Performing for Church Services

Posted In: Performing

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    Kristen Bruce on #183234

    Hello professional harpists,

    How much would you advise charging for a church service? For example, solo prelude music (approximately 30 minutes), two service pieces, and a 15-minute postlude.


    Angela Biggs on #183285

    Hi Kristen,

    That’s just slightly less than an hour of music, but depending on the type of service it could be about 2 hours of playing/waiting to play. A Catholic Mass, for example, is about one hour long, plus 30 minutes before and 15 minutes after: plus carting, plus the early set-up to allow your harp to acclimate. Charge your normal rate for two hours of playing (which should include setup and travel in the fee for the first hour). It’s not just the playing itself, it’s also your time, and the danger to your instrument while it’s out of your house.

    I live in a rural area in western NH and play(ed) the lever harp as my second instrument. I would have charged about $200 for your scenario, maybe a little bit less if there was a very good reason.

    If this is your own church, you could consider giving them a discount. I refuse to do this in a situation where it is expected because it sets a poor precedent, but if your church is respectful of musicians it can be a nice thing to do. Please don’t give a discount to a church that is not your own or to which you don’t have a very close tie. In my neck of the woods, churches are really, really disrespectful of musicians, in large part because musicians keep playing and singing for free. Consequently, I have to drive 35 minutes just to get to a church with music that doesn’t distract me from worship: and I live a five-minute walk from two churches of my denomination. Please choose not to contribute to this.

    Hope that helps!

    Janis Cortese on #183293

    The only guideline I remember hearing from someone who played weddings and receptions is to tell the person that your billable time starts the minute you begin loading your equipment into your car. I think the phrase he used was, “You’re paying me to load up my car, drive here, be here for X hours, load up my car, and drive home. While I’m here, I play for free.” It’s an interesting way to put it.

    Kristen Bruce on #183586

    Thank you!

    Sylvia on #183589

    If they are providing you a harp to play on, by all means discount. You might want to ask if there is a harp there for you to play, or will you have to bring one. Some churches do actually own a harp.

    Since that is unlikely,it means you must haul a harp, which is back-breaking hard work any way you slice it. You have 4 loadings or unloadings…home, site, site re-load, and home….whether you play one song or the whole time.
    Sometimes people will say…oh, we only need you to play a few songs….GAH

    Churches seem to think we’re like nomadic organists….but their organist didn’t buy the organ, they don’t have to transport it, tune it, insure it, put parts on it…they just walk in and play it. Just consider how much you paid for your harp, extra strings, etc…and how long it takes to earn that amount of money by playing.

    I know I sound grim, but I’ve had people actually challenge me because I got paid more than the church musician!

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