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Re: Zoe Keating in NY Times article.@borisfx.com

I think the problem is that people think we musicans are really just "playing"
this aint gonna happen to no plumber,otherwise human waste is gonna overflow


From: Daniel Thomas <danielthomas4@mac.com>
To: Loopers-Delight@loopers-delight.com
Sent: Thursday, January 31, 2013 10:16 PM
Subject: Re: Zoe Keating in NY Times article.@borisfx.com

where I play, weekly,  couldn't possibly afford to pay more.............for them,  it's a labor of love to have Jazz at their establishment and they are also struggling

I think perhaps I offended you, Rick.  It was not at all my intention--  if I did , I apologize.  Surely you know, my brother, bandmate and friend, that you have my total respect.

I hope that all members of this list are playing music for the love of it--  and certainly, we should all invest our energies in the musics that we are drawn to whether or not there is a dime to be found in it.  But--  playing a low comp gig for the love of it need not gut the financial motive in professional musicianship.  

Imagine if plumbers or electricians took such a stance.  Presumably, many in the trades are drawn to the work as a labor of love.  They may engage all kinds of low compensation projects for this reason.  But that does not mean that they run their bank accounts as a labor of love.  Finance is a labor of self-discipline.  This discipline which fosters self-respect, professional credibility and responsibility (as in- the Ability to Respond to challenges). 

Yes, I have a corporate media production gig for which I am very grateful -- it has been utterly necessary for my families well being.   That said, indie music performance and production remains a substantial portion of my monthly income.  More than 25% of my income in 2012 came from reasonably compensated entertainment industry gigs that have nothing what so ever to do with my Silicon Valley gig.  Granted -much of the work comes from outside California, but its not like I am standing on the sidelines of the music business making flippant comments about the plight of being an artist.  

It's a tough nut to crack and I'm not wild about it, to be honest.

No disrespect meant Rick, but you seriously can't get gigs that make you more than $50 in Santa Cruz?  

 a "headline" or co-bill at the Starry Plough or Don Quixote's is a door deal, with a deduction for the club's overhead, etc., and they like to keep the ticket prices down to get more people in the door to buy beer - and of course, they don't offer the entertainers a share of the bar take.

While playing in Danjuma Adamu's african funk band, Onola,(2008-2011) I managed the bookings.  When I joined the group we  were earning a dismal $25 per man per night on average and playing out about 7 times per month!   I guess you could say-  I really love African music. :)    But, I also really love artists and I believe we have inherent value that must be articulated and defended if it is ever to be recognized and compensated.  

For these reasons, I took on the booking responsibility for Onola.  The band agreed to a minimum income standard to which we would all make ourselves available as a top priority.  Anything beneath this standard required me to get buy in from band members before committing.  But, if the gig met or beat the standard, I was free to book and presume flexible availability of all band members.  With this agreement in place, we began saying no to gigs that were beneath the standard.  Where labor of love factors prevailed, we had a process by which to make exceptions..  and we certainly did so when it was good for the art, the band, or the community--but we I did not allow this to replace the standard valuation for our band.  

With this approach,  our band compensation increased to >$100 per man /gig on average in less than 3 months.   In addition to this, our band leader began earning a band leaders cut above and beyond the base line comp for the band members.  And, we were able to shave ten percent off of every gig for the band fund which facilitated future bookings and promotions of a similar caliber.

Of course, the approach did reduce  the number of times we played out each month-- to about once a week.  But, we made more money on the whole, worked less, and enjoyed higher quality gigs-- many in the very same venues (DXs, Fernwood, Moes, etc).  

In order to make it all work, we had to take more out of town gigs (Big Sur, Monterey, San Fran, etc.)  and, most importantly we had to hew closely to what our clients wanted (accessible Reggae and Funk .. Less african diaspora percussion jamming. ) But without a doubt, when we started saying no, we stopped getting calls for low ball gigs and got more calls for reasonably compensated gigs.  We even had success getting venues to increase our compensation by negotiating a commitment to increase compensation as we increased attendance / bar sales. One venue in the tiny community of Big Sur doubled our pay over the course of two months under such a negotiation!  Though Onola is no more, that particular venue still calls me  looking for "another act of similar caliber."   

Artists!  You are worthy of compensation and the credibility that goes with it!  The price of Artistry need not be suffering.    

with genuine appreciation for the many great minds and artists on this list. 

Daniel Thomas

On Jan 30, 2013, at 4:52 PM, Rick Walker <looppool@cruzio.com> wrote:

On 1/30/2013 12:24 PM, Daniel Thomas wrote:
Local musicians cannot do all that much about fat cat greed. But we can stop playing out for dirt wages.  No pearls before swine.
I really agree with you on this, Daniel,  but as someone who's still out there in the trenches trying to make a living
wage as a performing musician (with a small amount from the dwindling number or people who pay to take music lessons)
there are very, very few decent paying gigs any more.

In the 80's,  it was a point of pride to me not to take less that  a couple of hundred bucks for a gig.
In 2012,   I had one gig that paid $60............all others were paid less than that.

I am really interested in playing jazz (one of the historically worst paying forms of music there is, admittedly,  but also
representing one of the few remaining ways of getting in front of an audience where, ostensibly, other gigs
and potential students and studio work can be generated).

In our area the places who pay for jazz musicians to play with offer tips and a meal or up to $30 and a meal.
I'm struggling to find out some way to keep living doing what I've done professionally for
the last 35 straight years so I've elected to take those low paying gigs.

There are still higher paying gigs (in the $100/person range) in Monterey and Carmel, but there are very, very few of
them and the people who have those gigs are jealously holding onto them.      Wedding, Parties and Bars that have
constant, employable live music have just dwindled to very, very little.

But as unfair as the sub-liveable wages are, the  restaurant where I play, weekly,  couldn't possibly afford to pay more.............for them,  it's a labor
of love to have Jazz at their establishment and they are also struggling financially.

So,  I'm with you but at this point where we live,  I wouldn't play ever in public if I insisted on a liveable wage.

It's a tough nut to crack and I'm not wild about it, to be honest.

respectfully,   Rick