If you want musicians, pay them the going rate

East Midlands Airport launched a new initiative on Friday afternoon, inviting musicians to perform in its departures lounge for passengers.

Just one slight problem: there was no money available to pay them.

Jonathan Fowler, East Midlands Airport’s Customer Service Security Director explained what was on offer by explaining,

We are always looking for new ways to enhance our passenger experience whilst they are with us at the airport and, what better way than by showcasing some of our region’s best musical talent? Unfortunately we can’t offer performers a fee, but they will be well looked after by our staff while enjoying the opportunity to perform in front of a captive audience.

There is an assumption at the heart of this obviously well-meant call-to-arms: being a musician isn’t ‘real work’ and doesn’t deserve to paid-for accordingly.

What East Midlands Airport were basically asking for was buskers.

The lack of fee was referred to clumsily in the press announcement as “The opportunity is free of charge, but provides a great chance for performers to reach new audiences and help raise their profile in the region’s leading transport hub.”

The Musicians’ Union makes recommended rates for musicians available on its website. As a guide, a single performance (maximum 3 hours) with a rehearsal on the same day in a venue with capacity less than 200 is £137.

Less than 24 hours later East Midlands, under pressure from professional musicians emailing and tweeting the organisation, issued the following statement:

The invitation we issued to local musicians to perform in our departure lounge over the autumn was in no way designed to undermine the skill, hard work and professionalism that is required to perform in public. We apologise for any upset caused.

We have contacted the regional office of the Musicians’ Union and are working with them to agree how best to proceed. In the meantime, we will discontinue our promotion.

Thank you to all those who have us expressing a desire to perform at the airport.

If you want buskers, ask for buskers. If you want musicians to enhance the customer experience, pay them. It’s that straightforward.