I've noticed a lot of people commenting on various articles circulating online that musicians should just play for the 'love of music.' Musicians first starting out in the professional music scene take any gig they can get to gain exposure and experience. Once highly trained musicians have gained experience it is ridiculous to think they should play music just for the ‘love of music.’ Musicians who play music for a living can’t survive playing pro-bono or for dirt cheap. Despite what some people may think, professional musicians play music for just that, a living, not a side job.
Being a professional musician takes dedication, rehearsals, and practice time making another full time job impossible. Many professional musicians start learning their craft as early as the age of 5, sometimes earlier, and continue to study 4-6 years in college, sometimes longer if pursuing a doctorate. Outside of their classes they put in hours of practicing on a daily basis. A music major may gain one credit hour for their three hour orchestra course, but they spend hours outside of class in a practice room for that one credit.
Professional musicians offer a high quality service for an audience’s entertainment. In terms of a ballet or opera, the orchestra enhances the performance. By entertaining the audience, the audience can forget their worries, even if just for a little while and just enjoy the moment.
I don’t know of any lawyers that were studying for the LSAT at the age of 5 nor do pro-bono work for a majority of their career. I also don’t hear people asking why Kobe Bryant doesn’t play basketball for the ‘love of playing basketball.’ He is a professional athlete also offering a quality service for an audience’s entertainment, yet most people don’t question his salary. Some might argue that his service is more marketable so he should be paid millions of dollars, but in comparison most professional musicians aren’t being offered millions of dollars. These professional musicians just want a viable salary. These musicians also impact the economy and quality of life in the community.
Without classical musicians there would be no orchestras, operas, or ballets. According to the Nation Governors Association  the arts allow “leveraging human capital and cultural resources through tourism, crafts, and cultural attractions; serving as a centerpiece for downtown redevelopment and cultural renewal; creating vibrant public spaces, enhancing urban quality of life, expanding the tax base, and improving regional and community image; and contributing to a region's ‘innovation habitat’ by making communities more attractive to highly desirable, knowledge-based employees.” According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics musicians, singers , actors, producers, directors , dancers, choreographers , and related workers  held about 424,300 jobs in 2008, and this number is expected to grow by 2018.
The business side of being a professional musician is tough. If musicians are not getting paid what they are worth, or their career isn’t going the direction they want than they should stop taking those gigs. It’s like any other job, if you don’t like the pay or the work than don’t accept the position. If you don't want the job, I guarantee someone else does. It's a free market. Just keep in mind the rule 'you get what you pay for' usually applies. The arts have a great impact on the economy, and we should support them. Unfortunately, some think it's okay to devalue all that training and work by asking the professional musician to do pro-bono work or work for an unfeasible living.
Photo: Courtesy Anna Blanton