Exclusive: UK orchestra takes amicable pay cut

Exclusive: UK orchestra takes amicable pay cut


norman lebrecht

August 12, 2011

One of Britain’s best orchestras has been wrestling with the likely effects of a 7 percent reduction in its Arts Council grant and 9 percent from the local authority, a loss of around £300,000 ($500,000).

After careful, collective deliberation between the players and administrators, the musicians agreed to trim 2 percent off their salaries. Together with a recruitment freeze in certain areas and some changes to working patterns, that ought to cover the deficit.

The enlightened band is the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Simon Rattle’s former organisation. I hear from both players and management that they are content with the outcome and enjoying their summer break.

Over the past decade, base salaries for players in UK regional orchestras have risen from £18,000 to almost £30,000. In that context, a 2 percent cut is a modest, exigent adjustment.

Elsewhere, there’s a rumour going round that the London Philharmonic Orchestra has cut player fees by 3.5 percent. It is strongly denied by a string player’s spouse, who’s in a good position to know what’s what.

Let me know if you hear more of cuts in other orchs.



  • We are enjoying ‘strike season’ in South Africa where various sectors go on strikes (often with violence) for rises far above the inflation rate. It is very refreshing to hear that members of the CBSO have all agreed to take a 2% pay cut to offset the reduction in the Arts Council grant.