December 16, 2020

Message From A Musician


As a reader of this blog and newsletter or as a listener of my podcast - you know that I am a keen supporter of the broad category of ‘creative professional’ - and specifically ‘musician’. What follows are not my words, but those of a musician that wrote to me recently. Reproduced with their permission and names and venues changed/anonymized to ‘protect the vulnerable’.

I just got my first real paying gig since March 17 for Saturday December 26th. Meanwhile, due to an uptick in local COVID cases the county has announced that restaurants are to remain open, but no one allowed at the bar for the next 2 weeks.

By my calculation from today (Dec. 10), that takes us to December 25th. So, December 26th we will be back to normal?

Photo by Marscella Ling on Unsplash

After 9 months of ‘COVID communications with the owners of a local ‘hostelry’ - and having played there every Friday for over fourteen years, I have now experienced a full u-turn, so instead of returning to my Friday Afternoon slot - which they said “would be there for me whenever I was ready to return”, they have instead told me I will be “on call”, if they need a last minute substitute as ‘their schedule is booked full’.

I told them actually no …. no I won’t.

Beyond that, they are no longer paying what they used to - and that was never a lot to begin with!

The business (music AND the hostelry) has never been stacked with integrity, but this has to be a new low. Maybe to match the pay rates of the stand-ins?

Meanwhile on the other side of town, my Tuesday night gig (again over 14 years) has been taken over by a guy playing bass with a karaoke backing machine … in return for ‘a burger and a beer’ !!

The musician said “he did not want to steal my night” … funny - because he did. He could have said no. I guess the burger temptation was too great.

He was offered the gig by the owner because his belief was that I wouldn’t work for free. (Correct!).

I grew up in a Union town. I remember what those kinds of people were called.

I get it. I really do. I know the venues are struggling with finance like us all - musicians included - but if they can’t afford musicians - why bring them on at all?

If your business model is to offer live music - shouldn’t you pay for it?

And sure - I can hear the gallery calling down - you’ll make it up in tips.

With luck - but in reality - no.

So take a share of the profits of extra beer sold …. yeah - good luck with that! When THEY are doing well, YOU are on a fixed (low) fee - “make it up in tips”. But now they are down … well, you know how it goes.

As you know I’ve made my living as a full time musician and creative all of my life, so sad to reflect on COVID lessons;

  • loyalty - out of the window
  • promises - not worth the paper they are written on
  • dogs - they will eat dogs

Don’t get me wrong, the competition is just getting ramped up. The number of musicians - in this area seems to be growing by the day - and I am pretty sure that the number of hostelries are reducing. (One of the biggest just 10 miles away has announced that it is closing for GOOD. )

Not sure how this is going to play out - but I stand with my belief that a business should only offer what it can afford - and the race to the bottom of price is not a race I am going to join in.

When I order Lobster, I don’t expect to eat it and then renegotiate the price - but that seems to be the life of the live performer.

Still - one door closes, another opens - I wonder what happens when two doors close!

creative professional guest post musician Work

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