Our concerts at St Mary’s Perivale and St Barnabas are all ‘free admission, with a retiring collection’. We receive no sponsorship from any source, and no grants from any funding bodies. Yet our musicians are always paid for their services. On principle, we wouldn’t dream of doing otherwise. They are invariably professional musicians, and one wouldn’t expect to employ the services of a plumber for nothing. However, this contrasts sharply with lunchtime concerts held at prominent church venues in Central London, and some well-known private venues as well, where the musicians are expected to provide their services free of charge. Whatever the justification for this – supposedly because the concerts are raising money for other more worthy causes – this would seems like blatant exploitation.
It is worth detailing the financial arrangements for musicians at the two venues where my concerts are held. At St Mary’s Perivale, we attract an audience of around 50-60, and the average sum donated at the end of a concert is usually around £7 per head, with a wide range from £1 or less to £20 or more, reflecting the different circumstances of members of the audience. With the extra funds from Gift Aid, this provides about £8-9 per audience member, or a total of around £450. We pay around £300-£350 to the musicians, split proportionately, and use the residual £100-150 to cover expenses, such as the free wine and crisps (costing about £30 per concert) and all the usual overheads such as insurance, heating and lighting, and piano maintenance. So if a concert comprises a first half piano recital (45 minutes) and a piano trio in the second half, we might give £120 to the pianist, and a total of £210 to the piano trio. If the whole concert comprises one ensemble, say a piano trio, they will receive around £300, or £100 each. This is admittedly a paltry sum when one considers the calibre of most of our musicians, but at least it is something, and is much appreciated. They also receive a free high-quality video recording of their performance, many of which can be seen on our Youtube channel (www.youtube.com/user/StMarysPerivale/ . Certainly, virtually all our musicians are keen to return for future concerts. For the Friday lunchtime concerts at St Barnabas we have adopted a fixed scheme whereby soloists receive £100 for their 45 minute performance, duos receive a total of £120, trios receive £150 and quartets receive £160 (usually increased to £200).
This financial model seems fairly unusual – hence this blog – and contrasts with that of many music clubs which hold a limited number (say 6-10 per year) of high-profile concerts, charging £15 or more for tickets, to listen to more established musicians who will accordingly receive considerably more than the sums we offer. Often these clubs have to pay steep hiring sums for the venue, and may have to bring in a piano for the concert, and the cost of the musicians will usually be closer to £1000 than £300 .They may then have to rely on sponsorship to cover their costs. We are fortunate in avoiding many of these problems, and I think that our policy of picking the very best young musicians in London, usually in the age range 23-33, provides a similar quality of music-making to that achieved by employing older, more established musicians with bigger reputations. It also contrasts sharply with those lunchtime recitals and evening recitals in private venues in Central London, where no payment is given or expected. In my opinion, this is simply unacceptable.