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Discussion Starter #1
I just want to get some thoughts and opinions. Now in my area we don't have a union. I'm very familiar with the pros and cons of a union; my wife is a member of the Screen Actors Guild. I'm having some trouble getting some guys for a low paying gig. The club owner is getting a reputation for paying less than other clubs and guys say that for playing less than other clubs pay they are "bring down the scene" and a "downward spiral'. I understand all that. I really do. HOWEVER, sometimes I feel like I don't owe "the scene" a &^$$# thing. I've been "off the scene" for a couple of years now due to some other issues. When I was booking a lot of dates I was getting more than the average pay here and I was paying guys as much or more than other people [in all fairness, I am still talking about fairly low money bar gigs]. I was also booking guys for weddings and getting them the "going rate" or better. I NEVER took extra as a leader cut. Here's the dilemma... those guys NEVER booked me. They always seemed to like playing with me and never turned down any gigs. I'm no monster player but I don't suck either and I THINK my reputation is OK [it's hard to know, isn't it]. So what loyalty should I have to the scene? I want to play out more and often times those cheap bar gigs lead to good money coctail parties and wedding receptions. It also makes me a better player to play out more and do more networking. If I'm not getting calls, why should I give a rat's $^&^% what the going rate is? Sounds cold, doesn't it? But I'm starting to feel that way. So far I haven't under cut anybody EVER, not once in 25 years. And I'm not talking about going to where a band is playing and saying I'll do it for less. I'm just talking about doing gigs in other clubs in town or on weeknights in a place that usually only books weekends. I'm just starting to think "loyalty to WHO"? I mean ***? I'd appreciate y'all's thoughts on any of this.Thanks.
 

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Discussion Starter #2
I should add...part of the problem about not getting calls might be that this is a college town. Almost all the jazz players are either professors or students. The faculty guys tend to only use each other as do the students and I don't fit either category. I'm 50 years old and not a professor. So that MIGHT be part of the problem, guys don't want to gig with someone older than their parents when they can use one of their peers. Maybe the age thing should be a subject for another discussion but I think it does play into all of this.
 

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I understand not wanting to play in a bar where the owner is paying less than the going rate for bar gigs......and man, that going rate is pretty low to begin with. If you are relying on guys who play "pick-up gigs," they are going to accept or not accept, at least partly, depending on pay. So less pay, less chance of finding other players. I've played plenty of times for free or for tips, or very low pay, when I just wanted to play or needed the "live rehearsal," etc. But one could argue that musicians and bands that do this too often bring down the going rate for everyone.

Having said all that, you might want to actually put a band together with like-minded individuals (easier said than done) who are willing to play the lower-paying venues for all the reasons you state---leads to better-paying gigs, tightens up the band, chance to play out, etc. You really don't owe anybody anything.....well you'll owe the band their $$ at the end of the night. My point is you probably can't and shouldn't rely on using a "pick-up band" all the time, especially if your main goal is to make music, not money.
 

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Those of us who have been doing this for a living for a long time have had to put up with hobby players for that same long time. Naturally we resent it because you make it more difficult for us to ply our trade and command a decent wage. I've watched the going rate for club dates go down sharply in the past twenty years simply because hobby players are willing to get on a bandstand for next to nothing just to be up there.

No, you don't owe me or the "scene" a plugged nickle. But that doesn't mean we have to like you for it.
 

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JL said:
But one could argue that musicians and bands that do this too often bring down the going rate for everyone.
In my experience this is not only an argument but a fact. This is why more and more venues have switched to singer/songwriters, DJ's, and garage bands. The only ones I see making a living anymore are the guys who stick to their guns.

Pay your musicians. If you really want to play the gig and don't care how much you make then pay them out of your pocket. After you've done that for a while you'll get the idea of what it's like for a full time musician to take a gig for $50. After, gas, insurance, time, practice, energy, food, clothing, etc... when you figure all of that in to your cost base you'll realize that a $50 gig actually costs you money.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
I make at least half my annual income off of playing gigs. Does that make me a "hobby player" that is resented by you "real pros"?
 

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The attitudes you espouse in your opening message are exactly those of a hobby player. "I'm having some trouble getting some guys for a low paying gig." Duh.

Call yourself whatever makes you comfortable, but don't wonder why your practices generate resentment among those whose livelihoods you threaten.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
No, that's cool. That's exactly why I posted this. I wanted honest feedback not an affirmation that "I'm OK" and I appreciate your candor and honesty. I play society gigs and weddings and we get good money that doesn't make it harder for anybody else. We get the same money as everybody else in our market [mostly rural and small towns in Georgia with an occasional gig in Atlanta or Macon]. I play these gigs mostly with a couple of bands that have a regular lineup and are not "pick up" bands What I'm talking about here is a dive bar in a small town on a Monday night. I guess you are of the opinion that any low paying gig is threatening to your livelihood. But I feel like there is room for a spectrum of gig pay much like the way there are cheap resturants and fine dining. I really don't think the guy making tacos is threatening the top chef. Maybe you are the top chef and I'm a taco maker.But there can be a place in the world for taco makers. People can come spend a pleasant evening seeing me play one of my low paying gigs that could not afford to see you play one of your high paying gigs at a nice establishment. It's really two different things, isn't it? Can't the overall market support various levels of quality and affordability. It does in housing, clothing, food, cars...why not music?
 

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Why not music? The guy who knows the difference between a taco and a filet doesn't know the difference between a lame player and a pro. Warm body. Makes noise. Costs me money.

That Monday night lowball gig gets that club owner accustomed to guys playing on the cheap. It also gets him used to guys playing "for the love of it." Word spreads among club owners. That's where it starts. That's what happened around here. It sounds like your guy is already used to it. Whose fault is that?
 

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Well, I was waiting for you to get around to the part where the stupid patron can't tell the difference between lame music and what you play. Maybe that says more about you than them.
 

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Sounds like there are several things going on here - if the scene isn't strong enough to support moderate to decent paying gigs, it's not the hobbyists fault. I'm not playing music for my livelihood, but I'm a more advanced player than half the guys that are in my town. They WON'T take a jazz hit for $50 per man, but I will. It's not a function of my abilities. But ya know what? If some jazz a**hat is too full of himself to take a $50 gig on a Wednesday vs. NOT playing at all, he deserves to be broke and he can enjoy his resentments. If a club owner comes to me and says, "i can give you $150, what kind of band can you put together?" You think I'm going to say, "Well man, you really should offer this gig to Musician X - he's much better - he's a PRO!"

If ANY PRO musician is jawing at those who don't make their living playing because they are playing low paying gigs, maybe they oughta spend a little more time assessing (A) their abilities, (B) their personality, and (C) their attitude. Sorry to say, but most guys seem to think they are owed something because they went to Music School and play as a profession instead of an avocation. You're owed nothing. You owe it to yourself to promote yourself and work to get the gigs away from those like myself that don't do it as a career, and if I lose a gig to a pro, good for him.

If you live in a city where the average jazz hit is only going to pay $200, you either do a trio and make some bread, or you put together a better group and only make $30 or so a piece. However, that is YOUR perogative. You can't take that out on a hobbyist or whatever you want to call them.

Al Stevens said:
Why not music? The guy who knows the difference between a taco and a filet doesn't know the difference between a lame player and a pro. Warm body. Makes noise. Costs me money.

That Monday night lowball gig gets that club owner accustomed to guys playing on the cheap. It also gets him used to guys playing "for the love of it." Word spreads among club owners. That's where it starts. That's what happened around here. It sounds like your guy is already used to it. Whose fault is that?
 

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LBAjazz,
Even if there is no local chapter there is nothing preventing you from joining the AFM.

Your wife is a SAG member, how does she feel about scabs and low baller’s taking the everyday videos, commercials, some print work, etc.?

A long, long time ago I started by setting my acceptance rate by going through "cost of doing business" calculations (and updated it nearly every year for the past 30 years). The bottom line is a rate I'm comfortable with (after all things considered) to make a very nice salary and to allow me to live the way I want to and provide for a very nice retirement.

No one can answer your specific questions, it's going to come down to how you feel about your music, your ethics and what you personally want to leave to the music profession...if it is your career goal, no matter how old you are now.
 

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Where does the money come from to pay the bands? Ultimately it comes from the patrons, right? And those same patrons are the ones who are hollering at the club owners about the price of food and drinks, whining about cover charges - and threatening to go down the street where the prices are cheaper. Club owners have to control costs somewhere. So isn't it the patrons who are driving prices down?? And honestly, does it really matter to the average muffy and biff in the club whether its live music or not? I know in our market it doesnt seem to matter much.
Maybe going out on a limb here, but is it possible this is just a symptom of a community that really doesn't care about live music as before? Demand goes down, what happens to pricing? Refer back to economics 101 if you need a refresher.
Artificial stimulants to an economy - any economy, will only outlive the basic law of supply and demand so long. Club owners are no more happy about running a losing business than you would in taking a low paying gig.

For what its worth, I am neither a club owner, or a musician for hire. Just an observer..... And a music lover.

(Edited for grammar)
 

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Mark,

I couldn't agree more. I like giving the crowd a real show, even if they aren't pay attention. I play my best when there is a large crowd, not just because it's a comfort to SEE them, but because I know it's keeping the club owner happy. I'm talking more about jump/R&B and blues music, but at the same time, you can tell when the patrons at a jazz hit are listening. But if I am going to pay to hear a band, they better be good and they better put on a show. The average joe walking in and plunking down his $3 or whatever probably won't know, unless the band absolutely sucks.
 

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LBAjazz said:
Well, I was waiting for you to get around to the part where the stupid patron can't tell the difference between lame music and what you play. Maybe that says more about you than them.
Who's talking about patrons? I'm talking about the club owner. Sorry for assuming it would be obvious.
 

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HonkBopSax said:
They WON'T take a jazz hit for $50 per man, but I will.
Only you can assess your own worth.
HonkBopSax said:
You can't take that out on a hobbyist or whatever you want to call them.
The original poster asked for our opinions. I did not raise this issue in this forum; I merely gave what was asked for. I also didn't expect many of you to like my opinions. They aren't what you want to hear.
 

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Mark5047 said:
Refer back to economics 101 if you need a refresher.
Okay, let's go there with a local example. One jazz club paid musicians $95 per evening in 1985. A beer was a buck. Mixed drinks cost about $3. A steak was $15. Today the same club gets $5 for a draft beer, $6 for well drinks, $30 for a steak, and $5 at the door when there is no feature. And they pay $70 a man for weekend gigs, $60 during the week. That's happening everywhere because musicians have allowed it to happen.
 

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Absolutely, and considering that my standard pay scale is $125-$150 per club gig, it seems low. But if it's between not playing, and making $50 or $60 on an off night, of couse I'll do it, and now just for the money, but because I love doing it. Your opinion is absolutely valid - but dismissing 'hobbyists' for weakening the scene is a bit much. However, you are right - it is your opinion and you have every right to express it.

Al Stevens said:
Only you can assess your own worth.
The original poster asked for our opinions. I did not raise this issue in this forum; I merely gave what was asked for. I also didn't expect many of you to like my opinions. They aren't what you want to hear.
 

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I will usually accept less on a jazz gig, if the club manager promises not to tell me what or how to play.;)

...but I don't do it for a living.

It's funny, but on an Island that has no right to work law, it's strange that the AFM and the IATSE don't have a presence (they do in Honolulu).

<proud member of IATSE, and HSTA(Hawaii State Teacher's Association)>
 
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