Two days ago I shared a photo of my hotel room in Berlin on Facebook. It's a small room, about 8' wide, with a single bed, a desk, an armchair, a sink and a cupboard. And a small welcome pack of gumi bears on the pillow.
I posted the photo asking friends to hazard a guess as to who was paying for my hotel expenses; me or the promoter of the concert. Plenty of people cracked jokes about the size of the room (and the gumi bears) but no-one actually took the plunge and guessed. Or if they did, they didn't say so.
It isn't the easiest call to make. Some promoters are more generous than others and in these straitened times the five-star treatment on concert trips is less likely. But I'll come clean. I booked the room.
Berlin is rare amongst European cities. Normally when you're booked by an orchestra (but not an opera company) they cover your travel and hotel but every job I've done here has paid a "global" fee from which I have to pay all my expenses. It's also the same in the States, in my experience, but I'm no expert.
Now call me a cheapskate if you like but I have never seen the merit in spending a vast percentage of fees in needless expenses. It's a bad business strategy. Surely the point is to take home as much of your fee as humanly possible? And people who say that business expenses are "tax deductible" are, well, wrong. Business expenses allow you to reduce your taxable profit, not the tax itself. £1 spent on expenses isn't £1 saved in tax. Not by a long shot.
But that's niggly stuff. The broader picture is this: there's no point in earning a living as a singer if you blow everything you earn on hotels and travel. You're just feeding an insatiable beast. That's fine if you have nothing else in your life except flying on planes and sleeping in hotels but, nope, that's not for me. I have other fish to fry and the less I spend in expenses on the road means the longer it is before I have to go on the road again to top up the piggy bank. Of course it's not quite as simple as that; that makes me sound like some sort of medieval troubadour, but the principle is the same.
So, I never let my agent book my travel because they always budget far too dearly. I do it all myself and I delight in finding good deals and interesting places to stay. And this hotel - though it's really a small "pension" - is no exception. The room may be small and sparse but it is as clean as a nun's conscience, the staff are lovely and best of all, including a decent breakfast I'm paying only €38 a night. The pension - it's called Hotel Modena - is on the second floor of a "belle epoque" style house at the very poshest end of Kurfürstendamm, Ku'damm to the locals, and is surrounded by loads of fancy shops - Prada is on the corner - and fun restaurants. It's a great area.
I'll stay here again, though probably in a room with a bathroom (though I've had the one down the hall entirely to myself) next time, if there's a next time. There's no telly but that's something of a bonus and with free wifi, who needs it? It'd all be in German anyway...
And now to wander the boulevards in search of a good dinner-for-one.
Here's a link to the hotel's site