Working for next to nothing...

One of the most frustrating aspects of working in the serious art music business is the notion that a lot of work that you do should be done for free. This is born out by the ever dwindling pot of money which is designated for commissioning new compositions.   Over the last few years, it has become noticeable that the amount of money spent on commissioning music is becoming more scarce. A commissioning report instigated by Sound and Music organisation (2013-14) stated that commissions are not a significant source of income for composers:
66% of composers stated that they do not find commissions to be a significant proportion of their income. Given that the respondents had an average of 2.65 commissions in 2013 with an average fee per commission of £1,392 it is easy to see why.
They believe that conditions are getting worse:

49% of composers feel that there is less rehearsal/preparation time for new works. 
Although there are more commissions, the amount of money composers receive appears to be less.
74% of composers received the same amount or more commissions in 2013 than in 2012 but only 15% earned more income. We also discovered that those who had been undertaking commissions for more than five years were likely to get more commissions but get paid less per commission.
The ISM report appears to support this view.  In 2011, it published these results to a survey of composition commission rates:




                  Average             Responses
Choral (accompanied) 3,753 54
Choral (unaccompanied) 2,473 45
Choral (with orchestra) 12,119 21
Orchestra (symphony) 8,458 48
Orchestra (with soloists) 9,215 30
Orchestra (chamber) 6,352 44
Ensembles (large chamber) 4,974 45
Ensembles (small) 2,886 49
Ensembles (symphonic wind) 3,440 15
Duo 1,968 40
Solo 2,200 43
Brass band 2,810 14
Jazz orchestra 3,875 4
Jazz big band 3,667 6
Stage works 13,549 38
Electronica A 11,245 9
Electronica B 5,062 9
Electronica C 30,500 2

Although it is difficult to compare across slightly different fields of work, it can clearly be seen that all of the average commissions for 2011 are well above the average of £1,392 reported by the Sound and Music survey in 2013.  In fact the overall average, for 2011 according to ISM  is £7142.  The conclusion is clear; the amount of money spent on commissioning music is being reduced while the number of commissions are increasing.   Therefore, composers are going to have to work a lot harder for the same money. If this trend continues, it won't be long before they will be expected to work for next to nothing.









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