This is intended as friendly guidance to musicians who have been invited to play for us or wish to be invited
How we choose performers and what we pay
We normally invite performers whom we have already heard at other concerts in the area. We seldom invite performers who contact us “out of the blue”. If you do wish to contact us to offer your services please indicate what fees you are expecting, if you do not do this there is no point in contacting us as we have to work with limited budgets and we may not reply to your emails. To give some guidance, for our Farnham concert we typically have to pay £200-£450 to hire a venue and have ticket sales in the range £800-£1200, so we typically pay professionals:
- £300-£600 for a solo performer
- £400-£800 in total for a duo
- £600-£1000 in total for a trio or quartet
In some cases where the performers are playing for fees that are below their normal ones we may agree to pay in addition the amount by which the ticket sales exceed our total costs.
When we put on concerts to give students performing experience we normally provide a small gratuity and this is the case for the Godalming concerts.
We know that the market is over-supplied and fees are very low compared to other professions but we have to work within what we receive from ticket sales and private donations.
We aim to continue contact with young performers and if possible to invite them back again after an interval of around two years. We take great pleasure in the successful development of your career. Many famous performers including Dame Emma Kirkby and Ian Partridge have performed frequently for us in the past.
At present and for the next few years we expect to have limited access to a high quality piano and so our Farnham programme seldom includes a piano. If and when we have easy access to a good piano we will include more piano music.
We prefer not to work with agents because of the poor experiences we have frequently had with them. We have to make exceptions for high profile performers. The main problems that we have with agents are:
- failure to provide direct contact details for the performer for use in last minute emergencies
- failure to provide interesting biographies, and unbelievably in the case of one high profile agent an appalling biography with legal strictures that we should not use it after a specified date, which was before our concert!.
- failure to pass on personal invitations to lunch etc before performances.
We hope that agents will start to understand the customers of their clients better and we are most willing to work constructively with agents who genuinely wish to provide a good service.
PS – We have just been working with YCAT who are managing the Castalian Quartet and we have found YCAT to be a noteworthy exception to the above – communicative and helpful. We hope to use more YCAT performers in future.
We do not normally sign contracts as this does not seem to be really necessary. Instead we agree what we will pay by email and if we intend to pay travelling expenses we will state this explicitly in the email, otherwise you should assume that they are included in the fee. If you are unsure please do not hesitate to ask.
If you have to cancel for reasons beyond your control we expect you to inform us immediately and to try to offer a replacement. We sell tickets up to 4 months in advance and cancellations cause us a great deal of extra work, especially if we have to give refunds.
We will cancel a booking only in extreme circumstances. If we have to cancel more than one month before the concert we do not undertake to pay any compensation. If we have to cancel less than one month before the concert for reasons under our control we will try to pay reasonable compensation. If we have to cancel because another critical performer has themselves cancelled and has not provided a satisfactory substitute we will not pay compensation.
We do have some cancellation insurance through Making Music and if the insurance pays for a cancellation we will use the money to provide reasonable compensation, even above what we have just stated.
We will agree the programme in advance with you. We have found that audiences do vary according to what is played and so we do not allow performers to play what they want, although we will take account of your wishes and the pieces that you currently have “on offer”. We have hosted too many concerts where the performance has been wonderful but we did not enjoy the music. We are very happy to act as a “live rehearsal” for performances at venues such as the Wigmore Hall provided that the programme is likely to appeal to our members.
How we will treat you
We aim to treat you as well as we can in a friendly and informal manner. We welcome you when you arrive in Farnham for rehearsals, we provide tea/coffee and biscuits, we feed you a light supper before the performance and leave the food for you to have a snack during the interval or after the concert, we pay you within a few days after the concert.
If you need it we will try to meet you from Farnham train station and drive you back there afterwards.
We have been told that we treat performers better than almost all other societies.
What we expect from you
Please understand that we are run by unpaid volunteers who do have other commitments.
We expect the following and performers who fail to provide the information needed or who are difficult to communicate with are less likely to be invited back. Conversely performers who are easy for music societies to deal with will receive many more invitations to perform and we do recommend our performers to other societies. We say this in a friendly spirit and hope that it will help you to gain many invitations to play. We need:
Your email address, the best phone number to contact you and within the two days before the performance your mobile number for use in emergencies. Please put your phone number in your email signature.
A reply within 2 days to our emails and any messages that we leave for you. If you are not able to provide any information within this time then please send a one sentence reply indication when you will be able to do so – this confirms to us that you have received our email or message and have the matter in hand – we understand if you cannot reply fully immediately.
One or more photos to use in our flyers, webpage and printed programme. If you are an ensemble we prefer a photo of you all together. If this is not possible then we need head and shoulder photos of each of you with reasonably similar photo backgrounds, so that we can make up a collage, or at least photos of each of you in the same style. The photos need to make you look attractive to the potential audience and to other potential concert organisers, so we want happy looking performers not sullen scowls. Perhaps it is a matter of taste but slightly less formal and slightly side on photos seem to look best (ie shoulders and/or head should point slightly to the side). Have a look as some of the collages we have used for our festivals see what we mean. We suggest smart but not necessarily full blown performance clothes. Anything looking like a “glamour” photo should be avoided so no airbrushing! Sadly we have been sent many photos that do the performers no credit. They also need to be at least 1500 pixels wide – the higher the resolution the better. We need these photos as soon as possible after booking you. In your own interests you should have these readily available and downloadable from your website. It is disappointing what poor photos we are often given, especially by younger players.
Details of your programme as agreed with us as soon as possible after booking you. Where there is one, we need the catalogue number for the pieces to be played and if there both a Opus number and a catalogue number we need both.
Pianists: Please tell us as soon as possible if you will need a page turner or if you can bring a friend who will turn for you – we will pay their travel and a small fee.
An interesting personal biography for inclusion in our programme to be provided at least two weeks before the concert so that we can put it on our website. Sadly the standard type of biography in the classical music industry is AWFUL and most unsuitable (it is a CV not a biography). Our audience want something interesting to read about you, not a list of pieces you have performed, places you have played at and people you have performed with. Things to include are:
- What attracted you to become a musician
- The people who have influenced your career most and why
- What has helped you most in your career so far
- Your favourite composers, music, and performers
- Your hobbies and other interests – the more unusual the better!
- Your long term goals
If it helps to write the biography in the first person “I…” then that is fine with us. We can also write the biography for you from notes that you give us.
Information on any food allergies or preferences (eg vegetarian, vegan, gluten free) to be provided at least two weeks before the concert since we will be providing you with food and do not wish to make you ill!
Your travel plans. We can supply local maps and parking information and collect you from Farnham Station as needed but some venues are only 5 minutes walk away. If three or more of you are travelling together (both directions) by train, please buy a Group Ticket as it saves a lot of money.
Dress smartly and coordinate your clothes if you are a group – although our society is quite informal the human senses are interlinked and the music sounds better if the appearance is good. This is seldom an issue for single performers but if you are part of a group do try to coordinate the colours of your clothes.
Enjoy playing and communicating – smile at the audience and smile at each other – it makes such a difference for the audience.
Talk to the audience – talk about the music you are playing and mention something for the audience to listen out for – again it makes a huge difference.
Play an encore if it is at all appropriate given the programme. It comes across a “thank you” to the audience and is a good way to ensure that you will be invited back again.
Your bank details for payment. We make all payments by electronic transfer so we need your account name, sort code and account number.
And finally, if you hope to be invited back, make your mark by ending a “thank you” email. It seems sad to have to say this but few performers do and such emails mean a lot to the unpaid volunteers who organise the concerts.