form on the broken windshield lying next to your bamboo beach mat bed. Tomorrow will be another day."

Even that might not be worst case. That is a life lived!
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« Reply #42 on: Jul 05, 2017, 07:11AM »

and lets face it, nobody wants to see a band of 60+ year olds playing "uptown funk" to a wedding crowd of 30 somethings..


and unless they're doing a trophy wedding I think most people just hire a DJ these days
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« Reply #43 on: Jul 05, 2017, 07:22AM »

nobody wants to see a band of 60+ year olds playing "uptown funk" to a wedding crowd of 30 somethings..

My guess is nobody wants to see a band of 60+ year olds playing uptown funk to ANY crowd.

But I've done it more than once.  <cringe> 
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« Reply #44 on: Jul 05, 2017, 07:34AM »

My guess is nobody wants to see a band of 60+ year olds playing uptown funk to ANY crowd.

But I've done it more than once.  <cringe> 


Play that funky music white-haired boy.
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« Reply #45 on: Jul 05, 2017, 07:48AM »

I would like to get a degree in trombone performance, but the only thing holding me back is the fact that I could potentially make a lot more money with a more conventional job. Although I'd much rather be a musician, I don't necessarily fall into the "can't see myself doing any other job" category, but I can definitely see myself getting a "regular job," making a good salary, but hating it. So, I guess I'm just looking for advice from those who've gone through with music, and their experiences and suggestions. Thanks!

I always thought I would hate a desk job. My first job was on a construction site. Got better pay than most of my peers, and learned great skills that continue to help me. In the evening, I played gigs with the local theater company. Money wasn't all that better than building houses, but hey, I was playing.

Then I got an internship with a local hospital in IT. Still played in the evening. It was a desk job... took a bit of adjustment from a physical job 8-10 hours a day to a non-physical... but it worked. Not as bad as I thought.

Started teaching music in public schools, gigging on the side... And so I gave up a career in music. Found a few things:

1) The instruction to "follow your passion" was a bunch of BS. If you are passionate, you are less willing to compromise or do things you think are not so good. And well, doing well but also learning to compromise is needed for an adult. I found it much better to do what I am good at and find interesting, but can still churn out crap on demand where needed.
2) Music is not what you do. Selling/marketing yourself, teaching, etc these are the business. Music is just the service you provide.
3) Good jobs are bound to certain places - ain't much gigging in small towns.
4) It's nice to play with great players... but I really want to play with solid players who are reliable... in their playing, in their commitments, in their people skills.


Young folks these days, well, they're fed fantasies and distortions of the job market. A job is what you do to get money and put food on the table. It's good to do something you enjoy, but the biggest thing is to find something you can do well and not dread coming into work. Do what you dream? Maybe for a bit when you're young... but long term, families and the stability they need become a bigger reality.

Is it play trombone or get a desk job? No.

Actually, trade jobs are rising in demand and will for some time and pay quite well. A plumber can work most anywhere, has a solid gig with steady work, and will make more than most professional musicians in the same area. Want to move a lot in your work? there are jobs that do that.

Want to build? create? design? there are jobs that do that too.

If you want to play trombone professionally, and are willing to go into a competitive low wage market where most of the work probably won't be challenging... ok. Do it. At least try.

But if you have no clue what the work force is, and just haven't ever had a real job that paid above minimum wage... and you know trombone... get out there. Take internships. Work over the summer. Try. Play. Experiment.
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« Reply #46 on: Jul 05, 2017, 07:55AM »

(2) You play trombone for a living. When you can get work, you really do love it, but you can't ever seem to find enough work to pay the bills. Your passion for music is darkened by the constant anxiety in the back of your throat, as you wonder how the heck you're going to make rent this month.
Let's not forget the work that just pays the bills. The trombone book on sound of music? Zzzzzzzz. Church gigs around easter and christmas? Because playing hymn tunes with the congregation singing along are passion come to life? Teaching little Jimmy who only takes lessons because his parents tell him to, and you know he doesn't care or practice? The local symphony gig? Oh wait... that doesn't pay, or it does (peanuts) and is somehow highly competitive...
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« Reply #47 on: Jul 05, 2017, 09:21AM »

How 'bout this one:
You play trombone for a living. It's tough to find gigs, so you take whatever comes your way. Most of the time, it's not the music you want to play, and you still can't ever seem to find enough work to pay the bills. Your passion for music is darkened by the misery of playing music you hate and by the constant anxiety in the back of your throat, as you wonder how the heck you're going to make rent this month.

It's not that way for everyone. For some people, "the worst day playing trombone is still better than the best day doing something else". If you honestly believe that you are that kind of person, then you need to take your very best shot at being a professional trombonist, regardless of what any of us say.
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« Reply #48 on: Jul 05, 2017, 09:51AM »

Right out of college:

Job #1 - a bakery.  I needed something close, as my wife (at the time) was still a student.  Okay, I learned a lot about the workings of a bakery, got a lot of day-old donuts and NEVER tired of the smell.  I still gigged on weekends.  I worked there for 8 months, then a job opened up in my area and I went to work in...

Job #2 - Public school music ed, grades 5-12.  Hardest job I ever had.  I taught myself orchestration, arranging, and composition during this time, and wrote lots of music for my bands.  Gigged on weekends with the local big bands and a trombone ensemble.  I did this for 20 years and supplemented my income with...

Job #3 - a National Guard band.  This was what you imagine it would be.  1 weekend a month and two weeks in the summer.  You're a soldier first and a musician second, but you're a musician most of the time (does that make sense?) and you are payed for every note you play.  Played concerts and dances, marched parades and military ceremonies.  The Army supplied me with a few nice horns over the years, too...Bachs and Kings.  I also got my "Big Band Leader" chops here, as I directed the jazz band/dance band for 12 years, until the big band was phased out in favor of smaller, more portable show bands.  I wrote a ton of music (around 200 charts) for this band.  I did this for 26 years, and earned myself a tidy retirement, including health care.  Right after I retired, I took the dreaded desk job.  It was...

Job #4 - Criminal Investigator for a company that did pre-employment background checks.  I basically sat at a desk every day, in a nice air-conditioned office, phoning up county court houses and processing fingerprints.  It was the easiest job I ever had, it was also the best paying...and it was mind-numbingly boring.  It was during this time I started to have hearing issues, diagnosed with tinnitus and Meinier's Disease, and on doctor's orders, I stopped playing for about 4 years.  I finally found a different doctor who was willing to work with me, who prescribed some custom musician's earplugs and common sense.  I went back to playing and teaching lessons.  After 6 years at this job,  I went right into...

Job #5 - Full-time free-lancing.  This includes playing, teaching, conducting, and composing/arranging.  I have over 60 charts currently in publication and the royalties are nice.  Not great, but OK.  I'm earning enough to get by.

So at my age (pushing 60) every cent I earn is though music, in one aspect or another.  The important thing is, through all my "pay-the-bills" jobs I've been able to continue playing and earning.
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« Reply #49 on: Jul 05, 2017, 03:21PM »

Far from worst case then, innit? Worst case would be more like "you have a service industry job that you hate, it doesn't pay well or have enough hours available, and your coworkers are mostly losers with poor work ethic. After you get fired from this job, you realize how good you actually had it as you slowly sell your action figure collection online to pay for your internet connection (allowing you to continue eating ramen in your Dad's basement by selling the last of your action figures). When the internet finally dies and you find yourself living under a bridge with nothing but the bell section of your Conn Director to use as a a weapon to fend off the roving packs of wild, rabid chihuahuas and a bottle of Listerine mouthwash to help you fall into an uneasy sleep at night, you wonder where it all went wrong.

Sally had said that you should have been more serious about business or trade school, and she had always been urging you to keep up with her grades. How pretty she had been, looking back on it -- only 21, so full of life, her hopes and dreams as plain to see on her face as a white blouse hanging in the breeze on a clothesline. It had been ten years since she dumped you for getting C's and D's in Music Theory 4 and Trombone Studio, and the final 40 pounds of weight you had gained junior year. If only she could see how fit you were now -- ribs plain as day for all to see. And how could you have gotten better grades with only a Conn Director? At the collegiate level? The Shires had only lasted a day -- constructed with a thin red brass 11" bell, matching red brass slide, red end crook, red tuning slide, and solid sterling silver valve tubing and carbon fiber leadpipe, it had been a thing of beauty to behold. $7500 had been worth it. Why then, had your teacher stomped on it and crushed the bell with his bare hands during your weekly studio performance of Blue Bells of Scotland? Oh Sally, you think, where did it all go wrong?

You swirl a capful of Listerine around in your hand, as the drip drip drop of the first beads of rain form on the broken windshield lying next to your bamboo beach mat bed. Tomorrow will be another day."

Even that might not be worst case. That is a life lived!


Maybe read "Post Office" by Charles Bukowski-
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« Reply #50 on: Jul 06, 2017, 02:48PM »

I'm 27 and a professional trombonist.  I haven't had a day job for almost five years and I live in NYC. I'd say most guys in the low end without a day job in NYC make 30-35K hustling really hard...more experienced guys can play in wedding bands corporate things, gets to about $45-50K. At that point if you win an orchestral gig you'll start out between 50-60K trial year then it goes up. In NYC, that is much higher and if you get a Broadway show and Don't often sub out can make upwards of $150K. These numbers would probably be similar or lower depending on which city or state...maybe where your cost of living is also lower. Otherwise freelance touring with cool bands can get your money way higher. Don't expect to play any music you were taught in college to make a living. I also advise getting into electronic music-- I get flown out to play Coachella with a DJ and make more than tens times the Mingus band gig pay.

Hey RJ! Glad to see you chime in here!

I'll expand on what RJ says here. If you are one of the lucky few to eventually get a Broadway show, from what I've seen of the union contracts, it pays around $100k for a single horn gig (only tenor or bass), if you don't sub out much. But, reality is, you need to sub out enough to keep your subs working (who then return the favor when you don't have a show), and keep other contacts calling you, so that when your show closes, you have work. And, Broadway is fickle - there are long time Broadway players who are suddenly without shows, and new players breaking in. And subbing is very hard to get into - not impossible, but everybody and their mom wants to break in because it's the best non-auditioned regular gig in town.

Most Broadway shows, however, are not one horn gigs anymore - they usually involve doubles. Tenor/bass, tenor/tuba, and bass/tuba are most common, but euphonium shows up often enough as well. So, pay goes up (I think it's 30% bump for a double, and less for another double), and can approach $150k with enough doubles. But, you have to be skilled at your doubles - good enough that people will think of you as a player on that instrument, rather than someone who just doubles.

RJ is right in that if you can break in with the right touring groups, you can make a lot more on the road. But, that comes with sacrifices as well. If you picture yourself settling down with a wife and kids, touring is not really an option. And, if you don't stick around to build a network, when you are ready for that, it can be harder to have gigs on the calendar. I know a few guys who left the road and took day jobs because they couldn't get enough gigs once they decided to stop touring.

I will also echo RJ in saying if you want to play for a living, expand into electronic music. I've opened so many doors by expanding into keys that I'm probably going to increase my income by at least 50% in the next year to 2 years.

Couple of things to expect. You will work far harder for less money as a musician than you would at a day job, if you are going to make at least $40k a year. You will work the opposite schedule of 90% of people you'll meet, making it hard to maintain friendships outside of music. Any significant others are going to have trouble understanding what you do and how hard it is to take off time (since most people can take a day here or there and still get paid, where if you block a day off you are guaranteeing no chance of making money, which is a hard thing to do when you aren't making much). And, however much you love what you do, it is exhausting - period.

But, if you are dedicated, hard working, a self starter (there is absolutely no one that will push you to keep growing, learning, and expanding your skill set once you join the scene), and a bit of a risk taker (since there is a big risk in going freelance), you can make it happen. But it's not easy. I taught full time for 5 years - I'd say it's as hard to be a full-time teacher in Brooklyn (and not the nice parks), as it is to be a freelancer, and it pays better. But, I like this work more - I was a miserable teacher. If I'm going to work this hard, I'd rather play.  :D
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« Reply #51 on: Jul 06, 2017, 03:28PM »

The recent Vancouver SO  principal and bass trb positions paid about $55k to $65k per season. Convert to USD by multiplying by .75. Second trb should be coming up soon.

It would be tough to make that the only revenue stream and live a middle lifestyle in Vancouver. In Seattle, you would be living just above the poverty line.
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« Reply #52 on: Jul 07, 2017, 09:37AM »

if you want to play professionally get married and hopefully to a nurse. Make sure that person knows what playing in a regional orchestra means to your family life.   Also practice like crazy and study with the people who play in the major orchestras and expect to do many auditions and not be sad when you aren't selected. Notice I didn't say anything about auditioning for major orchestras. Or you could be a teacher. I love teaching.
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« Reply #53 on: Jul 10, 2017, 11:52AM »

Hey RJ! Glad to see you chime in here!

I'll expand on what RJ says here. If you are one of the lucky few to eventually get a Broadway show, from what I've seen of the union contracts, it pays around $100k for a single horn gig (only tenor or bass), if you don't sub out much. But, reality is, you need to sub out enough to keep your subs working (who then return the favor when you don't have a show), and keep other contacts calling you, so that when your show closes, you have work. And, Broadway is fickle - there are long time Broadway players who are suddenly without shows, and new players breaking in. And subbing is very hard to get into - not impossible, but everybody and their mom wants to break in because it's the best non-auditioned regular gig in town.

Most Broadway shows, however, are not one horn gigs anymore - they usually involve doubles. Tenor/bass, tenor/tuba, and bass/tuba are most common, but euphonium shows up often enough as well. So, pay goes up (I think it's 30% bump for a double, and less for another double), and can approach $150k with enough doubles. But, you have to be skilled at your doubles - good enough that people will think of you as a player on that instrument, rather than someone who just doubles.

RJ is right in that if you can break in with the right touring groups, you can make a lot more on the road. But, that comes with sacrifices as well. If you picture yourself settling down with a wife and kids, touring is not really an option. And, if you don't stick around to build a network, when you are ready for that, it can be harder to have gigs on the calendar. I know a few guys who left the road and took day jobs because they couldn't get enough gigs once they decided to stop touring.

I will also echo RJ in saying if you want to play for a living, expand into electronic music. I've opened so many doors by expanding into keys that I'm probably going to increase my income by at least 50% in the next year to 2 years.

Couple of things to expect. You will work far harder for less money as a musician than you would at a day job, if you are going to make at least $40k a year. You will work the opposite schedule of 90% of people you'll meet, making it hard to maintain friendships outside of music. Any significant others are going to have trouble understanding what you do and how hard it is to take off time (since most people can take a day here or there and still get paid, where if you block a day off you are guaranteeing no chance of making money, which is a hard thing to do when you aren't making much). And, however much you love what you do, it is exhausting - period.

But, if you are dedicated, hard working, a self starter (there is absolutely no one that will push you to keep growing, learning, and expanding your skill set once you join the scene), and a bit of a risk taker (since there is a big risk in going freelance), you can make it happen. But it's not easy. I taught full time for 5 years - I'd say it's as hard to be a full-time teacher in Brooklyn (and not the nice parks), as it is to be a freelancer, and it pays better. But, I like this work more - I was a miserable teacher. If I'm going to work this hard, I'd rather play.  :D

I'll comment on the part that I know about directly-Broadway. I've been working steadily on Broadway for 15 years, all at the same show. Brian is right about several things here: Salary for a single instrument chair, newer shows requiring doubling now on most chairs, although I don't think that the first double pays 30% over scale but I can check. Last year our librarian retired from the show and I was named librarian which pays a full double. Subbing out: I'm involved in enough other projects that I do sub out on a regular basis. I don't sub out to keep my subs busy, I sub out when I need to and they are able to work for me when needed. I could not do my job without my subs and I treat them with respect and admiration. Other regular chair holders do not-their issue. I also sub out to keep my sanity. Doesn't matter what you are doing playing the same thing thousands of times can do some damage to one's mental stability. You gotta know when to take off!!! Priceless.
But back to salary. How far does 100K go in New York? Well if I had to move their and buy a place today it would be laughable. I know other locations in the US are worse: Seattle, SanFrancisco to name a couple. And even though I've been Incredibly Lucky to have a show run for this long most don't run 6-12 months. Job security is the bigger issue. Is there enough work to sustain the salary from year to year? Usually that answer is no.
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« Reply #54 on: Jul 13, 2017, 12:48PM »

But back to salary. How far does 100K go in New York? Well if I had to move their and buy a place today it would be laughable. I know other locations in the US are worse: Seattle, SanFrancisco to name a couple. And even though I've been Incredibly Lucky to have a show run for this long most don't run 6-12 months. Job security is the bigger issue. Is there enough work to sustain the salary from year to year? Usually that answer is no.

In a way, getting busy with a lot of different projects can mean a more consistent "salary" than having a show - because you aren't overly dependent on one source of income, if gigs dry up in one area, or slow down, it doesn't end up being a huge part of your income, so your income remains steadier. But, it's much harder to get to that $100k mark.

As for how far does $100k go in NYC? Well, it all depends on your expectations. I live in NJ now, but when I lived in Brooklyn, I had a variety of living situations before moving in with my girlfriend (now wife) who owned her apartment. All would have been workable at the $40k a year mark (although some would be easier than others). And I have plenty of friends making it work - it's all about being flexible about your expectations, so you can find what you need and can afford.

Again, it's not easy - but, if you really, really, really want it, and are willing to work INCREDIBLY hard for it, you can make it work.
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« Reply #55 on: Jul 19, 2017, 10:14AM »

In a way, getting busy with a lot of different projects can mean a more consistent "salary" than having a show - because you aren't overly dependent on one source of income, if gigs dry up in one area, or slow down, it doesn't end up being a huge part of your income, so your income remains steadier. But, it's much harder to get to that $100k mark.

As for how far does $100k go in NYC? Well, it all depends on your expectations. I live in NJ now, but when I lived in Brooklyn, I had a variety of living situations before moving in with my girlfriend (now wife) who owned her apartment. All would have been workable at the $40k a year mark (although some would be easier than others). And I have plenty of friends making it work - it's all about being flexible about your expectations, so you can find what you need and can afford.

Again, it's not easy - but, if you really, really, really want it, and are willing to work INCREDIBLY hard for it, you can make it work.

Totally agree with all of this. I don't need to live in luxury but for the last 20+ years I've owned and lived in a house with a yard. Deals can be found but I've also rebuilt 2 houses. I don't want to do another one-yet.
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« Reply #56 on: Jul 19, 2017, 11:05AM »

Totally agree with all of this. I don't need to live in luxury but for the last 20+ years I've owned and lived in a house with a yard. Deals can be found but I've also rebuilt 2 houses. I don't want to do another one-yet.

It's a very nice house Bill  Good! Good! Good! Good!

You don't play the trombone to get rich, you play it to get happy.... though THAT doesn't always work out. If the OP has to ask the question it may not be the right job for them.
I have had a full time playing income for 28 years and the last 5 years on 30 weeks. Covered the bills, have a place called home, some wheels, a wife and two great grown up kids. A 15 minute audition and two weeks on trial worked out for me.... but... there are only just over 20 full time bass trombone jobs in the UK and some of those pay per session.... most people will never get a full time gig.... you do not do it for the money.

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« Reply #57 on: Oct 24, 2017, 02:54PM »

I would like to get a degree in trombone performance, but the only thing holding me back is the fact that I could potentially make a lot more money with a more conventional job.

I think the more likely answer is that you would almost certainly make more money with a conventional job that requires any kind of post-secondary training.
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watermailonman

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« Reply #58 on: Oct 24, 2017, 11:25PM »

It's a very nice house Bill  Good! Good! Good! Good!

You don't play the trombone to get rich, you play it to get happy.... though THAT doesn't always work out. If the OP has to ask the question it may not be the right job for them.
I have had a full time playing income for 28 years and the last 5 years on 30 weeks. Covered the bills, have a place called home, some wheels, a wife and two great grown up kids. A 15 minute audition and two weeks on trial worked out for me.... but... there are only just over 20 full time bass trombone jobs in the UK and some of those pay per session.... most people will never get a full time gig.... you do not do it for the money.

Chris Stearn

This is the goal for most of us who have studied music professionally, or was the goal until we gave it up to do something else. I have never regret that change in career. Now I have a full time job with nice colleges, 35 days of paid vacation each year and flexible working hours to be able to take gigs or play in rehearsal bands.

The ones I know who makes a living just playing trombone are few. It's the ones in the orchestras here in Stockholm.  It might be as much as 20 full time trombone players in Stockholm.  The rest is part time musicians. Most working in public music schools as music teachers or in music college.

Freelance salaries vary. I guess there are a few who get the best jobs in television and studios. I'm thinking of 2-3 tenor players in Stockholm who are first call and have the great jobs. They don't accept a gig for less than $300 and gets paid to rehearse. Then there are people like me who play dances, shows and church gigs for a lot less. It can vary between $65-$300 per occasion and usually no extra for rehearsals if included. The sum depends on the type of gig and how many rehearsals to include. The last two weekends were good ones and I had 3-4 gigs friday-sunday. Added on top of my regular salary it gives a good life, but if the income from music was all I had it would be a life in misery.

/Tom

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davdud101
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« Reply #59 on: Oct 25, 2017, 01:02PM »

I don't care the age, gender, orientation, etc of a player - as long as they sound good. And it doesn't follow to me that older people should only play older music while younger people get to play younger music. The arts - of all things - shouldn't work that way. A competent player should be paid whatever the market will bear - regardless of age, sex, etc.

...Geezer

This brings up an interesting debate, though, Geez. People who enjoy certain genres are biased on appearances/conventions/expectations for performers. It's always been that way and I wonder if it'll ever change...
« Last Edit: Oct 26, 2017, 12:33PM by davdud101 » Logged

Don't practice until you get it right.
Practice until you can't get it wrong.
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