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Good news: Theatre doubles musicians’ fees after outcry on Slipped Disc

The King’s Head Theatre, Islington, has decided to raise the fees of musicians it employs to £60 for a 1 hour set (and £60 per 3 hour rehearsal or part of session). This follows an outcry on Slipped Disc after the theatre was found advertising slave-labour wages on the Arts Council England website.

kings head

In order to pay the extra costs, the theatre will have to double its usual ticket price to £35. Let’s see how that pans out.

The decision was a voluntary one, taken by a conscientious arts venue. It will be posted shortly, without fanfare, on the Musicians Union website.

A spokesman for the King’s Head told Slipped Disc: ‘We strongly believe that no potential audience member should be excluded from attending our opera and theatre productions due to the cost of tickets, but in the case of these concert performances we felt it was appropriate to increase our ticket prices in order to increase the fee we are able to offer to musicians, because these concerts are unique in our programming. The musicians will still, of course, be paid the agreed fees whether or not we sell any tickets – exactly as it should be.’

We congratulate the King’s Head on their prompt and reasoned response to public concerns. Here’s some work in progress:


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  1. Well that’s good news, congratulations on the success of this campaign. I don’t suppose anyone will go to see it now at £35 a ticket but at least the starving musicians (and they still won’t be pros at that rate) will get more beer money. Just hope they spend it in the King’s Head!

    Less good news for the producer who now has to find a few hundred quid from elsewhere in the budget to cover both the shortfall in sales and the increased production costs.

    Less good news for the punter taking a chance on a piece of new theatre who finds their ticket price increased and might decide they’d rather watch X Factor at home instead (on which the performers are paid nothing, by the way, and the producers are hardly impoverished).

    Less good news for other experimental theatre producers who want to pitch to the Kings Head. Now they must prove they have deep(er) pockets because everyone’ll be scared of the tabloid outrage that will ensue if the “wages” are not enough.

    Less good news for the reputation of opera as being something only the rich can afford to indulge in.

    Less good news for the bar staff who will be told not to work a shift that night because – well you get the idea. The money has to come from somewhere, it doesn’t get magicked up out of thin air and seeing as there is no ACE grant involved I assume also it didn’t get taken out of some hapless taxpayer’s pocket!

    By comparison I have just been sent a flyer for the ROH’s “Written on Skin” (an opera by the “other” more famous Benjamin!) Tickets cost from just £3 with a range for every pocket up to £65. No doubt it’s a first rate production, everyone is being paid extremely well and money can even be found to send me a glossy leaflet several times over, at the other end of the country and very unlikely to pop to London for a night out. But what’s this? An Arts Council logo! So that’s OK then, the taxpayer is funding it so cost is no object and the real world can safely be ignored.

    How on earth you expect the next generation to fund itself in fringe venues when you raise hell at their perfectly sound business sense and force them to end up charging ridiculous prices, I don’t know. And you wonder why we end up with bread and circuses?

    • hard up pro says:

      “the starving musicians (and they still won’t be pros at that rate) ”
      120 quid for a 3 hour rehearsal and a show? That’s more than the LSO/Philharmonia pay isn’t it? I take it you don’t have to play for a living?

      • Well if the rehearsal and the show are on different days, it’s not what the LSO etc would pay. I don’t even think that’s what the MU recommend. Admittedly if it’s £120 for a 3 hour rehearsal including a show, that’s pretty fine pay. But I don’t think that’s what it is (I might be wrong)

        No I don’t earn my living playing but I am paid to play, if that matters…

        • hard up pro says:

          Ok, not meaning to have a go at you, but if it is 60 quid a call I think that is more than eg doing a Nutcracker at the Colly or for that matter (haven’t done it for years now) depping a Barbican concert.

          Maybe it’s time for another article on UK musos pay Norman?!

          • Well that’s interesting, so the original £30 wasn’t far off the mark either then and not the “slave labour” that Norman claimed it to be, causing an “outrage” and forcing the theatre to double their prices and (at a guess) more than half their audience as a result. To say nothing of the long term damage caused. One might quite reasonably expect to get less at fringe theatre than for “Nutcracker at the Colly”! – which has been my point all along.

  2. What exactly has a trailer for OperaUpClose’s Elisir (a production which is about half-way through its run) to do with a planned series of concerts by Charles Castronovo?

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