The Rolling Stones Paid Backup Singers Less than $60 Total for a Show…

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The Rolling Stones recently played their first concert in Israel, playing Tel Aviv on June 4th. The band asked a choir from Tel Aviv University’s School of Music to sing backup at the concert.

After the concert, one of the students in the choir posted a complaint online, according to Israel’s Mako. The student said they were only paid 200 shekels each for three rehearsals and the concert, which is about $57.76.

When asked about this, The Rolling Stones replied with “no comment”.

Both parties could probably learn something from this article: “8 Things Singer/Songwriters Need To Know About Hiring Freelance Musicians“.

It is estimated that The Rolling Stones made around $6.7 million in total from the Tel Aviv concert.


Nina Ulloa covers breaking news, tech, and more. Follow her on Twitter: @nine_u

49 Responses

  1. Albert Shanker

    Stones,and other big acts are notorious under payers for side musicians and singers. I was playing keys for a wedding in New Jersey circa 1999,and the trumpet player just got off a big Stones tour ,and had to pick up some club date coin the very next weekend !! Not only that , he was lectured by a busboy for being in the way.

  2. Douglas Maher

    I know Rush had their string section on the Clockwork Angels tour on salary the entire tour. They paid their travel,food, hotel, and $7,000.00 a week each. Not a bad pay day to play 75 mins a night in a 3 hr show.

    • bart

      If you hire a plummer, and make him stay at your house 4 hours for a job that last 5 minutes, he’ll charge you 4 hours, not 5 minutes.

      • Jos

        That’s right, i like hobby’s but work is work 🙂 Playing for “honor” works only iff there really is no money 🙂

  3. Anonymous

    “The band asked a choir”


    Jagger & Richards picked up the phone and called the choir?

    • Nina Ulloa

      generally, a band will pay others to do work for them. when they do, those people are acting on behalf of the band.

      • Anonymous

        So, just to be absolutely clear:

        The band did not ask the choir to sing, like you said?

        • GGG

          Are you really arguing this? 90% of the time you read “band x” did whatever, it’s their team doing it, not the band. Minus tabloid shit, of course.

          • jw

            That’s not true. The band likely made an agreement with the local promotor to arrange for a choir for the song. I don’t think the Stones’ team is scouting choirs in each of these locations & setting up those deals… it’s far more likely that it’s done by someone locally. If that’s the case, the terms were most likely negotiated with the University by the promotor, who has an incentive to get the lowest price possible.

            If a vendor at the venue sold a hot dog to a fan that made them sick, the Rolling Stones didn’t, by some implied transitive property, make the fan sick. “Rolling Stones sell bogus hot dog to unsuspecting fan” would be an outright disingenuous claim, tantamount to this one.

          • GGG

            Uh..someone, at some point, involved with the Rolling Stones, told someone to get some singers. End of story. Some guy didn’t just proactively decide the Stones needed singers and sent them to the venue hoping they’d get inside.

            I don’t even get what you’re disagreeing with, really. YOur second paragraph is just dumb, as that’s not remotely what I’m talking about. When you read “Foo Fighters plan US tour” or something, Dave Grohl wasn’t on the phone booking MSG. His agent was.

          • jw

            Not if the choir was a cost of production on the promotor’s side. This is a world tour… the Stones aren’t going to travel with a choir, & they aren’t going to scout a choir in each city, and negotiate contracts those agreements themselves. It’s far more likely that they just put the responsibility on the promotor, & the promotor is representing himself as a promotor, not the Rolling Stones, & paying out of his pocket, not the Rolling Stones’. Just as a vendor is representing himself or the venue, not the Rolling Stones.

            Anyways, this is all just hypothetical. All that anyone really knows is that some student got paid $60. The deal could’ve been great for the University itself, we don’t know.

          • GGG

            Ok, we are talking about different things. I was simply referring to the way stories are reported about bands. i.e. “band x did y.” The person I was responding to was arguing that it sounds like Mick Jagger called the school, he wasn’t referring to the actual money aspect.

          • jw

            The commenter is free to speak up and clarify, but I got the impression that he was flippantly making the same point I’m making.

            The bottom line is that, if the Rolling Stones’ interests weren’t paramount during the negotiations, & if the money wasn’t coming out of their guarantee, it can’t be said that the Rolling Stones paid anyone anything. Moreover, I don’t think that you can actually say that the Rolling Stones or the promotor or whoever negotiated and made good on the agreement actually paid the students anything. More likely, the school was paid a negotiated sum, and then they paid the students how they saw fit.

            Then again, I’ve never booked a world tour, so these are all hypotheticals.

          • Anonymous

            “The commenter is free to speak up and clarify”

            I don’t have to — you already clarified it in your comment below:

            ““Backup singers at a Rolling Stone show were paid slightly less than $60 each to perform at a show.” That’s the truth”


          • GGG

            See, this article does it, too: “I received an e-mail from a lady in London, England, who’d been asked by the Stones to put together all the choirs for [their tour].” Most people will understand that “the Stones” means someone involved with the band, not Keith emailing that lady.

          • jw

            This isn’t about whether “the Rolling Stones” means “the guys onstage playing the songs.” This is about degrees of separation.

            The article correctly says that the choir director was contact by an agent who was contact by the Rolling Stones. It doesn’t say that the choir director was contacted by the Stones. If this article headline was “Individual backup singers were paid less than $60 each by an agent who was hired by the Stones to set up the choirs for the tour,” then it would be consistent with the article. But more realistically, it should be “Individual backup singers were paid less than $60 each by their university, who was hired by an agent that the Stones contracted to set up the choirs for the tour.”

            Anyhow, this is a silly debate. I don’t know why the ridiculousness of the article headline isn’t completely obvious to everyone. And it’s a shame that Paul has yet to correct the blatantly misleading wording.

  4. Yup!

    ‘Students in a choir’…Entitled brats perhaps? They were so valuable to the concert, I’m sure. You were singing with the Stones!

    They are lucky they got a concert there period.

  5. Mike

    Hi nina –

    this is interesting. it certainly seems as tho the Stones should pay a little more than 60bucks apiece for the 3 rehearsals plus a show. God knows they can afford to. Im wondering if you might know any details, like:

    1. Is 200 shekels an arbitrary number that was negotiated, or was it established based hours x minimum wage, something like that?

    2. do u know if there’s an Israeli musicians union that establishes rates for work performed? like a “scale” pay for musicians there?

    3. did they receive any other perks? maybe food, backstage, hang with mick & keith, anything?

    i clicked the link above but i can’t read hebrew…

    thx –

  6. Rick Wills

    Oh yeah, they cheaped out. Its somewhat standard for acts with deep pockets to pay triple union scale for guest appearances.

  7. jw

    Sometimes I wonder why I even read articles here when I have to fact check everything that’s written.

    200 shekels per person is $57.75 per person. The headline is an outright lie.

    This was a student choir, not professional musicians. And in all likelihood the Rolling Stones (or more likely the promotor of the show) negotiated a total payment with Tel Aviv University. What the school decides to pay each musician isn’t up to the Rolling Stones. But I would bet that the local promotor made the agreement, not the Stones.

    You have no business writing these stories, Nina.

    • Paul Resnikoff

      Stop. You’re making up stuff. But, yes, I can see how the title could be misconstrued, so (non-constructive) criticism accepted.

      • jw

        Bullshit, Paul.

        “Backup singers at a Rolling Stone show were paid slightly less than $60 each to perform at a show.” That’s the truth, & even an incomplete truth, but a passable truth.

        There’s nothing to suggest that the deals were made by anyone directly representing the Rolling Stones. And the inclusion of the word “total” in the headline makes it factually incorrect. I’m not saying that Nina intentionally misrepresented the facts, I’m saying it doesn’t appear that she’s concerned about it one way or the other. Maybe she does, & she’s just incompetent. But either way, she’s clearly she’s not qualified to be writing these stories. Not with as much traffic as you get.

        The fact is that the backup singers were paid ~$60 each, plus whatever the university pocketed. Without including all of that information, including the word “total” anywhere in the article is just plain wrong. It’s not about misconstruing. Nothing to do with construing whatsoever.

        That’s as constructive as I can get.

  8. Therese

    If you were a member of the American Federation of Musicians you would have been paid for all your rehearsals, live performance, or any overtime. I’m sure they recorded the concert too, that is also an additional wage for the musicians.
    Shame on the promoter/ management company taking advantage of students, and musicians.

    • jw

      I have very little insight into student musicianship, but I’ve never heard of students getting paid for performances, though I can only think of student musicians playing free recitals. They’re generally paid through scholarships and department amenities. For all we know, the university could’ve skimmed enough off the top to give an extra student (or two) a full ride next year. Would it really be better that the money is directly paid to the student performers? Should the university be more focused on hiring out the students for professional fees, or getting them the best opportunities possible that are going to look the best on their resumes and launch the students’ careers, and generating the most cash for the department itself to better educate the students?

      College athletics generate a whole lot more than $6.7m, & student athletes actually perform the entire game, & they don’t get directly paid a dime. But they get, in many cases, a free education worth tens of thousands of dollars, top dollar nutritionists, psychologists, etc.

      • GGG

        Student does not mean you aren’t/can’t be playing for money. Related to the post you’re responding to, I first joined AFM as a sophomore in high school to play in a nearby town’s big band, which I got paid for. I also got paid to rehearse/perform in shows at the local theatre. While being a high school student.

        • jw

          Some people do get paid & some don’t. Some get paid in room & board or tuition. But the number of student musicians who get paid as professionals to perform at events through their university is slim to none.

          Even still, the average salary in Israel is ~$4k per month, the average US salary is ~$12k per month.

          So do you think you would be happy getting paid the U.S. equivalent of $180 for 3 rehearsals and a single song at a concert? Let’s say they were 3 hour rehearsals, plus soundcheck & performance… at worst we’re looking at 18 hours at the U.S. equivalent of $10/hr. It’s just one damn song.

          (I’m oversimplifying things to make a point.)

          • Glimmer

            The average US salary is 144,000 a year? What friggin neighborhood do you live in?

      • Summer

        Actually (this is coming from a former voice student who sang with The Stones in the US), when I was in school I did several shows as a chorus member (Star Wars in Concert, Video Games Live, Andrea Bocelli, The Rolling Stones, Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses) and I was paid for each of those. So, yes, students do get paid because the music departments do not undervalue their students’ skills. Most music students do not get their schooling paid for like athletes do because the music departments are not nearly as funded as the athletics departments are. The faculty understand this because they have lived it themselves.

        It is true that sometimes payment for a gig will go strictly to the school and not to the students, but that money, most often, will not go towards scholarships, but rather to the general music department budget. Most often then not, however, the students involved will be paid because they are training students to be professionals that know their worth.

  9. danwriter

    These are students in a school choir, fer Chrissake, not professional vocalists. It’s been a common practice, certainly in rock and country, for acts to use a local choir for a song or two. The schools or churches that supply the choirs often get a donation from the artist. Whether the kids get paid or not, they definitely get a huge thrill. This is totally different from the Amanda Palmer episode. It also argues for DMN to publish weekly instead of scrambling to find flotsam to fill out a daily blog.

  10. Willis

    Greedy little opportunists. I’d pay The Stones $60 to perform a number with the group. It isn’t like The Stones “needed” their added vocals.

  11. someone

    This IS a professional choir. The best in Israel…most of the students are studying to be opera Singes therefore the quality of the voices are extreamly good.

    • jw

      Whether someone is a professional or an amateur/student doesn’t have much to do with the quality of their performances.

      Jadeveon Clowney is one of the most talented linebackers in the country, and yet during the years he played football at the University of South Carolina, he received no direct financial compensation for the nationally televised games that earned his school, the NCAA, & the networks that aired the games tens of millions of dollars.

      Paying students as if they’re professionals for performances they make through a university compromises the educational process, & ultimately limits the opportunities that a school like the University of Tel Aviv can offer.

  12. Doug

    Usually something like this would be booked through a local contractor, who is paid x amount (sometimes quite a lot) to provide the musicians. Often the contractor may keep the lion’s share and pay a small amount to the people actually doing the work, as long as they agree to work for that amount. So the Stones and their management may not be to blame.

  13. Jon

    It’s called “paying your dues”. The Stones themselves did plenty of it in their early days,to be sure.
    These are students, not professional free-lance sidemen making a professional living in music. How many opportunities like this one are they going to have? I’ll tell you–one. The one they just had. There is no working band of that stature,that era, left-arguably The Who are (sort of) still around,but they aren’t hiring choirs,are they?
    Whoever complained SHOULD be feeling nothing but grateful for the chance to do a once-in-a-lifetime gig and get paid AT ALL. If these students stay with music on the performing end of things (most won’t anyway, some will teach, most will end up doing something else altogether, maybe ONE OR TWO will actually have a career as singers) THEN the money MIGHT come to them.
    I would highly doubt that this was presented as any sort of real money-maker to this group; they didn’t have to agree to those terms. I’m sure another group could have filled that one-song slot just as easily,and maybe more graciously, thanks to the punter that lodged the complaint.

  14. Anonymous


    Where the insanely rich artists get insanely richer, everyone else is fighting for the scraps.

  15. Lil

    Despite all the arguments you guys have already thrown in here, like who exactly is responsible for the deal, I’m gonna point out something else. What the hell does that one student think he is doing by posting a complaint like that? The first thing that comes to my mind is, how did I never see anything like this in any other concert, and then the first time the Stones come to Israel there is one smart guy complaining about THAT. I wonder how old is that guy? Isn’t he a student? Would he be able to understand it’s a freaking Rolling Stones concert, OF COURSE there would be rehearsals? And yeah yeah, it’s easy to go on top of someone, specially if it’s such a heavy name as THE ROLLING STONES. No mate, I’m sorry I don’t think they used you – as a lot of people here said, it’s probably not even their fault.
    And again, sixty bucks to me sounds like a lot. He is a student. He got an invitation to play with THE ROLLING STONES, damn it (pardon my french)! You see what I’m saying here? This just seems so wrong, I wish it didn’t come to my head like this, it’s ridiculous.

  16. ww

    welcome to basic economics. there’s only one “rolling stones.” there’s millions of choir singers. rolling stones get paid premium fees. choir singers don’t. supply and demand. stop bitching.

  17. R.P.

    It’s Capitalism either way. Deal with it or move out of the country.

  18. jonpaulerik

    you could never, ever, ever get me to stop complaining about musicians not being paid well for their services. but i could round up a thousand singers who would gladly PAY $60 to sing with the rolling stones. these kids shared a stage with music legends, presumably got free tickets and transportation to the show and most importantly accepted the terms presented to them. there are hundreds of instances where musicians get screwed. form copyright laws to lopsided record deals to piracy to streaming services to pay to play gigs to…

    i’m not shedding any tears for somebody who got free stones tickets, a chance to go onstage with them AND $60! i never whined to a bar manager that my band had to actually practice before playing some weekend gig – suggesting he should pay us! university choirs practice all the time and rarely get paid anything for their performances. heck i did not get paid a dime being in the marching band but i got to see all the early 80’s cornhusker games for free and i have zero complaints…

    and mick, in case you’re reading this…. “will sing for stones tickets”

    • Anonymous

      They can pay better though. They have tons of money.

    • i'll take you to the top

      i could round up a thousand guitarists who would gladly pay $60 to play with the rolling stones. so does that mean they shouldn’t pay ron wood?

  19. someone

    Of course not the Rolling Stones itself offered that ridicoulous amount of money. It was the production, the band probably has nothing to do with it and doesn’t care.
    The problem is the attitude about it…”the students should be happy and honoured and not complaints about it”…”the are just students, not professionals”…”i would pay to sing with them” etc.
    It has to be understood that this is a professional choir. Professional, because the Singers of the choir are takingcare of their voices, studying to be opera singers therefore the quality of the sound is extremely high. The conductor of the choir is the assistant conductor of one of the best conductors in the world.
    Does anyone have any idea How much money, energy, practice and time is needed if someone wants to become an opera Singer? It’s not just people open their mouths and start to sing. Many years of studying, tousends of dollars for private teachers, many hours of practice every day.
    The problem is that people think that way. Like, if you’re still a student you have to sing for free or for very little money (not only about Rolling Stones, it’s in general), we only gonna pay you properly when you become famous…
    I don’t think with many other professions work like that…Taking advantage of students like this.
    Of course many people would pay to sing with the Rolling Stones. This is not the point. The point is that such a big name like RS behaves unprofessional (talking about the production of course not the band) to offer such a humiliating amount of money to a professional choir. Of course, they could hire an amateur choir for this fee or people from the streets Who are willing to pay for them to sing….but of course they needed a highly professional choir, the best in the country and that’s Why the fee wasn’t fair.