Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Artists Fees in the Classical Music World... No Biggie

I did one last concert with George [Maciunas], the big Fluxus concert, where I conducted at Carnegie Recital Hall, and he traded me my fee. I composed a piece for this program, because my whole problem with George was getting money out of him for performance of a work. I composed a piece that was called Composition 1965 dollars 50. The way this composition went was, I would stand behind the curtain somewhere on one side of the stage, and George would stand behind the curtains at his side of the stage. When my piece came up we would walk to the center of the stage, he would hand me an envelope with 50 dollars, and I would shake his hand.
La Monte Young
Some people seem to be making a big deal of the fact that certain big-name classical musicians get paid tens of thousands of dollars per concert (follow up blog post here).  But is it really much of a suprise that Philip Glass can earn $36,000 for a solo piano concert?  The music world's a superstar-driven industry, just like the world of professional sports, visual art, business CEOs, and so forth.  So what if Helen Grimaud gets E16,000 for a gig?  A decade ago, Paul McCartney earned over $60,000,000 per year from live performances alone (to find out who else was among the top 35 earners, check out p. 71 of Alan Krueger's "Rockonomics" article here).

Naturally, if you don't think anyone should be earning that kind of money in general, that's a defensible viewpoint too.  (Not everyone's down with Robert Nozick.)

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