[Dixielandjazz] Big Bands & playing on the cheap

Charles Suhor csuhor at zebra.net
Sat Dec 4 09:47:48 PST 2004

There's a big band (17 pieces, plus vocalist and a sound man) here in 
Montgomery, AL that I play with--twice monthly rehearsals and maybe 15 
gigs a year. There are several others relatively nearby, not counting 
college lab bands, at Auburn, Pensacola, Columbus, Ga., Birmingham, and 
a new one in Alexander City. I know $ info on only three of them 
(including us), who play for free (civic/charity events), or  $50 a 
person (pretty typical), or $100 when we know the hirer can afford it. 
For combo gigs areound here, the pay is usually $80-$100.

There's something in the argument that most hirers can't afford a big 
band at $2400 in our area, so the lowball of $50 has long been accepted 
by our members. What we're doing combines playing for fun with 
community service, plus enough money to more than cover expenses. Some 
reservations and special circumstances: We never play free, even for 
civic events, if another band is being paid. A good trade-off-- the 
city provides a practice hall, stands, music, and sound system so we 
play for civic events gratis. We just had a spat with our usual New 
Years Eve employer when they wanted to cut us down from $100 to $50 
(!). When we flat cancelled, and they came through.

Here and in Urbana, Ill., where I lived for many years, jazz groups 
(mostly modern) have often played for the gate and tips, amounting to 
peanuts, which bugs me but it has become the tradition. Usually you can 
play whatever you want in such situations, and the smallish audiences 
dig it, but as many of you have pointed out, the profession suffers. 
Many players show up at jam sessions for free, again playing what and 
when they choose. I think that's a little different, but I'm not sure.

Charlie Suhor

On Dec 3, 2004, at 4:18 PM, LARRY'S Signs and Large Format Printing 

> In St. Louis there are several big bands.  The pay is typically $50 
> per man.
> They are as follows.
> Monday night Band at BB's Authorized by the local as a rehearsal band  
> $15
> 18 pc
> Gary Dammer Big Band   Scale to $125  18 pc
> Michael Brooks big Band w 3 vocalists $100-125 (usually $125 has gone 
> to
> $350) 10 pc
> Both of these guys have 6 piece bands also.
> See  www.michaelbrooks.com  That's me on the left with the Silver 1928
> Buscher.
> Rusty David band - union scale @$80, size of band varies
> I play with these guys when I don't have a gig.
> Gateway city Big Band - nothing - money is given to charity  18 pc, 
> paid
> rehearsal leader  sells CD's
> The Blue Knights  $50-100  10pc - spin off of the Gateway city band
> North County Jazz Band - Wednesday night community rehearsal band - no 
> pay
> I rarely play with these guys because they pay poorly.  Their "regular 
> guys"
> cherry pick the jobs and sub out the poor ones.  They are a fairly 
> good band
> though.
> Sentimental Journey - Hobby band of a Dr who MC's - Sells CD's - $50 
> 18 pc
> w/singer
> I never play with these guys anymore for same and other reasons.
> Original Knights of Swing - Hobby band of a Dr. who holds trumpet - 18 
> pc
> with singer(s) free to $30
> Nostalgia - I haven't played with these guys for some time but they pay
> poorly.
> Personally I feel bad if I have to pay less than $100.  I will be 
> booking my
> own Dixie band soon but I just don't think I'll be able to get that 
> kind of
> money and ever hope to make a leader fee too.  I have almost $2000  in 
> the
> band so far.  Unfortunately I think I'll be paying in that $50 area 
> and I'm
> afraid that just won't make it for long with the people in the band.
> Hopefully we will do well and I can do better.  That's about what I 
> make
> when I play with other Trad bands.  That's still about $600-700 for 
> the 8pc
> group.  Tuba, piano, banjo, clarinet, trombone, drums, cornet, 
> vocalist.  I
> would like to get $1000-1200 for the group.  Pay them $100 and make an 
> extra
> couple hundred for myself.  They pay $800-$1000 for park concerts in 
> the
> summer.
> What do bands get and how does it break down per man around the 
> country for
> Dixieland?  I know it will vary a lot but it might be nice to know 
> what's
> happening around the country with OKOM.
> No one is getting rich here.
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: <Trumpetom at aol.com>
> To: <dixielandjazz at ml.islandnet.com>
> Sent: Friday, December 03, 2004 1:36 PM
> Subject: [Dixielandjazz] Big Band re-emerging?
>> A couple of Monday night big bands that I know of do not exactly get 
>> paid.
>> The leader sells CDs for $15.00 (his cost $1.00 each). But he buys the
> music and
>> equipment. The house keeps about half the cover charge. What little is
> left
>> from the cover charge goes to the band members for gasoline money. The
> leader
>> may slip a few dollars of his own to a few band members. Is it that 
>> way in
>> other areas too? Does OKOM work like this also?
>> Tom Loeb
>> California
>> www.hotsytotsyboys.com
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