Sunday, December 02, 2012

Why choir leaders aren’t millionaires (even though we charge a lot)

Sometimes I get paid over £100 per hour. That makes me a millionaire right?

Photo by Ian Britton from

Wrong! I don’t get paid that every hour I work. In fact, I would say I spend over 80% of my time in the office not being paid, and only a few hours each week actually doing any paid singing work.

I reckon I average about a 37 hour week. That’s a minimum – some weeks are a lot longer. A typical week might be 30 hours in the office and seven hours leading choirs and running singing workshops.
80% stuck in front of this computer, 20% doing what I love.

I’ve written before about what a typical week of a choir or singing workshop leader might look like (The job of being a choir leader) and how it involves being press officer, song arranger, website maintainer, social media expert, marketing manager, typist, copywriter, database manager, song researcher, publicity designer, sound editor, etc.

But still people think we work just the two hours each week that they see us at choir.
Not only are they unaware of all the office work involved, but they assume I have weekends off like most other people. In fact, I work three weekends out of every four running singing days or whole weekends.

A typical Saturday workshop may well involve a 12 hour day for instance. I set off at 7.30pm for a 2 1/2 hour drive, arriving in plenty of time at 10am to check out the venue and meet the organisers (and grab a coffee!) before a 10.30am start. We’ll then work through until 4.30pm when it’s time to tidy up, pack away and chat to a few participants. If I’m lucky I’m on the road by 5pm, arriving home at 7.30pm.

So, yes, our hourly fee might seem very high, especially compared to those on the national minimum wage or who work for the local education authority. But we’re only paid for the practical singing sessions we run and that payment needs to cover the 80% of the week when we’re doing the administration to support the practical work. Like all freelancers we also don’t get paid when we’re sick.

This is not a sob story. I’m not asking people to feel sorry for us (we are, after all, doing one of the best jobs in the world!). I just wanted to demonstrate the huge amount of background work that your choir leader does – unpaid.

I’ve heard several instances of choir leaders trying to negotiate their fee with their choir committee and individuals balking at the huge hourly rate they were asking for. Or people who want to book a singing workshop and think it should cost just £50 for a day’s work.

I hope this gives you an insight into the unseen work of your choir leader. A choir leader is for life, not just for Wednesdays nights!

You might also be interested in: How much are you worth?

Chris Rowbury's website:

Chris Rowbury


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