Recently a bandleader contacted me to ask if I could play guitar with their band for a wedding. I typically only do weddings with musicians of my choosing, as I’m busy enough that I can be picky. When I asked the band leader what it pays and for how many hours, I learned that they are paying what the Toronto Musicians Association calls minimum scale, roughly $50 per hour.
I thought about how many hours I’ve put into my training, how many hours of experience I bring to every performance, and also how long it would take someone to learn to do what I do (hint: it’s a lot easier to be become a dentist. Not that I’m saying anyone can be a dentist! Just measuring hours of study). And then I, with only a little bit of ego, considered the recognition (JUNOs, composing commissions, tours) I’ve received in Canada and internationally. Weighed against the work, because weddings are a lot of work (clients want non-stop high energy music, and it usually means wearing a 10 pound piece of wood around my neck for at least 5 hours), I reflected that $50 an hour is fine for a recent graduate of Humber College (where I teach), but I couldn’t help but tell this band leader that it’s too low. The musicians I work with get paid more because they are worth it. It shows in their playing and in their experience, not just on a concert stage but at a wedding too. So if you’re getting married, I understand it’s expensive, but the money you’ll spend on great musicians will be part of everyone’s experience much more than say the centrepiece or flowers. You don’t want a discount dentist, so don’t hire discount musicians.