So, a lot has changed since I first started gigging, many years ago, including the money musicians earn.
That amount has dropped. a lot.
Many things are happening in the world today, that’s for certain. And, now more than ever before, each of us is bombarded with information screaming for our attention, right at our fingertips. We have newspapers, radio and tv, of course, but we also have internet radio, tv, blogs and vlogs, online newspapers, and social media, such as twitter and facebook.
And, in case we forget, we have simple little websites, like this one.
So, it’s a lot. I think, also, we can’t fairly be expected to pay for all of this, particularly if we didn’t ask for it.
Enter live, local music.
Much of the local scene, in many places, has disappeared. Yes, I know this is open to discussion and interpretation, but trust me when I say I’ve lived it, and we simply don’t have as many places offering live music as we did a few short decades ago.
Instead, we have places trying to be all things to all people…desperately competing for consumer attention and consumer money. At the few remaining places that do offer live music, the music is most likely to be only one of several attention-demanding media happening at any given moment.
In your basic pub, for example, you can’t look in any direction without seeing a television, usually broadcasting several different sporting events – simultaneously. You may be looking over your table-mate’s head at a Scottish league football, while he or she looking over your head is seeing American baseball. Meanwhile, the sound is off on these tvs, and the pub is playing – usually – some radio station. On the table before you is each of your smartphones, and, occasionally, your laptop or smartpad as well.
Then, in a cramped corner – usually either by the front door (so that people on the street, walking by, can “see it” happening) or squeezed in right next to the entrance to the toilets (complete with a tv above this spot), is the live music staging area.
I say “staging area” because an actual stage is rare.
Now, that’s only the physical presentation.
We also have the monetary value of today’s live local music. When I first started, I made between $50-$75 per gig, as a solo singer-songwriter. That’s in 1982 dollars.
In 2015 dollars, that would be about $140 – $165 per gig.
I’m regularly offered all the gigs I could possibly ask for, with a promised pay of ZERO all the way up to $50.
That’s right. Businesses actually seek to employ my services and they offer me NOTHING as payment. NOTHING. ZERO. And, they think that they’re are being fair too.
At the high end, I’m sometimes offered $50 … which is about $10 in 1982 dollars. That $50, depending on how far away the gig may be, might not even cover the gas to make the trip.
Recently, I inquired about gigging at a local coffee shop, which seemed to have some kind of live music series going on. I was told that I’d need to first make an audition video, then post it online, and then my video would get reviewed by the coffee shop. If I were selected to play, the coffee shop would pay exactly ZERO.
Seems like a lot of trouble to go through to get nothing.
What many businesses don’t seem to get is that musicians are in business too. It’s completely unrealistic to expect one business to give away its services to support another business. Any time any business operates services, even if the business is willing to forego making any profit, those services still incur expenses … time, travel, equipment wear, just to name a few.
The expectations put on musicians is pretty high as well. At a typical local gig, musicians are expected to supply well-rehearsed, listenable music, and also a bit of a “show,” plus the gear to put on the show, plus the transportation to get the gear to the show. Local businesses often also demand that the musicians promote the show in some way…supplying posters and promoting their business on the musician’s website.
And then, for all of this work, the coffee shop or pub may only offer $50 …or less….sometimes they offer ZERO.
So, all of this leaves me wondering, if, in 2015, live, local music still has any value left in our hearts and minds.