How much to solo violinists on tour earn?

October 11, 2007 at 06:18 AM · How much does an internationally famous solo violinist who is constantly on tour make each year? As in Joshua Bell, Sarah Chang, or Hilary Hahn?

Replies (44)

October 11, 2007 at 03:13 PM · Can’t really answer that on a per year basis because it depends on how many concerts the soloist decides to perform in a year. I did hear what one of those violinists charged as a fee for a single recital here a few years ago, but I may be remembering the actual amount completely wrong. I know the organizers of this particular series & am seeing them tonight so maybe I can find out. As for how many concert per year, I know of another relatively top-name soloist (a pianist ) who said that so far he’s scheduled to perform over 50 different concertos this season.

October 11, 2007 at 03:20 PM · A top tier soloist can make up to 50,000 a concert. I read Pavarotti was paid 130,000 dollars in the 80's to sing the national anthem at a soccer game.

October 11, 2007 at 03:43 PM · None of our business.

October 11, 2007 at 03:47 PM · I performed as a soloist at an art show about 6 months ago and earned $1.45 in tips for playing three hours.

I'm not kidding.

Dave Osbun

October 11, 2007 at 04:02 PM · Hi,

It is important to add to that from the fee (which may seem high), the artists have to pay for airfare or other means of travel/transportation, meals, accomadations, a percentage of the fee to their agency, as well as other expenses (plus income tax, etc.). So, that I guess means that it varies from person to person.


October 11, 2007 at 04:07 PM · Joshua Bell made a buck or so from his performance in the Washington, DC metro.

October 11, 2007 at 05:21 PM · My conductor at Interlochen said that Joshua Bell gets paid around 75k per concert!

October 11, 2007 at 05:29 PM · >It is important to add to that from the fee (which may seem high), the artists have to pay for airfare or other means of travel/transportation, meals, accomadations, a percentage of the fee to their agency, as well as other expenses (plus income tax, etc.).

Wow, this is interesting. I would have thought the artist's management company would take care of that. Or wait, do they receive the payment, take care of accommodation arrangements, take their cut and then forward the rest to the artist? And when the artist is on the road, does he/she stay in the hotel of their choice or where their mgmt company decides to put them, ie in a hotel where they might have a relationship with one of the hotel sales managers? (This is commonly the case with rock bands and pop singers, I know from past experience in hotel sales.) Christian, do you know the answer here?

What I would like to know more about would be the touring life, payment and schedule of a successful international soloist who isn't a Josh/Hilary/Sarah/Midori, but is still high up there on the ladder. Anne H., you out there? You gave me some good estimates when I brought up this issue in my fiction writing.

October 11, 2007 at 05:57 PM · Actually, Bill, Bell made something between $30 and $40 from his stint at the metro.

October 11, 2007 at 06:19 PM · The countertenor Daniel Taylor said roughly 20% of the paycheck goes into his own pocket. Everything else goes to the agent, travel, accommodation, meals, local taxes.

October 11, 2007 at 06:41 PM · Terez, I think artists' agents are just like model agents - you don't get the work without them, but OHHH there's a price to pay...

October 11, 2007 at 06:55 PM · I think that very busy soloists do pretty well. I've heard that the really bankable big names get a lot of the extra costs paid for, like flight, hotel, and a per diem. This could be total bull however. I did have a "source" who would tell me how much the soloists were making in Montreal. Some of them are taking quite a decent pay cheque, but I don't know how much they keep with VAT, income tax, and the very high cost of living on the road.

A while ago someone posted a sort of typical scheme for a $10,000 pay check. It didn't leave that much.

I think that relative to study, time spent practicing, travel and solitude, most soloists aren't that well paid. I think most will tell you they do quite well for themselves, but the work is tough.

The ones living for the high life definately do work for it. I'm exhausted after a week of 3 or 4 flights... imagine a whole year like that. With 100 concerts a year, that's exactly what you're looking at.

October 11, 2007 at 06:57 PM · does 2 mil or 4 mil make any difference?:)

they are doing what they love,,,too busy to count the notes...

October 11, 2007 at 07:03 PM · Al... with those kinds of figures you're refering to very few violinists... I don't think that reflects the situation of most soloists.

October 11, 2007 at 07:12 PM · I read an article somewhere last year that said most soloists, even major prize winners, barely make expenses nowadays. They go on a "B" circuit getting rave reviews and little money.

In the 1970's when I was running the Stamford Symphonty several local name artists, Victor Borge, Hermione Gingold, and a name violinist frequently mentioned here, waived their $5,000 to $7,000 fees. The bigger the name the more they were willing to help us out, but it was the middle of the road soloists who wanted to know "what's in it for me." I'm finding that to be true again with the Town and Country Symphony.

October 11, 2007 at 07:40 PM · The biggest fee I have heard of (second hand), a marquee name, was $150,000 for one concert with a flyover ICSOM orchestra.

I have mixed feelings about these high fees. Some of the soloists I really admire make a lot of money per concert. That is fine, nice work if you can get it. (I wish I could!) The toughest thing in the world is to sustain a solo career. Make hay whilst the sun shines, etc. When these soloists play with Non Big 10 flyover ICSOM and ROPA orchestras that are facing declining audiences, and substantial pay cuts, you have to wonder. Would there be an audience at all without "The Marquee Name" to attract attendance? Are these soloist fees worth the money to keep the orchestra going? I have no answer. The orchestra that hosted that soloist had a base pay of around 25K.

The REAL $$$ is in conducting...

October 11, 2007 at 09:29 PM · Anne... the duties of a conductor are nothing like a soloist. There's no fund raising, glad handing, personel etc...

October 11, 2007 at 09:30 PM · My local symphony paid 65K to Perlman. Bell was less, I think, but we lost money on him....

October 11, 2007 at 09:31 PM · pieter, i was just thinking ahead for you:)

October 11, 2007 at 09:50 PM · al... dont you get it? There isn't really that much money in conducting relative to other professions and relative to your responsibilities.

October 11, 2007 at 09:33 PM · Is the polarization in the pay scale, say between section players, soloists and/or conductors necessary? Or was it born out of star worship that everyone has to have a limited few players on board? What would be better for a long term health of music; More players sharing solo performances at a relaxed pace at a lower fee or exposing the audience to 3 or 4 soloists over and over again?


October 11, 2007 at 09:50 PM · As far as expenses, each artist/manager is different as far as some of the amenities requested, but generally the orchestra picks up the tab for air, ground transportation while there, and hotel. A number of years ago here, Pavarotti not only asked to be paid in cash, but also wanted a horse.

October 11, 2007 at 10:40 PM · to eat?

October 11, 2007 at 11:39 PM · Pieter - Do guest conductors attend fund raising, personnel, etc?

If a soloist is paid 65K per visit of 4-5 days, in two visits the soloist makes as much as what a decent section member makes in a year.


October 11, 2007 at 11:46 PM · Aha, Buri... you never cease to amaze me!

October 11, 2007 at 11:51 PM · Ihnsouk,

No, that's definately a "perk", and conductors only have to spend a certain amount of weeks with their home orchestra. However, it's still important to recognize that they have a lot of expectations.

October 12, 2007 at 12:41 AM · Few solo violinist can make a living on just concertizing. I doubt there are more then a dozen who do.

October 12, 2007 at 01:21 AM · Kenneth, I might push that number to about 20... but you are quite right.

October 12, 2007 at 01:22 AM · No WAY. Only 1 to 2 dozen concertizing soloists making a good living off it? Whoa. This is a very enlightening thread. Keep it going!

October 12, 2007 at 01:46 AM · How much does a guest conductor get paid? If quite a bit more than a soloist who gets paid 65K, we are talking about 6 figures for a week. What expecxtations do they meet for that kind of pay? I have nothing against people getting paid well if a good pay is widespread in the musical world as in the financial district or in a medical profession. What concerns me is the extreme disparity and the rising ticket price. Is it good for the classical music or its dwindling audience?


October 12, 2007 at 02:06 AM · Terez, we're all just speculating, but a quick run down of touring artists that I know of and it does come out to around 20. That is, 20 players who devote most of their time to solo, recital and maybe some chamber music performances. There are probably a few hundred people who make a portion of their living performing at a very high level as a soloist, but supplement their incomes with a teaching position or playing in a small ensemble.

October 12, 2007 at 03:43 AM · Pavarotti not only asked to be paid in cash, but also wanted a horse.

Nya-nya-nyahh! Pavarotti liked our horse better. :-P

October 12, 2007 at 07:50 AM · Nothing better for the inside of a person than the outside of a horse.

November 4, 2016 at 04:03 AM · This thread is's like the game of Telephone with speculation and rumors. :)

November 4, 2016 at 11:52 AM · One thing I remember from a children's biography of Paganini was that he worked sufficiently hard to put his health at risk, and quite a bit of his work was charity concerts. Some miser!

November 4, 2016 at 07:52 PM · I don't have the slightest, but considering they play with violins that are worth millions, they must make a lot of money, but that's because they really worked hard, really. Even violinists that are not "that famous" must earn a lot of money as many of them have violins that are worth hundreds of dollars. Your regular neighbors make hundreds of dollars in 8 years or more.

You must consider as well master classes, their teachings jobs at schools, collaborations with other musicians or film scores, recordings, etc... A good solo violinist must be moving, trying new ways of learning, teaching and earning money, doing all kind of stuff.

November 4, 2016 at 08:07 PM · Are you sure that violinists play on hundred dollar instruments? You probably mean hundred of thousands, haha. They do have to have to be very vigilant due the number of teaching jobs, musician collaborations, and other gigs they do.

November 4, 2016 at 08:29 PM · Most such violinists don't own their instruments. The instruments are typically on loan from a foundation or from a patron.

November 4, 2016 at 08:43 PM · I know Joshua Bell owns his Strad, and I don't know about Itzhak Perlman, I am pretty sure he owns it too. And there are Hilary Hahn with her Vuilaume, I tried to google and see if she owns that, but nothing really came up.

November 4, 2016 at 09:21 PM · It's a business with a lot of large swings in fees. Does Bell take home $50,000 for a recital appearance? When he played at the Moss Arts Center in Blacksburg, the ticket price times the number of seats would have been around $80,000. For the soloist to claim over half of the box office seems high.

On the other hand these big-shots often do pro-bono appearances for charities and the like. Does Bell charge too much? The answer is no, almost by definition. Capitalism thrives when purveyors of goods and services charge what the market can bear. If Bell were charging too much, he wouldn't get hired. Years ago Norman Lebrecht published a scathing blog about ASM's fees and how the orchestras in London were bringing over other less expensive soloists.

Mid-level celebrities charge as much for appearances. One of my colleagues asked celebrity foodie Alton Brown how much for a commencement speech and the answer was $50k. People criticize Hillary Clinton for her speaking fees, but nobody is forced to pay them.

November 4, 2016 at 09:47 PM · I gather for artists like Joshua Bell and Itzhak Perlman, they make most of their earnings from record sales.

November 5, 2016 at 01:34 AM · Some of the players own their instruments, yes, but certainly not all. And the older players are more likely to do so -- they got their violins and bows before the prices escalated to their present levels. Players of the previous generation actually often owned several fine instruments.

Hilary Hahn's Vuillaume was a gift to her in childhood. But back then a Vuillaume would have been fairly reasonable in price -- I think in the vicinity of $50,000.

November 5, 2016 at 12:07 PM · HH's violin is one of those spectacularly underpriced marvels. Even as an ex-HH it will not fetch as much as a Strad, despite her claims that she has uniformly preferred it in comparisons with top Italian antiques. It's just her word against the entire body-politic of the violin-collecting world, after all.

November 5, 2016 at 03:13 PM · She's also played it all of her life. I imagine she knows precisely how to get whatever she wants out of it.

It's a nice violin but objectively, she could be playing something even better. (I have heard that violin up close, as well as other instruments in her hands, up close.)

However, there's certainly something to be said for lifetime acquaintance, sentimental value, knowing that the instrument is yours for life (no patron to ever demand it back, as sometimes happens to soloists), and an insurance policy that doesn't cost a fortune.

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