For many of us, involvement in classical music is an outlet for calming us, inspiring us, and demonstrating pure creativity at all levels. It is a constant in our lives as we meet fellow musicians, music lovers and idols – many of whom you might end up working with professionally, just like we did. The genesis of Trio Musae began in the school grounds of Parkville’s University High School. We were three friends who played and studied together until we began our tertiary education, where we divided ourselves between The University of Melbourne and Monash University. Today, we aspire for Trio Musae to be our primary source of income, which is sadly proving more and more difficult in current society.
On top of paying bills, rent, and buying petrol, we also need to maintain our instruments and social lives as part of a balanced lifestyle (five hours of practice a day, anyone?). As young musicians, a conventional lifestyle post‐study is seemingly becoming more unrealistic as we delve into the deeper levels of the industry.
We do consider ourselves lucky that we can call our passion our job, but a common problem we face is dealing with the unrealistic expectations of the clientele. Firstly, many are completely unaware of the stress and complications that we deal with, and being told that they simply want to add class to an event often isn’t enough information. For the performance, we put in many hours of behind‐the‐scenes preparation in rehearsals and arranging, without which the gigs would not be professional.
Secondly, it is clear that many clients are taken aback when told how much professional groups charge for a gig. Little do they know they are paying for countless hours of practice and lessons, instruments, dedication of the professional to be at the standard they are at, travel to and from the gig, buying sheet music or paying for facilities to access it, and also paying for the exposure to get the gig in the first place!
At what point do you begin to say no to gigs? Many clients often advertise for musicians to play with no mention of payment in the description, only the promise of exposure, experience and networking opportunities. Thanks, but no thanks. But, this is the dilemma we are currently facing – aspiring to be professionals and make a career out of our trio, we need exposure, experience and networks in order to solidify our place in the industry.
However, when it comes down to it, we really do need to put a price on our talent. Here are some helpful tips for musicians as beginning professionals which we like to follow when it comes to deciding whether or not to accept a gig:
- Only accept a small amount of low-paid gigs a year. The more you do, the more you begin to feel used and uninspired; this is when it stops being a passion.
- If it’s a community event, accept this as unpaid work. We need as much classical music as possible injected into our community to inspire and involve all members of society. In a city where seeing a classical concert can cost upwards of $80, it is nice to have free and local events where all ages and walks of life are accepted and can be exposed to live classical music – the more classical musicians do this, the better everyone’s future will be.
- All other gigs should be paid at an appropriate rate, with few exceptions. It is a good idea to have a set price for what you would like to charge for one hour, 1.5 hours and two hours – and don’t forget the travel fee. This way when you are asked by the client, you have a set template to go by that won’t differ between gigs.
We have chosen to take the professional musician’s path despite its common hurdles and obligations, because we know this is a small price to pay for the artistic fulfilment we experience.
Written by Miranda Bell and Elissa Robustelli