That awkward moment: waiting for your fee

Your performance is over, the concert has finished. You’ve been nervous about it for a while, perhaps, practiced fiendishly and learnt your music. You organised your concert dress, got yourself to the venue in the afternoon and rehearsed for several hours; kicked your heels between the rehearsal and the concert, got changed either in your car or squeezed into the toilet because there was no green room in which the performers could change, and done your bit.

Now comes the difficult part: asking about your fee.

The best performances are those where the fixer, or a representative of the ensemble or society that has hired you for the evening, greets you at the rehearsal and passes you an envelope straight away. (With a cheque in it, that is). There’s no shilly-shallying: you’re a professional, you’ve been booked, here’s your fee; thank you very much, you say, and you can now devote your full concentration to rehearsing and performing.

The worst are those where no-one greeted you as you entered the rehearsal, the concert has finished, and you’re waiting around – perhaps with one or two of the other musicians – for someone to talk to about your being paid. Money is an awkward subject for some at the best of times, but actually having to go, cap-in-hand, to ask is excruciating.

I once did a gig at a restaurant as part of a quartet; we’d diligently practiced our sets, arrived in time to set up and get a feel for the venue, and performed as requested. When we’d finished, we packed away and waited around for someone to come forth with the fee, or at least mention it. No-one. After a period of waiting that felt unending, I eventually went to find the restaurant owner, and bid him a cheery good-bye, thanking him for the gig, in the hope it might prod him into mentioning it.

He didn’t.

Eventually, when I realised he wasn’t going to, I managed somehow – memory has been kind, and erased the actual wording of this particular incident – to bring the subject up. He duly reached into the drawer and produced an envelope, which had been waiting there all the time, along with the wise words that people who don’t ask, don’t get.

(Insert your own adjective + noun here).

I learned my lesson. Make sure the matter is dealt with beforehand, so you know from whom you should be receiving your fee on the day, and when. And now, when I’m dealing with musicians hired for our concerts, I get the envelopes to them at the start of (or during, depending on how many there are!) the afternoon rehearsal. Do the same if you can: they’ll thank you for it.


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