Musician slams pitiful orchestra fees in live festival broadcast

Musician slams pitiful orchestra fees in live festival broadcast


norman lebrecht

August 17, 2021

The Austrian rock musician Alexander Köck popped up on camera at a televised concert to denonouce the pitiful fees paid to orchestral performers by the public broadcaster ORF.

At the ‘100 Years of Burgenland’ event, Alexander Köck of the Cari Cari band said: ‘I would like to thank everyone, but I still want to say something. The ladies and gentlemen over there in the orchestra are getting paid 30 euros for playing today. In cultural Burgenland, at ‘100 Years of Burgenland’, in a social democratic country, I find it particularly embarrassing after Corona, and I find it even more embarrassing when you know there is enough money during Corona (to pay) two directors at the Mörbisch Seefestspiele.’

There was an instant rebuttal on air from the ORF presenter Alfons Haider, who is one of the directors of the Mörbisch Seefestspiele.

The campaigning mezzo-soprano Elisabeth Kulman popped up shortly afterwards on social media: ‘I can’t say how excited I am that more and more musicians are breaking decades of silence and dare to denounce abuses.’



  • anon says:

    The pay was pittance.

    But if the orchestra had gotten a better offer elsewhere, they would’ve played elsewhere.

    No one is willing to pay ME 30 euros to hear me play.

    • David says:

      Ladies and gentlemen, this comment right here exemplifies the mentality of the cry-baby right wingers who think that their misfortune and lack of competence/talent must extend to everyone, and therefore, denounce anyone as being entitled if they ask to be treated fairly and better than they themselves can ever imagine being treated.

      Anon, unless you are a working musician in an orchestra of equal caliber, you comparing yourself to them is harrowingly insulting and disrespectful to them.

      • John says:

        Right on David. As a working professional musician, I concur. While I’m not sure what “right wing” or left wing for that matter has anything to do with anonymous’ post. A working musician In The eyes of the public, the professional musician is on par with the neighbors that people have who play in a community orchestra for their enjoyment, and is rarely viewed as an occupation, and most often viewed as a hobby that is done for fun. On the contrary, while performing great works and making music for profit, can be enjoyable at times, but. OST of the the time, it’s hard work, mentally challenging, and frustrating. To scoff at the thought that we shouldn’t be paid a living wage for our expertise, knowledge and skill, is insulting. Anon. Tell that to your Plummer the next time you need your pipes cleaned because after all, they do it for fun.

  • Kira Levy says:

    Bravo !

  • Alastair Orr says:

    What did ORF have to say in their reply to this performer’s comments?

  • Paul says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t that a student orchestra? In the video it looked like no one in the orchestra was over the age of 17 nor had completed school. So then the question is: how much is an appropriate fee to pay a youth orchestra?

    And as for the festival having 2 directors, wasn’t that also immediately debunked? Haider said „Wir haben nicht zwei Intendanten, wir haben einen künstlerischen Leiter und einen Intendanten.“

    That sounds like they have an artistic director and an executive director which would be quite common.
    Much ado about nothing?

    • Paul says:

      Of course, I am not supporting the concept of paying professional musicians only 30 Euros, but I’m merely asking about what conditions would be correct for such a student orchestra.

      The guitarist who made that speech admits that he and his band were being paid more than 30.

      The whole thing can be viewed here:

      • David says:

        Yes, that’s a good point. Some people in the orchestra look older though. Thank you for the link to the video, but I wonder if anyone can translate the conversation to English? How does the director defend the 30 euros?

    • Mathias Broucek says:

      And a related question is the reason for engaging a student orchestra. If that’s normal for the festival and/or is specifically aimed to give the players more experience then that’s OK. But if it’s to save money relative to hiring real professionals then that’s a dangerous direction to go in.

    • Nataldana says:

      So outrageous! No, it was music college students performing!! All rehearsals and the Gala for 30€, yeah this is completely adequate or..? Do you know how many years they already paid for their education? Since childhood!! From what are they supposed to pay their instruments, strings, sheet music etc.etc.? From working at McDonalds?! AND – Festspiele Mörbisch indeed have two artistic directors: the former one (that suddently got kicked out because he was not friends with the new Governor of the state of Burgenland) and the new one, this imbarrasing guy called Alfons Haider. The old one is under contract until August 2022 so he will still be on their paylist for another year. The new governor wants more “light” entertainement like musicals,not dreary stuff like Opera. That is why he hired a new artistic director, his friend Haider. So – he must pay for two artistic directors for the next year! For that, there is plenty of money but only tiny breadcrumbs for the musicians… that was exactly the fact, that Mr.Köck critized.

    • Vienna calling says:

      Sounds like… you should do some research. Peter Edelmann has been the Artistic Director since 2018 with a contract until 2022 but they already hired A. Haider who, whatever his job title, cancelled the originally planned Merry Widow to put on The King and I (because he wants to play the King. He cannot sing but he is in with the politicians in Burgenland – it’s an Austrian thing). The two do not cooperate and only communicate via angry newspaper interviews. For one year, Peter Edelmann is going to be Artistic Director in name only.

  • Leon Bosch says:

    Might this candour catch on in the UK?

  • V. Lind says:

    Took a rocker to make any waves — apparently the campaigning mezzo’s protests were falling on deaf ears.

    • BRUCEB says:

      Nobody tells rockers to shut up and sing/ nobody wants to hear their opinions/ they live pampered lives of luxury & privilege/ they should just be glad anybody’s paying them anything.

      • Saxon says:

        Huh? More people go to rock concerts than classical concerts. And very few rock performers end up very rich (most just scrape a living).

  • Tweettweet says:

    The orchestra exists of conservatory students. In my time, when I was a conservatory student, we had (obligatory) school projects and didn’t get paid anything.

    However, I don’t think that the music students would learn a lot from this project. It feels a bit cheap not to pay them a normal remuneration.

  • GGV says:

    Let’s be clear: if the student orchestra is doing something that could be done by a professional orchestra for a fee, then the student musicians should get paid. It is a very common practice in some European countries (Spain and Italy come to mind) to engage orchestras of non-professional or student musicians to play (in concerts with rock/pop stars, opera performances in villages etc.) “for the experience”. And the amateur/student musicians go home with 25 EUR telling their friends that they have played with this or that famous musician, not realising that in doing it their damaging their income if they ever become professional musicians.