Shame on Berklee for squeezing musicians

Shame on Berklee for squeezing musicians


norman lebrecht

February 07, 2022

Berklee is behaving badly, again. This message from Adam Gautille.

So for those who don’t know, I contract hundreds of musicians every year for Berklee College of Music recording sessions.

These demo recording sessions provide the composition students an opportunity to work with a real orchestra in a real recording studio and come away with a beautiful demo of their original piece of music that they can use to often get their first job.

I’ve been doing this job since late 2014 and when I got it I raised the pay from the low $20/hour to $30/hour and proposed a 5 year plan to get it up to union demo rate of $36/hour.

Unfortunately that did not happen in 2019, and to make matters worse, during the pandemic Berklee outsourced their recordings to Budapest despite the multiple suggestions I gave of how to safely record during a pandemic.

When sessions came back to America in December, I of course hired all the musicians for the sessions that I could and made sure they could end the year with some level of income. In January however, I advocated for more pay for the musicians and to contract the sessions.

Once again, there was no room in the budget. After advocating for Berklee to pay their musicians over and over again, I finally decided I could no longer have my name attached to these projects and I quit. How can an organization charge top dollar for training, but the second you are out will under pay you?

Since I started Berklee’s tuition has gone up almost 30%
Musician pay has gone up 0%
How many people would be okay with a job not even giving a market rate adjustment over 7 years? Let alone a raise for a higher level of performance?

I’m disheartened by one of the top music schools in the country not leading the charge in paying musicians well. I am posting this to raise awareness because I really don’t know what else to do.
My moral dilemma was, do I keep hiring musicians at the lower rate because at least they’re getting work? Or do I advocate for them and try to have them paid what they deserve?
The fact that I’m having to advocate for a college of music to pay musicians well is tragic.


  • Nancy Nonsense says:

    Typical east-coast ‘woke’ GARBAGE rears it’s ugly head again, when will this tyranny end?

  • Titurel says:

    Top college of music? With a 51% acceptance rate?

    • John Porter says:

      Yes, after Juilliard, Berklee is the most well known school. Globally, it may be better known than Juilliard, whatever the acceptance rate is.

  • J Barcelo says:

    By New York standards even $36/hr seems low. My partner recently took eight one hour lessons from well-known bassoonist in NYC and paid $175 each!

    • Terence says:

      It’s quite possible it was worth the money for your wife. I hope so.

      One piece of advice from a violin teacher was gold to me and totally improved my intonation permanently.

  • Peter Osborne says:

    Bet Berklee shall pay Rattle well during his West Coast tour later this year. Always the same for those who don’t produce a note of sound.

    • SlippedChat says:

      Unless your meaning is lost on me (and I’ll welcome correction if it is), you’re confusing the University of California’s main campus in Berkeley (where Simon Rattle and the LSO have indeed been scheduled to appear) with the subject of this slippedisc item, which is the Berklee College of Music, located in Boston with branch operations in New York and Valencia (Spain, not California).

  • Y says:

    How much did the pay of administrators increase during that 7 year period?

  • Cornocopius says:

    Beeklee will take all your money and give very little back.

  • fierywoman says:

    Berklee apparently isn’t doing musician’s union recordings. They sound like “dark dates.”

  • Cornocopius says:

    The Boston musicians Union bosses have the recording session musicians pay work dues on these recording sessions. The work dues money they take from the musicians pays their salaries.

    • Milkweed says:

      No – You’re wrong. These Berklee sessions are the very definition of “dark dates” – Recording sessions done outside union rules and regulations. You should get your facts straight before you spread misinformation on an international platform. You should be embarrassed.

  • Hmus says:

    If Berklee, a noted trade school, isn’t capable of assembling a good demo orchestra from among its own students, just how good a ‘school’ can it be one wonders.

    • Anon says:

      A very valid point. Here in the UK, the norm is for composition students at conservatoire to get their work performed by their fellow students studying on the performance programmes. Occasionally, the conservatoire will hire professional performers (often drawn from among their own faculty) or collaborate with a professional ensemble for a few prestige composition projects, but these are special occasions that tend to be funded by external grants.

    • Kyle Black says:

      Berklee is not a classical music conservatory nor has it ever been. That said, they do own the Boston Conservatory and should be able to arrange for student musicians to do this service, as part of the curriculum or for some sort of stipend.

  • Been there done that says:

    Berklee charges $22,734 per semester! That is over $45,000 per academic year taking other fees into account. $30 or $36 dollars an hour isn’t going to put much of a dent in paying those ridiculous tuition fees.

    • Hmus says:

      Berklee often seems to be a real-estate scam, buying up properties all over Boston and funding itself on every teenage idiot’s wet-dream of being a rock star.

  • RustyHorn says:

    Why is anyone surprised? Liberal institutions feel no dedication to their home-country.

    • SlippedChat says:

      That’s an interesting comment, and I thank you for making it. [Sarcasm Alert] I hadn’t previously understood that all the U.S., British, and other “”First World” firms outsourcing their production and services to places where wages are low, regulation is lax, and politicians are corrupt, and also using creative accounting and fictitious shell companies to evade “First World” taxation (i.e., all these firms which, in your words, “feel no dedication to their home country”) should actually be included within the definition of “liberal institutions.” What a surprise.

    • Eduardo says:

      please define liberal

  • Gerry Feinsteen says:

    Have two hands? Your music career is ready. Apply to Berklee, today*.