[Dixielandjazz] An uncomfortable position

Bill Gunter jazzboard@hotmail.com
Fri, 13 Sep 2002 16:30:39 +0000

Hi listmates,

I imagine most of you may be a bit perplexed at my apparent espousal of an 
unpopular position among my fellow musicians. I'm of course referring to the 
"hypothetical question" posed by fellow DJMLer and bandleader, Bob Romans.

I took the position that from a legal point of view no law had been broken 
and that perhaps the sideman in question was being treated unfairly.

At the same time I recognized and acknowledged the feelings of everone else 
and indicated that I also agreed with them.

Please know that I hope no one took offense at my exercises in logical 
debate. It was not my intention to claim "I was right" and "you all are 
wrong" - quite the contrary, it was simply my intention to look at the 
problem from another point of view.

As some of you may know, I write a monthly column about the DJML and the 
internet in "The American Rag." You may be interested in what I had to say 
about this issue in the October issue coming out next month. Here is an 
exerpt from my column:

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Here’s a total change of subject concerning proper rules of etiquette on and 
off the job. Cornetist Bob Romans, leader of the Cell Block 7 Jazz Band 
posted the following question to the Dixieland Jazz Mailing List (DJML), an 
internet jazz forum:

“OK! A hypothetical situation...your band is booked at a local country club. 
It pays $100 per man, and is a very nice gig!! Everything is going great, 
the band is cookin'!
       During the last break, you find the manager and let him know you've 
enjoyed the gig, and you hope he'll call you again, so you hand him your 
card, and he informs you that one of your sidemen just gave him HIS card, 
and suggested he call HIM the next time if he wanted a band since he, too, 
has a band.
     What would YOU do? Is this ethical for a sideman to do? Would you hire 
that sideman again for another gig?

This question prompted a great deal of discussion within the DJML concerning 
professional ethics and the rights of individuals.

The response to Bob’s question was immediate and decisive. Virtually 
everyone who answered this question stated the sideman had violated a very 
important rule of musician’s etiquette. Practically everyone agreed that the 
bandleader had every right to fire the offending musician and most agreed 
that the musician should probably not be rehired. Some were even willing to 
dole out more significant indignities to the musician engaged in such 
atrocious behavior. One contributor did look at the problem from a 
legalistic point of view and suggested that the musician had a legal right 
to hand out his business card and, from that point of view, it was probably 
unfair to treat the offending musician in such a harsh manner. But that 
position found no sympathy among the other musicians on the DJML. But, 
indeed, the issue can conceivably open the proverbial “can of worms” which 
wiggle this way and that all over the landscape.

Musicians, like everyone else, have strong feelings of what is right and 
what is wrong. And, even though a person is breaking no law from a legal 
standpoint, such behavior violates long established ethical rules of conduct 
for musicians.  One might think that the simple handing out of a business 
card to a prospective client is hardly grounds for being fired but it is, 
nevertheless, a strongly felt conviction on the part of most musicians. A 
few respondees to Bob Romans’ hypothetical question said that at best, the 
sideman should wait until the following day and then approach the manager 
and present his business card and make a pitch for his own band to be booked 
for a gig but the attitude was virtually universal that the sideman should 
NOT pass out his card during a gig with some other band!

Professional and ethical modes of conduct are just as compelling as any law 
written in the penal codes and the penalties for violating these ethical 
standards are generally imposed much more swiftly than the penalties for 
simply breaking the law.

All comments are welcome.

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If I caused any undue consternation among you I apologize for that.

Respectfully submitted,

Bill "I'm Not Always Right (Just Most Of The Time :-) " Gunter

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