What Makes a Gig Worth It?

Anne Wieben should know - just look at this fun picture from a very special production of Strass's Die Fledermaus - in Aschmach Markt, Austria on the 6th, find out more here!

I truly believe there is enough work out there for all of us professional musicians, and I say this with confidence because every one of us has a different idea of what makes a gig 'worth it'. As the saying goes, “one man’s treasure is another man’s trash” ; your dream job may be a total no-go for someone else! Like so many aspects of this career, determining whether a job is 'worth it' is completely up to you. Particularly for the freelancers among us, it is important to figure out if saying yes to a gig is actually worth it.

Over the years, I have figured out what I need to get out of a singing gig in order for it to be worth the time and effort it requires but first things first: I believe paying a professional musician is not optional. I need to walk away from a gig with more money in the bank than when I said “yes”. If the costs of doing a job (travel, materials, food, hotel) add up to more than the fee, my answer is clear “no”. (More on this subject to come in a future post).

If I am going to take on a project, I need it to fulfill at least two of the following four requirements:
1. The role or the venue is important
2. I get the chance to make genuinely good connections with other singers, conductors, musicians, agencies, directors, VIPs, press, etc
3. I am personally or artistically invested in the project, for example premiering a new work by a composer I support, working for a charity or cause I believe in, outreach etc.
4. I am getting paid extremely well i.e. far above average

These requirements ensure - for me!- that the balance between the amount of effort and the 'pay back' stays on an even keel. Every job leads to the next, so I make sure to only say yes to jobs that put me in a position to get a similar or better job in the future.

Here are a few real-life examples:
Would I travel hundreds of kilometres and spend two weeks away from home to sing a role that is not in my fach for a birthday party? No (fulfills no requirement)
Would I go on tour around Germany singing the lead role in one of the most popular operas with a cast of young up-and-coming singers and conductors? Yes. (fulfills no.1 and 2)
Would I spend a weekend in Graz and sing the opening show for an AID Charity Ball? Yes (fulfills no.2 and no.3)
Would I jump in to do a world premiere at a renowned modern music festival, including a live broadcast on Austrian Radio? Yes (fulfills all requirements--Jackpot!)
How about €50 to sing four arias at the opening of a ball? No (again, fulfills no requirement)

Of course there are exceptions, but I find this list to work pretty well for me. How about you? What makes a gig “worth it” for you? Let us know in the comments below!

Anne Wieben is a freelance operatic soprano, currently residing in Vienna, Austria. For more information, check out her HELLOSTAGE profile Anne Wieben or visit her website: www.annewieben.com!
Author: Anne Wieben / edited by Nina HELLO STAGE
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