Musicians and the Respect Thang Part Two ... [Different Times, Same Pay]

Here’s something else which is going on in Boston and in Pittsburgh, I wonder if it’s going on in your cities.

Now function gigs are cool, because you can charge a fair fee for the client as long as you don’t have some musician under cutting your business by accepting much ,much less for the same gig. We call them Gig Wh***s They might as well wear gold hot pants, 9 inch heels, and a multi-colored afro wig; I think you get the picture. Now I understand some musicians may give the client a break just to get “in “ on that business, but when you’re in discussion about making $3,500.00 and the client calls you and tells you they’re going with somebody else who’s charging $450.00, That would at one time, make me angry, but now, it makes me laugh.

I live in Boston, and Berklee is now getting more respect from the locals. People are shopping for music like they’re shopping for shoes. The client will call and tell you “Oh, we’ve been thinking about your fee, and we were looking around and found a great band of students at *Berklee, and they’re willing to do the wedding for $200.00 and a slice of cake”. Now days my response is ..”Berklee ? $200.00 ? That’s great!! If I were you, I’d go for it - but keep in mind those are students, their teachers are in my band.”

Now the clubs are something else. 25 years ago you play for 4 hours and get $75.00 per musician (4), or at some of the larger rooms, $100.00 per musician. Now in the year 2008, you play for 4 hours and get $75.00 per musician or at some of the larger rooms, $100.00 per musician. Here’s the rub: The prices at these clubs are not the same as they were 25 years ago, the minimum wage has gone up more than a few times but they pay the musicians the SAME AMOUNT.

The Boston scene isn’t great for jazz like it use to be. The jazz venues in Boston have either changed to DJ, or rock. The two remaining clubs in the city; I know of one which is a new up- scale restaurant “meat market” which was really a cool place to play. They used to pay you enough to pay $100.00 per (4) musicians [big surprise] but they would feed you something from their up-scale menu. There’s no cover, and the clientele is paying on average $60-90 a head. But they appreciated the music, and the band was treated well. Now the money is the same, and they cut out the food. The last 3 times I played there, they gave the band brown paper bags with sandwiches and a bag of chips!

The sad part about this is that the club will raise any door fee, but it does not translate into more money for the musician. I do play frequently in a club in Cambridge which will pay a little more and give you part of the door if you bring in over a certain amount. I think it’s fair, and more places need to respect us a little in this fashion.

They’re selling more beer & wine, pass some of that revenue to the musicians, who are up there on stage “playing” their music. We’re not sweating for nothing. I wish every city newspaper could do an expose’ on where exactly your money goes when you pay to see a band.

I always try to make sure my musicians get a fair pay, and I’ll refuse gigs which do not want to pay a reasonable price. You have to do that sometimes. Remember what Malcolm X said: “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything!”
L.

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Comment by LANCE MARTIN on September 11, 2008 at 8:56am
* I am not dumping on Berklee Students, because I was once one. I'm just saying that the student must know their value before they go out in to the business of music. Undercutting is done by more than students and it hurts the musician who is trying to get a fair pay to pay for their gas, rent, and/or family. Once these clients realize that they don't have an option, all musicians will benefit!
Comment by LANCE MARTIN on September 6, 2008 at 9:19am
It's amazing. And up here in Boston you run the risk of a Berklee student taking a gig for $20 bucks and a stick of gum!! I just tell them (the owners) you get what you PAY for. And it turns out to be true all the time. But they never learn to pay more than they did 20 years ago (with the one exeception club that I play )
Comment by Stan The Man on September 6, 2008 at 8:42am
Lance, I know what you're talkin about man!!, Being a vocalist,
25 years ago, i had to sang 4 hours to get $50.00 to $75.00 depending on how many pieces i had in the band.
And now, huh, it's the same bro, all these years later.
2 and a half years ago, i called it quits to write my own material and produce my own CD. So, now , when i get back out there in the clubs,
I can at least make up the difference selling my CD on the spot.

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