excuse me?

Direct from phone, names changed, thoughts in [brackets], live conversation to the best of my memory. Scout’s honor.

Singer: (3:15) Hello my name is (Full name) and I am currently looking for a voice accompanist that could play for my lessons at 4:45 to 5:15pm Monday OR 4:30 to 5:00
Singer: (3:15) on Wednesday.

Now we all know how I feel about introductory text messages, so already she’s off to a bad start. But look how she worded it. She didn’t use my name, she said she’s “looking for a voice accompanist” that could fit her schedule, no other details. This was a mass text. A mass f*cking text.

How to respond… how to respond. “How many people did you send this to? Call me if you’re sincerely interested.” “Please call me or email me.” Or I could just ignore it altogether.

After consulting many expert professional opinions (two good friends I encountered in the hallway and my friend I was real-time updating via text), I settled on the less-bitchy yet still ya’-dun-goofed:

Me: (3:31) i only respond to initial requests via phonecall or email. looking forward to hearing from you!

Surprisingly, she called me almost immediately. Here is what happened. (Please note: I cannot accurately depict how many times I had to interrupt her to get a word in edgewise. Assume everything I said was like sticking my foot in the door.)

Singer: Hi, I just texted you?
Me: Yes?
Singer: Yeah, I’m taking lessons through the school of music [a non-major, okay] and need an accompanist for my lessons (lengthy rehash of what she already said.) So can you do either of those times?
Me: Well I have to tell you, I can’t do the Wednesday time, so it would have to be the Monday time. Who’s your teacher, anyway?
Singer: (Teacher’s name.)
Me: Oh, I know her.
Singer: Yeah, the other thing is we have studio from 2:30-3:30, but it’s only every other week. Do you also have that open? Because we also have to be at that. I wouldn’t be singing every week, just once or twice, and it would only be for ten minutes…
Me: [HOLY COW SHUT UP] (interrupting) ACTUALLY I do have that time open, I keep it open because studio and forum is always…
Singer: (interrupting) Oh, okay good. And can I ask your rates? Like what do you charge weekly or hourly or…
Me: I charge a flat $120 a month.
Singer: Oh… (silence) so does that like include times outside of lessons? Like if I wanted to meet with you during the week or…
Me: [isn’t that what “flat rate” means?] It’s a flat $120. If you wanted to see me 5 times a week [like that would ever happen], it would still be $120.
Singer: Oh, okay. [She doesn’t seem too thrilled about that – all of my other singers jumped at that number, wonder what that’s about?] Well, I also contacted Angel [Haha! She pronounced it in English. I’m not gonna correct her. He’ll tell her.] and I when I find out what his rates are I’ll get back to you.
Me: [… I already know you’re comparative accompanist shopping from your text. Don’t be that person.] Uh, alright. Thanks for calling.
Singer: Bye!

I guess that went better than the girl who treated me like a used car, but not by much? Before I had too much time to get more peeved over it, she called back:

Singer: I just talked with Angel

and his rate is also $120 a month. Are you willing to lower yours?
Me: [?!?!?!] Ah, no, that’s my rate.
Singer: Oh, okay well I guess I’m going to go with him then.
Me: Okay well have fun! [Probably not the best choice of words but whatever.]
Singer: Alright!
Me: Thanks for calling!
Pleasantries, good-byes, etc.

Lower my rates? Lower… what? Excuse me?

1. I am not going to lower my rates just for the privilege of working with you, so I can “voice accompany” you over someone else. Whether that was your intention or not, that’s how it sounds. I’m not an institution, I’m not recruiting you. I’m offering my services. Take it or leave it. I won’t be offended when you go with someone else.
2. This is not a price-war or a bargaining business. We price ourselves believing that you pay for what you get, and you get what you pay for. We price ourselves according to what we think we are worth. If you want someone cheaper, go find someone cheaper. I believe I am worth what you will get from me, at $120 a month.
3. Asking me to lower my rate is basically an attack on my professional dignity. It’s insulting. “Yeah, you say you’re worth this much, but how about less? I’d really like the quality that you offer, but I don’t really want to pay that much.” No.
4. My rates are in line with everyone else’s. I’m not going to undercut the competition. That’s dirty. If I wanted to do that, I would already be charging much less.

Am I right? Several people say she was perfectly justified in asking, that in the service industry (as we accompanists are) bargaining is expected, and that I’m overreacting. I’ll give her credit for having the balls to actually say that, but no. My rate isn’t advertised as $120 a month “or best offer”. I worked hard to get to where I could feel confident asking $30 an hour instead of $25. You don’t go earn a handful of performance degrees to then have non-majors pit you against each other in a bidding war.

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7 Comments

Filed under adventures in accompanying, this actually happened

7 responses to “excuse me?

  1. No, I would not lower your rates. You, as Suze Orman would say, are “not for sale.”

    Also, why is she going with him if his rate is also $120/month? Maybe they’re a better fit, but I’m raising my sexism eyebrow.

    (Yes, if I’m overreacting, please correct me. Soon.)

    • I wondered about that too. Maybe because he sounded friendlier on the phone. I was already miffed when she called the first time, and she didn’t do anything to alleviate my mood.

  2. alison thomas

    True- She can ask whatever she wants… But I’m glad you didn’t lower your rates for that peach!
    Stay strong, you vocal accompanist, you!

  3. Good for you! I go through the same thing here. I charge the same rates for doing recording sessions down the line, whether it’s for friends or for someone I don’t even know. If you want this kind of work from me, you pay what you ask for. If you want less, you pay less. I’m not down for changing my rates, mainly to be fair. If you changed for her, how would your other instruments of mass (or lack thereof) react?

    • Absolutely! I have one set of fees for people doing recitals and another set for non-recitals. No negotiating. It’s based on fairness to their finances, my time, and the market. I’m not changing for one person because they asked me to.

  4. I only say this because she’s a non-major, but the fact that the majority of people not involved in music think that they can bargain for our services really irks me. Good for you for not bargaining with her!

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