How much money do professional musicians make

What fee can I charge?

Musicians' fees for concerts, dance events and lessons

Conduct fee negotiations properly

The issue of gage is a central issue and very often also a problem between us musicians on the one hand and organizers and clients on the other. Fee negotiations for musical and music educational services are often seen from completely different perspectives by the two sides, which is why it is not easy to set up general theses and to exchange the right arguments. But why is it like that?

On the one hand, the group of amateurs mixes with that of professionals in making music / music lessons like in hardly any other industry. Regarding the terminology, it must be said that an amateur is someone who does not have to earn a living with his musical activity, whereas this is the case with a professional musician. For example, those who are intensely interested in brain surgery will hardly ever have the opportunity to put their knowledge into practice despite their passion and intensive study of books. It is different with musicians, who are free to indulge their passion at any time, whether with or without a degree and diploma, and of course to earn money with it, and that is a good thing in a free country.

Amateurs who otherwise pursue a regular profession can often call other prices than a professional musician who pays tax on this income, often has to pay into the artist's social security fund and make a living with him. And that professional musicians play their instrument on a completely different level than amateurs is not fundamentally true. The career of a passionate amateur musician often differs only insignificantly from that of the budding professional until the end of his school career, and it is during this time that the qualities that are commonly subsumed under the vague term "talent" are formed. And so it is only the few years of studying music and / or the extra experience that ultimately makes the difference between a professional and an ambitious hobby musician. In fact, I have to admit that I know a lot of excellent amateurs and various excellent professionals who have never seen the inside of a conservatory, but on the other hand also some studied musicians who make me frown.

The categorization is therefore extremely complicated, even if musicians with a solid education and experience in statistical mean certainly have the higher qualifications and skills.

The teaching activity

Although teaching is often a major component of income, good instrumental / vocal skills are necessary, but not necessarily sufficient, evidence of the quality of a teacher. For this reason, it is also difficult for me to advise in general and explicitly to attend public music schools, just because a diploma / bachelor / master is often required as a hiring criterion and, on the other hand, to categorically speak out against private music teachers / music schools. The degree alone or the lack of it unfortunately says nothing about the educational quality of the teacher and sometimes not about the quality of the musician.

But here, too, we immediately encounter the next problem: Consumers or schoolchildren's parents often cannot judge the qualitative difference between the providers. If this does not play a central role at dance events, as long as the mood is right and the hut is boiling, some things can go wrong, especially with beginners' lessons, if the foundation stone is built on sand. If one demands a certain level of quality in public school lessons and does not want to leave anything to chance, then instrumental or vocal lessons are seen as a luxury that is not subject to strict "controlling". The parents often have no choice but to rely on the fact that the music school will already offer decent staff.

My tip to the legal guardians: Attend trial lessons or open lessons, have diplomas shown and seek a personal conversation!

(Image: © Valentin Behringer)

On the subject of price policy, one could argue that the market will take care of it, but the reality shows that professional musicians are often fighting a downward price spiral and are exposed to competition from amateur musicians, which makes it very difficult to demand realistic hourly wages. It is not uncommon to see advertisements like: "Offer guitar lessons for 15 euros an hour!" It goes without saying that a professional musician cannot work for such an hourly rate and that parents often do not have the specialist knowledge to differentiate between qualities cannot be blamed on them.

Tragically, it doesn't look much better when it comes to payment at municipal music schools, be it within the framework of a service contract or as a permanent position, but also for teaching assignments. Hourly rates (gross) of 23-28 euros per 45 minutes are almost the norm here. If one assumes the number of hours of a primary school teacher, which in Germany averages 28 hours per week (plus preparation time, which is also required as an instrument teacher), an hourly wage of 25 euros and 36 annual teaching weeks results in a gross monthly wage of around 2,100 euros , which corresponds to about 1400 euros net for tax class I. For comparison: a Bavarian elementary school teacher earns a gross gross of 3,400 - 4,400 euros depending on the length of the career - salary increases of this magnitude are hardly planned for music school teachers.

1,400 euros net after a four-year university diploma course with few opportunities for advancement is really no reason to celebrate, and the fact that one can only recommend studying music to a very limited extent in the land of Bach and Beethoven should not please anyone interested in culture. And as long as music is a negligible luxury not only in our schools, nothing will change that.

You have a little more luck if you can still get hold of one of the few jobs in the public service that are sown and in the process of being cut. There they are paid according to the TVöD (collective agreement for the public service), but these salaries at 2,500 - 3,600 euros, depending on the level, are still well below the salary of a primary school teacher, depending on the level of employment.

In many cases, private music schools are around a third less than the hourly wages of local music schools. Since very young teachers often teach here and the pop / rock branch is usually more attractive than at many city music schools, such institutions are very popular with the student body.

If the hourly wages are actually well below the municipal wages, I can only appeal to every musician, provided that one can afford to categorically reject this pricing policy. Hourly rates of less than 20 euros for 45 minutes are, in my very private view, simply yield.

Other providers are sponsorship or music associations that offer music lessons. Here, too, it is important for the parents to inquire about the qualifications of the teachers and for the musicians to demand payment in an appropriate amount. Some development associations pay hourly wages in the amount of the municipal music schools.

The Tonkünstlerverband Baden-Württemberg has the following recommendations, based on the ver.di fee table for freelance music teachers at music schools from February 1, 2017 (this provides for a minimum standard of 43.70 euros for 45 minutes for music teachers with a degree and 6 years of professional experience) pronounced for teaching activity:

Individual lessons without an annual contract:

  • 35 euros per individual lesson of 30 min
  • 50 euros per single hour of 45 min
  • 70 euros per individual lesson of 60 min

Lessons in an annual contract:

In the case of an annual contract that includes 36 lessons and is converted to 12 months, the hourly rate is slightly reduced (30 euros (30 mins), 45 euros (45 mins), 60 euros (60 mins) x 36: 12)

  • 90 euros per month for 30 minutes per school week
  • 135 euros per month for 45 minutes per school week
  • 180 euros per month for 60 minutes per school week

(Source: Tonkünstlerverband Baden-Württemberg e.V. - What does art cost?)

Surely it will be difficult for one or the other instrumental teacher to call up such prices, and many music students will possibly jump off at such hourly rates. On the other hand, you also need significantly fewer students to meet your monthly workload, the quality of the lessons increases and the teacher's nerves become more resilient, all of which are factors that benefit both teachers and students.

A day of class that extends five times a week from 1.30 p.m. to 8 p.m. cannot permanently include good teaching, and yet I know musicians who (have to) do just that!

Music schools of course also have a social mandate and nobody wants music lessons to be closed to the ALGII recipient or the offspring of a single mother, but here the state, the state and the municipality are in demand and certainly not the individual instrumental teacher.

When negotiating a contract, I also advise demanding the right to one or two paid sick days per year, which must be paid for by either the parents or the facility. In my opinion, catching up on lessons in the event of illness is absurd and also not feasible for a teacher with full hours of study after two weeks of illness.

My personal advice, detached from the above tariff recommendations, is: Take a monthly gross wage that you are okay with, assume a weekly number of lessons of 26 - 28 and an annual number of lessons of 36 and then break this number down to the individual lessons. In my opinion, you will then roughly reach the above figure and arrive at a gross hourly rate that corresponds to that of a primary school teacher.

It is a sad testimony of our time that neither the state nor a large part of society are prepared to pay so little recognition and pay for a job that differs only insignificantly from that of a primary school teacher or other pedagogue. And it should come as no surprise that under these circumstances the discounter mentality, which one is sometimes forced to adopt, does not stop at pedagogical professions.

The gambling activity

When performing, it is always important to distinguish whether it is purely service activities, your own project that you want to promote, or whether you are playing as a "sideman" in a live band for certain artists.

For musical services (music), be it for weddings, vernissages or dance celebrations, the Tonkünstlerverband recommends:

Weddings / funerals:

  • 200 euros plus travel expenses

Weddings / Events:

  • 500 euros (3 hours including breaks) + 100 euros for each additional hour plus travel costs, earlier set-up + possible overnight stay

Vernissages / musical frameworks with attendance of approx. 1-1.5 hours:

  • 300 euros plus travel expenses


(Source: Tonkünstlerverband Baden-Württemberg e.V. - What does art cost?)

Here, too, the figures from the Tonkünstlerverband are guidelines that are sometimes difficult to implement in practice. Personally, however, I think it is customary in the industry to definitely not play service music for less than 80 euros an hour (net), that is, not to offer a five-hour event below the 400-euro mark per musician.
Make sure that the contract marks the start and end of the game, i.e. 8 p.m. to midnight and not the actual playing time of the program! It is not uncommon for weddings and other events to take place that interrupt your performance, and that is well and good, but does not extend your playing time. You are present and ready to provide the agreed service. If the organizer wants to fill the time with other activities, he must of course also bear that. Extensions can be paid extra, and indeed at a higher hourly rate than the regular time, as well as longer journeys, early sound check times and travel costs.

Anyone who frequently offers appearances of this kind is well advised to formulate a watertight contract in order to avoid any discrepancies.

(Image: © Fotolia, erika8213)

When it comes to sideman activities, it depends a lot on the level of awareness of the act, but also of course on you, to what extent you believe in the band and are willing to consider a lower salary as an "investment good" in the project. Even with bands that are signed to major labels, it can happen that the first shows / tours are paid for with 130 - 200 euros per show. Personally, I think that as a musician you can do that as a "startup" if you insist on at least 250 euros per show after about 1-2 years.

The reality in Germany, apart from the mega-acts like Maffay or Grönemeyer, is around 250 - 500 euros.

You shouldn't forget that playing in bigger acts naturally also enjoys a higher reputation, usually includes good hotel rooms or nightliners, solid catering and larger stages and can be very important and healthy for the self-image as a musician.

It's very similar with your own band project. The beginning is investment work and you can block yourself valuable opportunities if you enter the fee negotiations with the same prices as you would call them at a gala. Showcases and TV or radio appointments are sometimes free of charge, support shows even cost!

Here it is important to show sensitivity and always make decisions depending on the situation, because at the beginning you want something from the organizer - not the other way around!

In the case of musical shows, it often depends on who is responsible for it (e.g. private or city theater) and whether you have a permanent position in the orchestra. Prices from 120 to 250 euros are possible, with rehearsals and travel expenses being reimbursed separately. Ultimately, the "package price" often makes the job so attractive, because musicals usually have a longer duration and, once they are well rehearsed, take up relatively little time with around three hours including a break.

In this genre, too, I recently received an offer to play a musical for 67.50 euros per show and without travel costs in a locally renowned venue. As a musician, something like that should of course be boycotted with all your might and I still feel sorry for the young lady who asked me on the phone when I asked.

In general, you should ask for an appropriate fee for playful activities that are financed by the public sector (i.e. state / state / municipality). Culture budgets that are too small do not become larger because they can be fobbed off too cheaply and this signal should be sent out if you can afford it.

" ... And the moral of the story' ..."

My very personal conclusion is that for most musical activities that are not of a service provider nature, you always have to individually weigh up whether and at what rate you accept an offer. Quite legitimate motives are, for example, that you can learn a lot, that the musicians are so good that you like the songs, that you get around, etc.
For these reasons, it is also difficult to give general price guidelines and you should always keep the options open to make individual decisions that you can justify in front of yourself!

Nevertheless, I think that all professional and non-professional musicians, both when teaching and when playing in the context of a service activity - we're not talking about your own band project that you want to advance and promote - should demand a certain minimum price.

I am aware of the problem that not everyone is in the comfortable position of rejecting offers, no matter how outrageous they may be. Those who can, however, should do so out of respect for themselves and their craft. Art is subject to constant price dumping and changes can only be brought about if all musicians pull together. Anyone who plays for too low a fee or for free undermines the performance and existential situation of all musicians and does not contribute to making the profession more attractive. Already today there is a decline in the number of registrations for music education courses (see also: Deutschlandfunk: Musikschulen - "We will have no more teachers in 10 years"), and I would find it extremely deplorable if a figurehead of European culture goes to the dogs.

Ultimately, we have that in our hands to a certain extent!

If you are interested in the work of the Tonkünstlerverband and its regional associations, you will find it here:

Surveys and suggestions regarding the musician's wages come from:

The umbrella organization can be found here:

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