Who pays?

Posted In: Coffee Break

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    catherine-rogers on #210237

    Seems like this year I’ve had more requests than usual for pieces I didn’t know and had to buy the music to learn. When it’s something I’ve been meaning to add to my repertoire anyway, I go ahead and buy it and absorb the cost. But it’s starting to add up: $5.50 here and $5.50 there. Now I’ve had a request from a bride who wants a piece I wasn’t interested in but could learn. I told her I wouldn’t charge for my time to learn the piece but it cost $10 and would she like me to order it? Since someone else is paying my fee (I’m already booked and we’re six weeks from the date), I didn’t think that was asking too much, but she’s balking. I suggested other pieces but she really wants this for her recessional.
    Am I being unreasonable or unfair? I don’t want to be petty but haven’t been able to raise my prices in a long time so I’m having to watch costs of doing business. (She tried to find a free version and sent me a link to something that turned out to be harmonica music! Couldn’t make heads or tails of it!)
    Be honest because I want to be fair about this.

    wil-weten on #210238

    Frankly, why would you do all the trouble to learn a piece you are not even interested in? In the best case you would not gain anything from it. In the worst case, it would cost only you money and time and it wouldn’t bring you any joy now or later.

    I wonder why you haven’t been able to raise your prices in a long time. If you’re scared of losing gigs, you could start by raising them just a little bit and see how that works out.

    I would gladly pay for the person I knew would play music wonderfully even if the other local harpists would charge a little bit less than her.

    Brides pay lots of money for flowers, the wedding cake and much more. Why would they be petty on the cost of life music?

    As this bride starts arguing about 10 dollars, what else would she be willing to argue about? She may be expecting to get a lot more without having to pay extra costs, or having to pay less as something was not quite to her liking…

    Jerusha Amado on #210239

    Hi Catherine,

    I’ve heard of harpists charging $25-50 to buy and learn a new song for an event, so I personally think that $10 is not out of line.

    catherine-rogers on #210240

    I agree with you, Wil, but you sound like a reasonable person!
    (I did raise my rates a few years ago and lost jobs over a difference of $25! Ah, well…)

    Tacye on #210250

    I wonder what would happen if you had two charges – your normal one (with fees raised) and a discount if all pieces are chosen from your list? People like discounts much more than surcharges.

    catherine-rogers on #210251

    Tacye, an interesting notion. Thanks!

    charles-nix on #210254

    Not that it will help you in this situation–but it is commonplace for church organist written contracts to stipulate a wedding fee, and that the music must come from a standard repertoire list. There is an extra fee for purchasing and learning new music specifically for one wedding–just as Jerusha said above.

    My business partner, who just retired after 60 years on the organ bench, once priced a particularly difficult-looking bride’s service at 10% of whatever she was spending on the florist and caterer. He didn’t get the job. I guess music wasn’t all that important after all. It was just as well–not worth the stress. But then, playing wasn’t his principal income source.

    Charles Nix

    catherine-rogers on #210255

    Charles, I’m afraid that’s all too common here. I can’t tell you how many people call and say the music is the last thing on their to-do list, meaning it’s the least important to them and probably gets the leftovers of the budget, if there are any.

    Sylvia on #210256

    Catherine, what is the piece? If I have it, I will email it to you.
    Anyone else, if you need music, just tell us what it is, and maybe one of us has it and can send it to you!

    catherine-rogers on #210257

    She decided to go with something else I suggested, but thanks to all of you for your advice and encouragement!

    balfour-knight on #210293

    Great posts and advice here! I agree with all of you about charging extra for learning new music for a wedding, especially when the printed music needs to be purchased. I often learn the bride’s request by ear, listening to a YouTube version or some other recording of the piece, but even that can be time-consuming and stressful, since I often do not care for that piece, ha, ha!

    Harp hugs,

    brian-noel on #210297

    The question isn’t “what’s fair”, the question is what you are contractually obliged to do for your client. In my performance agreements, I state “all final decisions about repertoire are at the discretion of the contractor”, which allows me the final word on what I will perform or not, whether it be a piece that is completely inappropriate (No, I can’t to the rock and roll music from “Top Gun” as your recessional), difficult or impossible to play on harp, or just too much trouble to learn (I had a two day before the ceremony request to play the Cantina Band music from “Star Wars”). That way, I can either decline the request (“see, it’s in your agreement”) or agree to play it with a stipulation (extra fee). Your performance agreement should have all of this outlined in it, so there is no debate as to what is “right”…it should be about what is stated in your agreement.

    karen on #210337

    Emailing the music to her (or anyone) breaks copyright laws. If we just share music rather than buy it, the composers and arrangers won’t feel motivated to create new music for the harp. What a tragedy that would be.

    catherine-rogers on #210348

    Thanks, I wasn’t trying to get any free music.

    emma-graham on #211851

    I mentioned on FB recently that I have a clause in my contract that insists that brides buy (or at least pay for) the sheet music of pieces they want me to learn. Quite a few harpists were horrified that I do that! I think it’s because I am old(er) and when I started playing there was no internet. You had to go out and find the music. Buying it meant a printed copy, often (in the case of pop songs) in a large book containing other songs. They were very expensive. Nowadays I play from an iPad and buy all my requests individually as downloadable pdf files. They cost £2-3 at most so I buy them myself.

    I really like the idea of offering a discount if they choose from my standard repertoire though. The more people who do that, the happier I will be. Endless harp covers on YouTube mean that requests are getting a bit out of hand!!!

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