Should there be a minimum wage for musicians? Sure! But should it be equivalent to the national minimum wage? I’ll try to answer this in the following post.
As I was browsing the latest job opportunities in a certain website for professional musicians, I encountered a Guitarist Wanted ad. Great, I thought to myself, let’s check it out… Wait, what is this figure, £8.21? Oh, the hourly rate. Right.
Where did this weird sequence of digits come from? A quick check and voila – it’s the national minimum wage. OK… Apparently the government raised it from £7.83 last April. Hurrah! This country really values its workers…
So as a musician who spent hours on learning, practising, recording, performing, touring… Not to mention the thousands of pounds on guitars, gear, necessary accessories, studios, guitar teachers, degrees, diplomas, certificates… After all that, I get the same wage as when I was working in a fast food chain during my secondary school years?
Well, one could argue that they probably adverted to the less experienced musicians who want to make a name for themselves, gain experience and bulk up their CV. In addition, the gig does sound really cool and the total sum (after 160 working hours) seems decent. And I’m sure that many have already applied. But those who applied, didn’t they also spend hours on honing their skills? Didn’t they also spend money on guitars, gear, lessons…? After all, the job requires someone who has experience and is “credible, versatile, an emerging individual with recognisable credits.”
Minimum wage for musicians: who’s right?
Perhaps the employer has got it right? The economy is not great, Brexit, anyone can play guitar, musicians are a plenty and there is more supply than demand. And maybe the employer doesn’t have a choice? Low budget, small company, volunteer-based, charity. (Don’t get me started on when musicians are expected to work for free and even pay to play themselves).
My answer? In addition to the expertise I mentioned above, which I believe should have more value, we need to take the circumstances into account as well. This ad is not for a permanent job. There’s no pension, no holidays, no sick days, no benefits… It’s just a short-term contract that will leave you in the same situation afterwards plus some cash for the few weeks to come and a credit for your resume. And yes, musicians are usually self-employed. It means that they need to pay their own taxes, their pensions, their sick pay, travel expenses…
In conclusion, professional and experienced musicians and guitarists should earn at least 5 times the minimum wage. So this opportunity isn’t very appealing.
What is the bottom line?
First of all, I’ve sent a link of this rant post as my “application” for this role, so maybe they could rethink their terms.
Second, the world needs music but with continuous exploitation of musicians the quality degenerates inevitably.
Third, I don’t know. I’m just ranting. Maybe professional musicians should unite and rant all together to make a difference? Oh wait, there is already an organisation called The Musicians Union. Surely its aim is to help musicians, but how much does it charge its members? £221 per year (although they are now offering £1 for 6 months for new members). Should we pay a union to help us get paid better? Isn’t it ironic…? Although their best feature is their Getting Paid section which is free.
Fourth, this case is actually better than other jobs I saw on the same website that require guitarists and musicians to play for free. All of these advertisers should publish their “opportunities” under the following title: Amateur Guitarists/Musicians needed. Otherwise, it’s just insulting.
What do you think about this matter? Comment below!