As if the studies were not long and difficult enough:
The vocal apparatus, the breath, the psyche, the musicality, the expression – all the time you’re stuck on another corner and when, after 6 years (that’s as long as a basic study of medicine!), you finally stand on your singer’s feet and are lucky enough to be engaged at a theater, you’re a “beginner” with a basic salary of €2000/month, gross, mind you.
If you’re lucky enough to sing concerts, the concert fee may be as high as a monthly fee at the opera; but that doesn’t happen so often, and you always have to ask if you can get time off at “your” opera house.
If things go well, one can soon negotiate more money, and if one is well “on the road” as a freelancer, the evening fees climb up quickly. You can earn real money as a singer if you are stress-resistant, can cope with not seeing your family for weeks on end, can maintain or improve quality for years and are not precisely a complete social contact idiot. With the money earned, one must budget, but otherwise: yes, great job!
A freelance singer makes sure that s/he has a cushion
- for pregnancy/s
- for disease
- for private pension insurance/retirement provision
- for cushioning any losses due to flooding, storms, strikes, etc.
- And s/he puts money aside because s/he knows that you have to get the maximum cash out of the good years. How long does a soprano “last“?
Now Corona has shown us:
Some theatre and political management decision-makers think that the well-earning singers “could have put something aside” for bad times. The (if any) cancellation fees are only a fraction of the contractually agreed and planned fees. You plan your life, right? If you earn more, you usually live a bit more generously. And if you know that you will earn €40,000 between March and June, you can look a little more relaxed into the summer slump and hope that another production will come in for the autumn.
Some theatres offer 25% and say that even this has been difficult to negotiate politically. Then the singer has €10,000 instead of the expected (and contracted) €40,000, should be grateful for the offer and doesn’t know how this money will be enough for six months. What then? Sure, one attacks the pension plan – the consequences “we’ll get it later”, we don’t worry about that for now.
Many Corona programs only covered operating costs in the beginning: you can get coached, take part in a training course, or create a new website. But the cost of living is usually not suitable for aid programs.
To cut a long story short:
We have to A. FIGHT and B. RETHINK; “the system” never leaves “normal” people without support, but the idea that freelance equals self-inflicted is haunting many minds…
What can you do now?
Together with the groups of singers/music theatre people who are finally showing solidarity:
In Germany: KreaKtiv-musiktheater stands up on Facebook, kreaktiv.art!
In Austria: StimmIG stimm-ig.org
In France: UNISSON unisson.net
In Italy: Assolirica assolirica.it
In Spain: ALE alesindicatolirico.com
In Sweden: Teaterforbundet: teaterforbundet.se
All these groups are highly motivated and are currently creating the International LYRICoalition https://www.lyricoalition.art.
The artists have started to work together in each country with the agencies. The aim is to soon sit around a round table with the theatre directors and politicians to establish fair conditions for the freelancers.
So: join the group in your country. If there is nothing in your country yet, start your own group/page.
- RETHINK YOUR LIFE-PLAN:
BRAINSTORMING is the slightly overused magic word.
Ignite a storm in your brain, which mix your common thinking patterns! Dare to think around the 15 corners that you usually forbid yourself or for which you are generally too comfortable! Take the famous big note and draw a mind map if you are a writer. You can find out how to do this on the Internet, for example, here:
This can look like that, for example:
What else can you do?
Sure, teaching is the obvious alternative, but: if you’re already 40 and have never had the urge to teach anything (for example, tutoring, piano lessons, yoga, or whatever), then maybe it’s not your thing! You can be a good person without wanting to teach:)
If you like teaching, write (for yourself) a teaching concept and think about what kind of teaching you give and what kind of teacher you are/will be.
Distance learning, regular second-degree courses, online courses, weekend seminars…
Let somebody help you think when you are stuck! A good coaching session can help you to solve thinking blockades. You don’t have to go there all the time – a good coach will help you in the first session to continue thinking on your own.
You can also declare coaching as further education and finance it with the Corona-Hilfe or deduct it from your tax bill.
Look into an area you do not know – who knows what is hidden there?
What fascinated you as a child? What did you enjoy doing as a student?
Fill your gaps
You never knew how to use Excel properly? It’s high time you finally learned!
Can you only play the piano badly? Then start practising!
If you sing in Germany: Join the GDBA.
They give legal advice, also for freelancers. After a waiting period of 6 months, you can call on a lawyer; before that, you will also get general help and contacts.
You do not need a new profession because you have a profession you love very much, but you need, we all need an additional perspective!
Have fun with creative searching!