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MU Opera and Ballet Rates

Updated: 17 May 2024 | 11:31 AM

Our recommended opera and ballet rates are updated each April. They should be used for operas and ballets that are not otherwise covered by a Collective Agreement with the MU.

Our rates factor in all the other financial obligations of being self-employed. Freelancers do not necessarily receive the benefits of employment such as holiday pay, sick pay, pension contributions and parental leave. These are recommended minimums and should be used as a starting point for negotiating work which involves additional travel, increased preparation time or greater responsibility. Rates do not reflect regional cost-of-living differences or experience level, which should be negotiated on top.

How we set our rates

Our rates usually increase each year in line with inflation.  For this reason, our Freelance Orchestral Committee have recommended an increase of 4% to be applied from 1 April 2024, which has been accepted and endorsed by the MU’s Executive Committee. MU members can sign up to the Orchestra Section to become eligible to stand for the Freelance Orchestral Committee and become part of this decision-making process.

While we advise members to refer to our rates and guidance, members are free to set their rates according to their own criteria.

For further advice on orchestral rates please contact the MU.

Weekly rates

(for a week of up to eight 3 hour sessions, rehearsal or performance, on the six week days)

Tutti Sub-Principal Principal Section Principals
£958.00 £983.00 £1,013.00 £1,045.00

Single playing session rates

For players engaged for up to 5 sessions per week) per session: £167.00

Ancillary payments applicable to both weekly and casual rates

Doubling 15% of the appropriate rate per additional instrument

Sundays or Statutory Holidays Double time

Extra sessions Pro rata

Stage bands - additional payments (per call)

Stage band only (unseen) In pit and on stage (unseen) On stage in costume (seen) In pit and on stage (seen)
None £16.65 £31.40 £62.20

Distance fees and travel expenses

  • Distance fees: £12.60 per hour pro rata. Travel time and mileage
  • Fuel fees: 56p per mile. HMRC guidance
  • Congestion / Toll Charges / Parking: all charges to be paid by engager


Group A Group B Group C Group D
£38.50 £33.30 £26.50 Individual negotiation

Electric guitar (incl. amp);

Bass guitar (incl. amp);

Double bass

Bass sax, Tuba

Contra bassoon; Baritone saxophone;

French horn + 1 other brass instrument;

Trombone + 1 other brass instrument or bag of mutes;

Two saxophones; Cello;

Bass clarinet; Pedalboards

Kit Drums;

Percussion instruments;

Electronic Keyboards;



15% of fee for each additional instrument


Minimum of 15 mins per 2 hours playing

Late fees

Payable when time of return is midnight – 2:00am - £34.60

Overnight stay

Payable when return would be after 2:00am - £139.00


Payable per day to cover meals and expenses - £63.60