Sax on the Web Forum banner

1 - 20 of 66 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
95 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
I think we'd all feel a lot better if we recognized that in today's world, playing the sax for live audiences is not a profession.

There is no market for it, no demand. As Swampcappage indicated in another thread, it is in fact often a liability for bar owners to support a live ensemble.

I chose long ago to make my money in another field, which fortunately, allows me the time to work seriously on my playing.

I'll still occassionally play a gig, but I find the experience for the most part demeaning and somewhat absurd: standing in a restaurant with nobody listening, getting paid next to nothing and eating a crappy meal with the wait staff.

In fact, if you check out the threads on "Working Sax Pros," the subjects concern tip jars, free meals and the like.

Is the is the discussion of professionals?

No, this is the discussion of people pretending they are professionals.

And why do we pretend?

Because we want to be able to say to people that we are "professional."

Falsely, we equate "professional player" with "better player."
And those who are outside the scene, the clueless herd of non-listeners, reinforce this misconception.

From my experience, most of the players who proudly call themselves professionals are, in fact, not making their living from playing the sax. Either they have other jobs, or their wives bring in most of the dough, or they are students still supported by their folks, or retired from the real profession they pursued earlier in their lives.

Added to that, they are often mediocre players at best.

But they maintain the professional pose because, I can only assume, it gives them a certain self-esteem. ("Hey, I must be really good because I'm a pro!)

From this pathetic stance comes the resentment of "hobbyists."

In another thread, there was a lot of huffing and puffing about these hobbyists coming and undercutting the "real pros" by accepting less money for a gig.

Big Al Stevens seemed particularly piqued: "For a long time we had to put up with hobby players."

Please, Al. As your site indicates, you raised your family working for the government. That was your profession. I assume you played gigs on the side, as a hobbyist.

And now, (enjoying your government pension?) you continue your hobby of performing as a party clown to retirees and the deaf.

Moreover, aren't the hobbyists being the true professionals here? They understand the market, and by doing so, they win the gig. As long as we're talking professional, they should be applauded for their business savvy.

Back to my original point: professionalism in the context of what we do is a pose.

Sure, there are a few out there who can make a living by playing.

But it is such a vastly small percentage. And even for most of them, the money is (by the standards of what is paid to administrative assistants and sanitation workers), embarrasingly meagre.

So let's just forget about being professionals and make great music for whomever is listening, even if it's just ourselves.

There's a noble beauty in that.
 

·
The most prolific Distinguished SOTW poster, Forum
Joined
·
27,650 Posts
tenorocity said:
Big Al Stevens seemed particularly piqued. Please Al...now you continue your hobby of performing as a party clown to retirees and the deaf.
I don't know what the purpose of this tirade is, tenorocity, but this attack on Al Stevens is inapropriate. You talk of others being demeaning and yet you demean...and in a very mean-spirited way. Surely the point can be raised without walking all over others to do it.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
464 Posts
Holy sh*t , I wish I had looked at Al's site BEFORE I bothered responding to him.The truth can be truly enlightening.Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.
 

·
The most prolific Distinguished SOTW poster, Forum
Joined
·
27,650 Posts
I'm just pointing out that I don't think calling someone a clown, and that the best they can do audience-wise are retirees and the deaf, is the way to put one's point across on this forum. I play for the severly handicapped - without pay. Does this mean that's the best I can do; that I am not a professional?

Actually, I think tenorocity makes some interesting points in his post definitely worthy of further discussion but, at the same time, makes some pretty broad and insulting assumptions; phrases or words like "mediocre players at best", "pathetic stance" and others such comments when, actually, he has never heard any -or most- of us play. This is just presumptious and insulting. Is this actually a carry-over from another heated thread?


FWIW, it might behoove one to look up the dictionary definition of "professional" and to also consider that being a professional musician and a professional sax player are not necessarily the same, either.
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member
Joined
·
2,309 Posts
Wow!
Where did this come from? tenorocity...you are way off the mark.
I agree with gary completely.

I am a professional saxophonist, I've made a very, very good living from my profession, and will have a very nice and comfortable retirement income that will allow me to do pretty much what I want for myself and my family.

You might not agree or like what Al Stevens has to say, but he has every right to do so, his situation is obviously much different than yours.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
464 Posts
I think he was just reacting to the fact that Al made a lot of assumptions about other people's professionalism or lack thereof, blazed a few people, and then it turns out he had played part time while working for the government, apparantly for many years. Disingenuous at best, outright hypocritical at worst. I wonder what FULL TIME players thought of Al all those years.
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member
Joined
·
6,862 Posts
I'm not a professional sax player, so I hope you guys don't mind me adding four points/observations (3 are serious, 1 not so much):

1) On another, totally unrelated, thread I posted a blues head that was given to me by the late jazz drummer Dennis Brown. In his career, Dennis went from being an army drummer during WWII, to being a club player in New York in the 1960s, to a full time gig as the drummer/arranger with permanent big band at the Ritz Carleton in Montreal in the 70s, to leading a free jazz ensemble in the 80s and 90s. To the day he died, Dennis practiced several hours a day with heavy steel drumsticks and was one of the most amazing musicians I've ever heard. I've never played with a drummer that could touch him and, with some obvious exceptions, I've not even seen many drummers who were in his league. I can only imagine what he was like in his prime. Okay, now here's the point: Dennis also played in clown bands--yes, marching around dressed like a clown--and he did endless gigs in old folks homes too. What he would not do--not ever--is play for less than scale at a non-union gig. When I was younger, I never could understand the vehemence with which Dennis would lash out at what he felt were unprofessional musicians playing for less than scale etc., but I'm starting to: he was lamenting, angrily, the demolition of his profession. There may be some irony here.

2) I can't argue with the claim that "the experience for the most part demeaning and somewhat absurd," but I can maybe add some perspective by asking: "compared to what?" I, for example, have 10+ years of advanced graduate level university training in my field, and I have every right to call myself Dr. Leitch. And yet, I made 8000$ last year (and was lucky to get that). I spend most of my time literally begging for jobs in places where I don't really want to live, and very often from people who are so indifferent that they won't even bother to acknowledge that they've heard from me. There's no applause. Honestly, compared to this gig, playing Misty at an old folks home sounds like the noblest profession of all.

3) I think that the point Tenorocity makes about maintaining the pose of a professional for the purposes of self-esteem is a valid observation. This is what the famous french sociologist Pierre Bourdieu defined as "cultural capital" (in fact I've just finished reading a Masters thesis which tries to apply Bourdieu's ideas to Ornette Coleman's famous appearance at the Five Spot cafe). Where I disagree is in seeing anything absurd or pathetic about this phenomenon. What's worse: to be "paid" in self-esteem or to rake in huge amounts of money which you can't enjoy because you have no personality, no time, and because, no matter how much you spend, everything you try to buy turns out to be a piece of crap. Who's the clown, the guy playing sax in the suit or the moron driving around in the cherry red assault vehicle? Anyway, it turns out that one of the things that truly distinguishes a "profession" is the way it conveys a distinctive and specific kind of self-esteem on its members, members who are, at least acording to Bourdieu, acting perfectly rationally when they jealously defend against having that self-esteem eroded.

4) This is all moot because, if any of you guys and gals were real pros, you'd have ponied up already for the Conn 26M alto I'm trying to sell ;) .

Rory

ps. As Matthew Arnold said, invisible armies are clashing by night, so let's be true to one another.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
279 Posts
tenorocity said:
As Swampcabbage indicated in another thread, it is in fact often a liability for bar owners to support a live ensemble.
I've searched and can't find that thread. Why a liability?
 

·
The most prolific Distinguished SOTW poster, Forum
Joined
·
27,650 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
95 Posts
Discussion Starter #13
it was jmartin, not swampcabbage

Originally Posted by jmartin
Allow me to share my point of view on this subject as a bar/club owner. I've been in the bar business (as an owner) for almost 8 years now. We have live music at my bar and we provide a stage, lighting, house Pa, and a soundman. We go out of our way to support the local music scene. For instance, we never have an out-of-town band headline unless the opening act is local. So we do alot for local groups, and let me tell you, there is no shortage of bands that wish to play at the club.

But on the business side of it, which has to be taken into consideration if we want to survive in this very competitive business, the bar is going to be packed every friday and saturday night whether or not a band plays. Having a band does not increase our food or drink sales and in fact costs us money for extra security and the soundman. These are costs that we absorb. We don't pay bands a set rate, we allow them to set the cover charge (within reason) and keep the door. This motivates the bands to try to get people to come see them and also reduces the number of people on the "guest list". And since we have a built-in crowd, this allows new bands to get some exposure. There are quite a number of bars in my area that operate in a similiar fashion or even "pay to play" where the band pays the bar a set fee and then gets to keeps the door.

Like it or not, this is the trend in the industry.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
342 Posts
Tenorocity, I'm not sure why I'm being quoted in this tread but let me make it clear that I do not consider it a "liability to suppport a live emsemble." In fact further in that thread I specifically attributed much of the bar's success to the live acts that frequent our establishment. In addition, my whole point in posting in that previous thread was to point out that even though the live music industry is undergoing a change, some club owners have gone out of their way to support the live music scene.
 

·
Forum Contributor 2008/Distinguished SOTW Member
Joined
·
3,295 Posts
I don't think I intended to say it was a liability. Even though by way of trying to make my point it may have come out that way.

This thread doth behoove me to say the following though.

About 8 years ago I point down the "professional sax player" tag for a day job. I still perform regularly and make a decent sum for my services (and I never worked very hard at trying to get students so I don't usually teach and haven't in the past). This was just the best decision for me in many ways. I have a lot of respect for those who can make their living in music though.

That said. I run into a lot of "pro's" on the same gig's and come to find out most of them are doing something else during the day in order to support their music habits. A lot of them teach, which I think is at least closer to the "biz" than I am. But, in conversations, I've come to understand that it isn't as close as I'd like to think (for some, not all, I'm sure).

As a result, I tend to be a bit suspicious of those who say their musicians or professional musicians when I asked what they do. But, so be it. When asked that question I often reply; "I work at (insert company name here) for a living, and I play music for a life."

I still practice at least 2 to 3 hours a day on top of my job, family (wife and child), taking a class or two every quarter, and perform 2 or 3 nights a week. And I pull in a pretty decent wage in music by the end of the year. But, I hardly consider myself a professional. At least the day job affords me to turn down gigs that I would otherwise feel compelled to take.

I am pretty satisfied with where I'm at with all of that. 10 years ago, I couldn't have imagined it that way. I was living in nasty places (in nasty neighborhoods) and barely scraping by (didn't help that most of my money went into drugs of the legal and illegal sort at the time). But, at least I could say I was a professional musician. So it goes.

I got that special opportunity to live 2 completely different lifestyles within one lifetime.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
642 Posts
I'm living proof of making a living at it. I gig and teach saxophone. I prefer "professional musician" since I occasionally have to double :p
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
642 Posts
BTW, I haven't played in a bar for the door in a very long time. There's no market for that in my area (at least that I've found yet). I stick to the basics. Weddings, Corporate Events, Religious Events, etc. And I'm doing pretty damn good too :)
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
95 Posts
Discussion Starter #18
And your support is appreciated

As you note, bands do not increase bar sales and, in fact, incur costs.

That you are willing to suport these groups nonethless is admirable.

My point is an economic one. Unless bands can pay their own way, ("pay to play"), most rational business owners will not support what is, from a dollars and cents point-of-view, a losing proposition.

In this sense, the bands are a liability.

Of course, if the bands are paying you to play, they are an asset.

But once again, this raises the question of what kind of profession it is when the professionals have to pay in order to ply their craft.

Another way to look at is that bar owners are converting their establishments into concert halls: the musicians "rent" the hall by
"paying to play," and then can make money by charging at the door.

Just curious: do you or your colleagues also give them a cut of the bar when they bring the crowds in?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
342 Posts
No, no cut of the bar. By bringing in more people, they increase the amount they make at the door. I don't know of anyone in my area that splits the bar with the bands.

In fact, every so often, we have an 18-and-up night. We usually do this when there is a talented, local, underage band that we want to support. When we have an underage band play, they don't buy drinks because they are too young, their friends and followers don't buy drinks because they are too young, and we spend the night serving mostly water and cokes. Our expenses increase because it takes extra security, above what we normally have, to keep the kids from sneaking drinks (we don't want to lose our license), and we still allow the band to keep all the door.
 

·
Forum Contributor 2008/Distinguished SOTW Member
Joined
·
3,295 Posts
rleitch said:
4) This is all moot because, if any of you guys and gals were real pros, you'd have ponied up already for the Conn 26M alto I'm trying to sell ;) .
Already got one (though it's in brass with the underslung neck) it's an amazing horn. Best I've ever played.

The rest of your post seems pretty right on to. But, I'm not a pro so I ain't buyin' your horn. :)
 
1 - 20 of 66 Posts
Top