Open letter to NYIOP on Audition Fees and Competitions
The initial purpose of Latinx Artist Society In Opera (LASO) was to find ways to continually answer the question, “how can we help improve the lives of BIPOC, specifically afro-latinx(e) and latinx(e) artists?”. LASO is committed to actively responding to oppressive practices by opera organizations/companies that continually hurt the afro-latinx(e) and latinx(e) diaspora. As an organization, we decided to begin the year by pointing out injustices that affect our community so we can find ways to work towards a more equitable and dignified way to treat all artists working in the field of opera.
One prominent example of what we wish to see changed is the predatory practice of organizations that charge outrageous fees, especially during a pandemic. Audition fee practices, small competition awards, low paying young artist programs, and high priced pay-to-sing programs all stifle and hinder the careers of young singers. The truth is, these practices are geared towards one thing: to prey on the underprivileged and keep the wealthy in our industry thriving. As it is well-documented, these practices significantly affect Afro-Latin/Latinx(e), Black, Indigenous, and People of Color.
Now that the holidays are over and the competition has finished, we want to specifically bring attention to the NYIOP competition. We stand here today to call out the impractical and institutionalized predatory practices carried out by NYIOP during a global pandemic as though it is business as usual. NYIOP originally began charging singers for their competition a staggering $150 for a virtual audition and then lowered it to $75, as though this was a better option. Like our friends at Black Opera Alliance (BOA) pointed out when speaking about why an organization would charge this much money for an entry fee:
“Charging $150-200...to perform for panelists who are not incurring expenses for a venue, lodging, or travel does not make any sense.”
NYIOP charged an extra $75 for the semi-finals portion of the competition. Let us take into consideration what NYIOP received just in fees:
If 300 applications were submitted, anywhere between $50-$75 = $15,000 to $22,500
If 500 applications were submitted, anywhere between $50-$75 = $25,000 to $37,500.
NYIOP stated that "up to 160 singers” chosen would be charged a $75 fee to continue in the semi-final round, meaning that anywhere from roughly 50-160 singers would send $3,750-12,000, so they were potentially hoping to take in as much as $49,500 in fees on this, apparently awarding $25,000 in prizes.
In NYIOP’s mission statement they state:
“With a strong belief in transparency and self-reliance in the arts, we offer access to essential information within the industry and seek to transmit this information to and from all sectors of our business...”
LASO and those who have signed on to this open letter ask that NYIOP stand by their transparency. Why did you charge these predatory fees for an online competition? Where is this money going and why did you charge a second fee in the semi-finals?
We implore you to now be transparent by answering these questions. We believe in giving context to those whom you say you offer “access to essential information”. We ask that in the future you find ways to be transparent and consider our ideas so that something like this does not happen again:
-What are you doing to make your competition more equitable for singers who cannot afford a $150 fee between two rounds of a competition? If you are searching for talent that would not otherwise be found through your “services”, have you found a way to remove the financial barrier for those that cannot afford your fees?
-Charging fees for an online competition that only serves to take from underprivileged singers who you know will not be advancing, to then give to singers who win your competition is not an ethical way of sustaining a competition.
-Where is the surplus money going? Is this money going to pay those jurors at the top? And if not, are you just saving the excess funds for a rainy day? We ask for transparency in how those fees get spent.
-At least be honest from the beginning on how much you wish to charge so that singers are not presented with a second fee.
-Be equitable, particularly in times of struggle like this pandemic. All you have done now is add to the extreme financial constraints that everyone is sustaining.
We hope you reflect on your business model, and that you consider the ways in which your competition's application process has added barriers to those who wish only to be heard in the world of opera. If you wish to continue this conversation, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Latinx Artist Society in Opera | Black Opera Alliance | Latina Women in Opera