Unfair Competition?

  • Participant
    Saul Davis Zlatkovski on #149424

    Does anyone here think it is wrong for a student to market themselves as a professional when they are underage (less than 18), and charge the same amount as a professional?

    I would say it is wrong, if you have to be chaperoned and supervised, which he or she would, they should not be working. Most or many harp gigs involve people who are drinking and other hazards. I think it is unfair to the profession, not that we have set standards, but we probably should. A student should charge much less, as they are gaining experience but not likely to be as well prepared, and they should do the kind of playing that does not compete, like for family and friends, church services, things like that, but then, I guess I am horribly old fashioned.

    What about people who also work as a musician on another instrument, and harp is only their secondary instrument?

    What do you think is unfair competition?

    tony-morosco on #149425

    Well, I have to disagree I’m sorry to say.

    If someone plays well enough to play professionally then they are a professional no matter what the age. I don’t think age should matter. Ability should matter. If they can do the job they can do the job. So long as they don’t advertise at a lower rate so as to undercut anyone just because they can (I have no problem with anyone negotiating in private based on specific circumstances) and they can play at an acceptable level then they are just the same as any other competition.

    I don’t see what supervision has to do with it really. If they need to be supervised and they are and it doesn’t cost the client any more for it then I don’t see what the problem is.

    What makes a person fair competition is their ability and their business practices, not their age.

    carl-swanson on #149426

    I agree with you Tony. The fact of the matter is that anyone can call himself a professional musician(on any instrument!) and it’s up to the buyer to beware. I know for a fact that there are adult amateurs out there who have had 2 or 3 lessons and are hiring themselves out for jobs! It’s unbelievable. The sad truth is that the general public thinks that all harpists play the same way and it’s just a matter of finding the cheapest one. So it’s up to the better harpists to make sure that the buying public learns to hear the difference.

    As far as fees go, anyone who is playing a job for money, regardless of their ability, should be charging a fee that pays their expenses and makes them a profit. One of the curses of trying to make a living as a professional harpist are the students, adult amateurs, and even professionals who don’t need the money and so charge a fraction of what they should be charging. No professional who has to pay his or her own way can charge those fees and survive. At the very least, there should be agreed upon minimums that everyone charges to avoid that problem.

    Saul Davis Zlatkovski on #149427

    Well, yes, I was basically assuming that these examples I mentioned were not playing at a professional level. Of course, we have a free market system, but many professions have minimum standards. That’s why not just anyone can join the musician’s union, at least in NYC, or the harp guilds. And is the Boston guild the only one, or are there others?

    In the former environment I was accustomed to, a student would always charge significantly less, even a college student, to be clear that they were semi-professional, and that the client should expect less.

    tony-morosco on #149428

    Carl, generally I agree with that, but I do think that there is room for a little wiggling.

    I don’t think that any musician should undercut any other in advertising. If I don’t really need the money to live on and so can charge less I should still advertise at the going general rate, and still generally charge that.

    However if I get contacted by someone who simply can’t afford it and they tell me what they can afford I think it is ultimately up to me, assuming I believe them and that they aren’t just trying to be cheap, to renegotiate a lower fee.

    I think so long as it is kept in private and that lower fees aren’t advertised in order to lure customers away from other musicians. Also I would make it clear that they weren’t to tell anyone else because if I get calls from someone saying, “so and so said you did their wedding for $X, I want to hire you for the same amount” I am going to refuse. Cutting a deal with a potential client based on my assessment of their situation is my own call.

    But also I don’t do weddings anymore and I live in an area where there really is no shortage of work. If I lived someplace else where there was more competition for the work I was after

    tony-morosco on #149429

    If a person isn’t up to a professional standard of playing then I agree, they shouldn’t be playing professionally.

    I think where students can do fine is where they specialize in something. A student may not be ready to audition for the Principle Harp position at the local symphony, but may still be perfectly able to perform the standard wedding repertoire at a professional level.

    So long as they can meet the requirements of the specific job at a professional level then I’m good with it. If they are sub par and charging less because of it then I do have an issue. If you aren’t good enough to get work at the going rate then you probably shouldn’t be doing it yet.

    But as Carl points out, it is going to happen and it is up to the rest of the musicians in the area to make it clear the difference between someone who knows what they are doing and someone who doesn’t.

    I do also think there are other things to consider. One harpist may adequate and another much better in performing, but the one who is just adequate knows and understands how to play for a wedding and the better technical player has no wedding experience, I think the adequate player who understands the specifics of what playing for a wedding entails is more the professional.

    Things just aren’t so cut and dried clear cut all the time, so I am reluctant to point at any individual and say “they shouldn’t be playing professionally”.

    Tacye on #149430

    Most of the professions that come to mind as having minimum standards are those which have great potential to ruin lives: doctors and school
    teachers for instance.

    carl-swanson on #149431

    Tony-I was only talking about minimums, not setting fees that everybody has to charge. What irks me is when some harpist is married to a doctor, or is a trust fund baby and so can charge $50 for doing a wedding when no one who has to work for a living can possibly do that. I think that the professional harpists in any city or area of the country should get together once a year and talk about what they feel the minimums are, and then get everyone to (at least say) they agree.

    If some bride is crying poverty and the harpist is stupid enough to believe it, then the harpist should play the gig for free, not less. Once you go down that road, word gets out that your prices are negotiable and you’ll never be able to get your standard prices again.

    But in the end there is no harp union to join, and no one is going to be taken to court for charging too little. So it comes back to the fact that anyone can call themselves a professional harpist(or harp teacher) and if that’s what they are doing, then they should charge what professional harpists charge.

    carl-swanson on #149432

    A friend of mine is a very fine harpsichord builder, and for years virtually all of his competition were trust fund babies who undercharged for their work because they didn’t need the money. It almost put my friend out of business. He finally decided to raise his prices to a level that he could live with and figured he’d either start making money or go out of business. He raised his prices by 50%. As soon as word got out, everybody else did the same thing. It’s now 20 years later, and he’s still in business.

    The point is, anyone who is working as a professional harpist, regardless of their experience or ability to play, has to charge fees that provide enough income to survive or those who have to make a living at this are going to go out of business.

    When a student or the wife of a wealthy man has daddy or hubby paying for the car, the harp, the insurance, the gas,the strings, and all the living expenses(mortgage, utilities, taxes, etc.) then they think they can play a gig for half or less what a working harpist has to charge, never thinking about how insulting and self centered their behavior is. What they should be doing is playing all those gigs for free. The choice is: play the gigs for at least the agreed upon minimums or play it for free.

    tony-morosco on #149433

    I have no problem with the idea of the musicians in an area getting together to decide on what they feel in appropriate for the local region. And certainly, taking a gig where you don’t even break even is not a sensible thing to do.

    But if I am willing to take $200 instead of $250 due to specific circumstances? Well, I think that is not an unreasonable negotiation.

    Autumn Spencer on #149434

    Maybe you have no problem with the harpists in an area getting together to agree on a fee schedule, but that is in fact illegal price fixing.

    unknown-user on #149435

    I agree with the sentiment that you

    unknown-user on #149436

    Autumn, I did not see your post before I wrote mine! I understand your frustations. I have no issue with you charging less than a top professional. I believe the musicians unions, in most countries, set a minimum fee. Realistically, most professionals do charge above the minimum, and the better the harpist the more above the standard rate they

    carl-swanson on #149437

    Dearie- Unionization is not “illegal price fixing.” And that’s basically what I was talking about. And price fixing means that everybody in the same field agrees to charge the same free. Again, if you read my post carefully, you’d see the word ‘minimums’ several times. MINIMUMS!! That’s not price fixing. Without an agreement on minimums the whole music industry will collapse.

    Music directors of local civic symphonies have a long history of asking the harpist to play the dress rehearsal and the concert for a total of $25 or $50, whining that, as a civic symphony, they can’t afford more than that. They then wonder why, with only one rehearsal, the harpist is having a rough time with Symphony Fantastique, or Tsigane.

    unknown-user on #149438

    Yes, I agree with this and your other posts.

    As to the issue of community orchestras and prima donna harpist that was mentioned above. harpists do have particular needs and requirements that the public are not always aware of. I myself have been in the situation of being called a prima donna for requiring music in advance and not wanting to sight read on the day of the concert. The music in question was Sleeping Beauty suite, Tzigane and Giselle. I have also got the prima donna tag for wanting to arrive early to tune the harp and no one wanting to arrive early to open the hall, and/or requring the other musicians to remain quiet while I finish tuning.

    As to rates of pay for community work, I tend to charge the union minimum for a rank and file (section) player rather than the principal rate out of consideration that it is a community event. But as acceptance of this work, may mean turning down other professional engagements,

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