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Paying Vocal Soloists for Commercial Recording

I am preparing to produce a commercial recording of late 19th and early 20th century vocal music, so no issue with copyright, thank goodness. What I am seeking guidance on, though, is how much to pay the vocalists (quartet and solo work) contracted for the recording. The artists contribution will be a work for hire, and they will not share in any further compensation past the initial payment for the recording (and some free CDs, because who doesn't love a free CD, am I right?). Anyone out there in Choraland have some words of guidance?
on January 25, 2014 5:59am
Russell, I do several of these a year, both as a conductor and as a producer/engineer. It's hard to say exactly how much to pay because I don't know how much music, how many rehearsals, how many sessions, etc. plus, it's different in Chicago than in New York or Los Angeles or Ames Iowa.
I'd be happy to talk through this with you. There might be some other pitfalls you haven't considered yet as well. Email me at tom (at) and I'll send you phone numbers.
on January 28, 2014 8:37am
Rough guideline:  identity the local music teaching pay per hour range; take an average; pay them by the hour at this average or a little lower.  Most musicians would rather play than teach, so they'll typically accept a bit less as long as it is not an embarrassing admission of lack of work.  
on February 3, 2014 11:36pm
When I was A&R manager for a well-known international commercial classical label about a dozen or so years ago, the going rate was fixed at US$2,000 per soloist, as I recall. I'd imagine it may have gone up since then. That assumes their names are on the cover. For unacknowledged (backing) musicians there should be a standard studio per-service union rate in your area.
Best regards,
Jerome Hoberman
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