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Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2009
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I had a lesson from a pro up in the Portland area. I jokingly said to her are the gigs up here for 100 bucks and a bottle of wine like my area. She said , no we are lucky to get 80 bucks a gig and I now turn down the 50 dollar gigs. So heres the deal, my house is paid for, I"m not saving for retirement, im retired. Those of us lucky to be in that situation need to support our locals pros and NOT WORK FOR LESS THAN 100 a gig. I was thinking during the lesson how many 60 dollar gigs she must have to play to make the mortgage payment. So I think we SAXES should band together in solidarity with our local pros and establish a minimum. I know there are many people running around from the garage band guys to the starving students but we should all support one another in this . If we stand up together maybe the joke could be , you only got 120 for that gig, whats up. I know this is a long long standing problem but if all the non pros realized how taking a job for 40 or 50 bucks or agreeing to play just for tips really undercuts those people who are buying food and housing with this money, then maybe some would say, "I cant play for 40 dollars, it screws the guys/gals I respect who are trying to make a living">. Just sayin. I had no idea that our 100 dollars a gig would be considered a raise. I remember 100 back in 1980 gigs. Imagine getting a busboy to work for 2.85 an hour and tips. Thats what I made in the mid 70s? K
 

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You're touching on a topic near and dear to my heart, Keith. The plight of the professional musician in the modern era! And I really, really appreciate your ideas and your energy about this. It's very much appreciated.

The truth is, you can't have a mortgage if you're a full-time musician playing $60 gigs. It simply isn't possible. You'll not only be stuck renting forever, you'll be struggling to make rent and basic utilities every month. You'll also have multiple side jobs to make ends meet that lead to insufficient sleep, and that leads to health problems.

My parents' first mortgage, in the late '70s and early '80s, was $250 a month. Adjusted for inflation, that's about $650. If I could get a $650 per month mortgage, my wife and I would have absolutely no problem buying a house! But where we live, the cost of a basic, decent, middle-of-the-road two- or three-bedroom house is around $350k. And we live in Texas: a relatively expensive part of Texas, to be sure, but if we had stayed on the east coast, we'd have to have at least two hundred thousand dollars cash in the bank before we even started looking to buy into a Harlem co-op.

All this is to say that cost of housing has outpaced inflation and rising wages by many times, and there's no simple solution for it (I'm also not going to get political about this AT ALL here on the forum out of respect for everyone's sanity). And for musicians, wage stagnation is potentially even worse.

I've been very lucky in that I've been able to pay my bills as a professional musician for about fifteen years and I love what I do. I've done a big variety of things to make that happen, and I'm grateful for the good work I've gotten and still get, but I also see musicians around the country being exploited by venues and promoters very, very often. If the good people say no, some less-good people will say yes, and much of the public won't be able to tell the difference (although much of it will).

Again, there's clearly no easy solution to all this, but if it's being discussed and the whole musician community -- professionals and non-professionals alike -- is aware of it, I think the culture can slowly come around to valuing high-level performers a bit more proportionately. Thank you for saying something about it!
 

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This is a topic that I've had many discussions over. My position was different a few years ago but in general I agree with the basic Idea. If you are a working professional or at least you play gigs to supplement your income then I think not less than a bill is more than reasonable.

However!!!!

In my current position I am rarely gigging (busking still) but I might only get 1 or 2 gigs a month with the band I play with now. I am not going to turn down a gig that requires no rehearsal or maybe just 1 rehearsal if they don't have $100 to pay me. Many times these pick up gigs are playing for the door and the chance to dust off my horn is all that I was really looking for.

I don't think I'm undervaluing myself or the professionals in my area by saying sure to these very casual not stressful engagements. Lord knows I'd be going to the jam on the weekend anyway and not getting paid at all.

If I was booking a gig I'd make sure each person got at least $100.

If I was coming out to play with any of the number of groups I sometimes play with I'm not going to whip out the sack of oranges if they don't have $100 to give me.
 

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So I think we SAXES should band together in solidarity with our local pros and establish a minimum. I know there are many people running around from the garage band guys to the starving students but we should all support one another in this.
Legal observation for informational purposes only: Price fixing is illegal. Damages in antitrust suits can be tripled.

If I owned or managed this forum -- I don't do either -- I would delete this thread.
 

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It depends on a lot of different factors. Around the corner is a biker dive but the owner loves music and especially sax. The other night she asked me to just "jam for 2 hours" for $150.-, which is realistically more than what she makes in profit by me being there. Not to mention, that playing solo sax in a biker bar is a bit awkward. But the budget is what it is. I rounded up a jazz drummer and an exceptional bass player, no rehearsal, and split 3 ways. It's less than 3 miles from each of the players' house and we played 3 hours instead of 2 just because it was fun.

Now, this is a Thursday evening but everyone had such a good time that we were asked to do it like every other month and maybe a Saturday night for $500,-

In other venues, yea, I get it, it's been a downhill slide and I rather play for free than selling out. And if I tell them after 15 min that that should be enough - if I don't like the audience or the venue ... LOL
 

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Music is a business. You get a hundred bucks if you're worth a hundred bucks. Music styles come and go, as do bands. If you can bring a crowd and keep a crowd at a venue, and make them money... then you'll get paid accordingly. If you're not getting the money you think you deserve, maybe you gotta change what you're doing or find another line of side work.
 

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Legal observation for informational purposes only: Price fixing is illegal. Damages in antitrust suits can be tripled.

If I owned or managed this forum -- I don't do either -- I would delete this thread.
I don't see how it is illegal. I have to admit I don't know all the ins and outs of Canadian law, but a minimum wage is not something I have ever thought could be illegal. I do understand about the illegality of price fixing by a cartel, but what is being discussed here is more like a union.

In fact that is really just the answer to the OP: join a union and stick to the recommended rates.
 

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Musicians formed unions ages ago for this very reason. Join up.

And for god's sake, as much as I enjoy listening, what's up with retirees showing up at open jams in restaurants and playing for nothing, scratch, zero, week after week?
 

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I don't see how it is illegal. I have to admit I don't know all the ins and outs of Canadian law, but a minimum wage is not something I have ever thought could be illegal. I do understand about the illegality of price fixing by a cartel, but what is being discussed here is more like a union.
1. U.S. law, not Canadian. The company that owns the forum may be Canadian, but the proposed activity presumably would occur mostly in the United States.

2. "Like a union" is not actually a union. And an agreement among independent contractors to set a price floor is not a "minimum wage." Beyond that, this is not the place for an in-depth discussion of antitrust law. Suffice it to say that it's not uncommon for participants in forum discussions to propose courses of action that would be legally imprudent (e.g., "Sheet music is expensive. Why don't all we saxophonists agree to share copies among ourselves?"). But it's not up to me to go beyond these observations.
 

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I adopted this mantra many years ago. I wouldn't open my case for less than $100. Doesn't matter if it's 3 notes or 3,000. I always arrived early, helped set up sound equipment, and stayed after to help break down. Combined with my ability to be in front of the group to sound-check, my value was usually made clear to the band leader. Worked great for me.

- Saxaholic
 

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Legal observation for informational purposes only: Price fixing is illegal. Damages in antitrust suits can be tripled.

If I owned or managed this forum -- I don't do either -- I would delete this thread.
Price fixing? I thought it sounded more like unionizing.
 

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LostConn, I truly understand what you're saying, but I think you're basically hyperventilating a bit. Nobody is "conspiring" to fix a minimum price for all of us to play for and sign in blood. We can (as a group or individually) bloviate all we want about what we should or shouldn't get when we play, but nothing is "binding" and I simply see it as all of us bitching and moaning about not making enough scratch. Quite frankly, I fail to comprehend how that breaks any laws.
Then again, what in the hell do I know (or care)?

J.
 

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1. U.S. law, not Canadian. The company that owns the forum may be Canadian, but the proposed activity presumably would occur mostly in the United States.

2. "Like a union" is not actually a union. And an agreement among independent contractors to set a price floor is not a "minimum wage." Beyond that, this is not the place for an in-depth discussion of antitrust law. Suffice it to say that it's not uncommon for participants in forum discussions to propose courses of action that would be legally imprudent (e.g., "Sheet music is expensive. Why don't all we saxophonists agree to share copies among ourselves?"). But it's not up to me to go beyond these observations.
I am not a lawyer, but:

In the US, this is called "collective bargaining", regardless of whether or not it takes place under the auspices of a formal union, and the right to do so is explicitly protected under the National Labor Relations Act (see here).


Personally, while I understand the OP's point, I think it might be an unfair ask for those of us who play strictly for fun and have no desire to play for money.

I once had a postdoc in my lab who payed an annual fee to sing in a choir, and many amateurs pay to participate in various "fantasy band camps" that give them the opportunity to play with other musicians in front of an audience.
 

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I think of visual artists who often have to buy wine and snacks just to get people to show up and glance at their art without buying a anything
 

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Legal observation for informational purposes only: Price fixing is illegal. Damages in antitrust suits can be tripled.

If I owned or managed this forum -- I don't do either -- I would delete this thread.
Not sure establishing a minimum would be considered price fixing....
 

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Interesting topic....I made the decision a couple of years ago, no more club gigs...club gigs pay $25-$100....casual gigs (private parties, corporate, wedding) pay $100-$300 and up....most at least $200...at this point it’s not about needing the money, it’s about respect....
 

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Not sure establishing a minimum would be considered price fixing....
I definitely agree with LostConn that, functionally, it is a form of price fixing. It's just that fixing the price of labor, when done by the laborers themselves, is legal and protected as "collective bargaining".
 

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Musicians formed unions ages ago for this very reason. Join up.

And for god's sake, as much as I enjoy listening, what's up with retirees showing up at open jams in restaurants and playing for nothing, scratch, zero, week after week?
I don't think this is a hard thing to figure out. People with lots of free time need something to do. If that thing is music then its not a surprise that they are going to want to perform.
 

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I don't think this is a hard thing to figure out. People with lots of free time need something to do. If that thing is music then its not a surprise that they are going to want to perform.
Well, good for them. But they're not performing at a community center, for a charity, or at a park or public bandstand. I'm talking about playing for free at restaurants and clubs that fill the house on jam nights, selling meals and drinks.
 
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