French cellist scraps his fees for ‘free’ concerts

French cellist scraps his fees for ‘free’ concerts


norman lebrecht

June 09, 2020

The distinguished French cellist Gautier Capucon has rowed back very fast on his plan to tour France this summer, letting audiences in for free but charging high fees to the local authority. There was general uproar across the music profession when his fees became known.

Gautier now says he’ll go ahead without fees: ‘I understand that small towns do not have a budget for culture. I decided to offer this tour and take care of all the costs. I know that we are going through a major economic crisis. And I hear the suffering of the cultural milieu, devastated by the crisis.’

Read here.



  • Alexander says:

    ….a bit offtopic, what happens to some good fellows who can fiddle ( this american folclore story spills light on the proper behavioral pattern 😉 ) – I found that on the Net……
    (hopefully I will be able to copypaste it)

    One rainy autumn, a traveler got lost in the mountains of Arkansas. He was tired and hungry, and so was his horse. Night was approaching. All at once (suddenly), he saw a cabin. A squatter (farmer) sat on the porch fiddling the same tune over and over.
    The traveler asked the squatter for food and water for himself and his horse. The squatter replied: “Ain’t got a thing in the house.”
    The traveler asked where the next house was. The squatter said: “Dunno. I ain’t never been there.”
    The frustrated traveler asked if he could spend the night. The squatter replied: “House leaks. My wife and me sleep on the only dry spot.”
    “Why don’t you mend the roof?” asked the traveler.
    “Can’t mend the roof on a rainy day.”
    The whole time, the squatter continued to fiddle the same tune, over and over.
    The traveler snapped: “Why don’t you finish that tune?”
    “Can’t get the turn of the tune.”
    The traveler took the fiddle, played the turn of the tune and finished it.
    “Stranger,” said the squatter, “Grab yerself a chair and set down. Sal, cut a hunk outta that deer and cook it. Son, get the whisky and put the horse in the shed. You jest play away, stranger. Tonight, you can sleep on the dry spot!”

    Enjoy if you like 😉

  • CGDA says:

    Of course he would, but only after French musicians went crazy about this!

    People are fed up of performing monkeys that the big labels promote because while these people, as good as they may be, rehash a few works over a long period, others as good as them or better, break their back to learn piece after another in all genres to play in orchestras, chamber groups and solo concerts. Music evolution relies on the latter not on people who are more interested in their big bank accounts than culture.

  • Len says:

    To play for free is just as crazy as the fees he was asking for, but he made his bed and now he doesn’t get to make any money in it.

  • Fiddlist says:

    The power of journalism. Thanks for helping to effect this change.

  • Mike says:

    Right! But, it’s schocking that, with all his savings and earnings up to this point, he would seek to earn money during such a devastating crisis. He has truly showed his absolute lack of ethics or morality. Musicians that show elements of greatness use these kind of times to organize benefit concerts for their colleagues (for example, Petrenko) or to draw attention to the dangerous situation the performing arts are in; or benefits of other kinds. Using the thinned down state resources to keep ones haughty lifestyle is simply very common and very opportunistic. I personally will forever boycott his performances and recordings.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Agreed. Music is NOT about making profit. The money involved is for keeping the art form going, the art form is NOT for earning money. Any money invested in concert life is to keep it up and running, in the best possible conditions. It’s an investment to have its value and meaning available and accessible for everybody. I have always advocated the idea that concert life should be invested in entirely by the state, and free for audiences, as a provision from and for the community. But alas…. etc. etc.

      • Furious says:

        Utter corrosive, communist claptrap, straight from the book of resentment. Who on earth are you to make the claim that music should not make money, with your upper case absolutism? Why should the best artists in the world not be rewarded with a good lifestyle for their years of dedication and investment, the same as in any other profession? Would you tell a footballer that he should entertain the crowds for free, or a doctor that he should feel honoured enough to be saving lives without needing financial reward? Why do you consider music so valuable, but the musicians who make it so utterly valueless? This is the kind of self-loathing insanity that is going to sink the entire profession.

        • CGDA says:

          “Best artists in the world”!

          There are many as good, but they don’t happen to be part of a big record label. How many top orchestral player or soloists never get assigned to a big record label? People assigned to a big record label rehash works over many years, others keep the music alive.

          There is a difference between being well remunerated for your skills, studies and achievements, and sharing a greedy mindset. You mention, football players: their salaries are insanely obscene.

          A bit of balance would do the world a lot of good!

        • John Borstlap says:

          You’ve read the comment completely wrong.

          Investment into the classical music performance culture does not mean not paying for the performers, in contrary, they should be paid handsomely, but by the state, and be entirely independent from the box office, and also from any state invervention in terms of programming and the like. Concerts should be free and all players be paid generously, exactly because they are part of the provision by and for the community. With communism this has nothing to do because under communism, there was no freedom, and music was an instrument of state propaganda.

      • Plush says:

        A nonsense written by you! Completely out of touch with the fact that musicians have families, foundations, business offices to run and to take care of. Music is big business. You write without knowledge and only with a mind full of fantasy.

    • V.Lind says:

      Well, hardly an “absolute lack.” He has withdrawn his demand for fees.

      People make mistakes. He has rectified his.

      If it is a mistake. I am not a performer, so I take no position, but there have been plenty calls in recent days, here and elsewhere, from musicians insisting that offering their work for free is a bad mistake. (Others have taken the other view, that in times of trouble they just want to offer some brightness to others, and simultaneously do what they do — perform).

      M. Capucon may have originally been persuaded by the former argument. He has responded to critical reaction to his plan.

      I don’t see the point in being so absolutist in your judgment. And so unforgiving, when there is no longer anything to complain about.

  • CJ says:

    Yes. Bravo Gautier!

  • Furious says:

    This is madness. Why is classical music the only profession which expects its best practitioners to work for free? Would this happen in more “popular” fields, like tennis, or soccer? And remember, the promoters who kept the proceeds of pre-paid, un-reclaimed tickets during Covid have gone right under the radar, while the freelance artists with whom they had contracts have been dropped without a dime or even a courtesy phone call!

    Sure, some people can’t afford concerts right now, but plenty of people still can, and they WANT to pay the best to hear live music again. His fees were commensurate with his standing in the world of music. Absolutely acceptable, especially two-thirds of it will go to management, expenses, the pianist, and taxes. It is utter madness that the classical community is rightly bemoaning the economic destruction of our industry by Covid, while devaluing itself into oblivion by insisting on free content. This is auto-extinction writ large, and all because of an underlying, political resentment. It is insane!!!!

  • sam says:

    There are 2 constants about the French:
    – They feel entitled to get free stuff
    – They detest seeing other people make more money than them

    Don’t like his fees? Don’t hire him and don’t attend the concert!

    But don’t say: I have a right to a free concert and you have no right to get paid.

    Socialism has warped the the French sense of entitlement.

  • MacroV says:

    I’m not sure I agree with this. He has a right to get a fee if the local organizers are able and willing to pay. I assume the proposed fees are less than he gets for most of his normal gigs. What I find surprising is that anyone would disclose the fee schedule; that’s usually kept pretty close-hold by manager and promoter.

    I would hope the organizers might at least spring for a pianist; playing with a recorded piano seems rather lame.

  • hsy says:

    Musicians who felt disgust at Capuçon receiving a fee should never complain in the future when they are asked to work for nothing. What are you going to say when the management tells you, “why should your work be worth anything when much more famous musicians such as Gautier Capuçon play for free for our community?”

    • Garib says:

      Nobody ever asked GC to play for free. He was as clumsy in creating this controversy as in trying to get out of it. I’m amazed so many people don’t see the problem here: he tried to take advantage of the post-Covid disaster to book a summer tour which he presented as “solidary”, for “symbolic fees”, while he was gonna charge 9800€ for big cities… and this, to perform with an iPad accompaniment! Ethical and musical fraud.

  • jay says:

    Trash is trash no matter how you dress it up .

  • CGDA says:

    Those people going on about the French or France being communist or socialist, need to go and spend a few years there!

  • kaa12840 says:

    Well he gave a lovely free concert to our hospital in New York last Friday (by Zoom of course) and I think someone speaking before him said he was not chargeing anything

  • Jay says:

    Nothing decent here , he backtracked to save his
    frayed reputation.Me thinks he was too clever
    for his own good. He hears the suffering….spare
    us ! It will be interesting to note how many free concerts he gives with this new understanding..

  • George Kennaway says:

    This is uncomfortable reading. It looks like bullying. Musicians are free to ask for whatever fee they like, calculated in any way they like. Some will succeed, some won’t. That’s really it.

  • SVM says:

    The original fees seemed reasonable for a musician of his standing. By scrapping them, he has undermined his fellow professionals and undermined the music profession.