[Dixielandjazz] Sideman wages 1922 vs 2004

TCASHWIGG at aol.com TCASHWIGG at aol.com
Thu Mar 11 13:33:34 PST 2004

In a message dated 3/11/04 8:48:57 AM Pacific Standard Time, 
bowermastergroup at qwest.net writes:

> Makes me wonder...does anyone know what the typical wage was that a sideman
> earned for a three hour gig in 1922?  Increasing for inflation from 1922 to
> 2004, what would it be in today's dollars and how does that compare to what
> sidemen typically make today. In Des Moines it is about $100.
I don't know what they made in 1922 Kurt But it was not much you can bet on 
it, Bread was about $.05 a loaf or less in those days as I recall hearing my 
grandmother talk about it, today in California we pay $2.50 to $3.50 for a loaf 
1/2 the size of what they had back then.  Caused by the Great Flour/Wheat 
Shortage of the 1970s (the same year we were sending ship loads of Midwestern 
grains to Russia who was selling it to the European market for a profit so I 
recall the turnout scandal to be.   

Now when I started playing professionally in the early 1960s $25.00 a man was 
considered a good gig in the San Francisco marketplace for sidemen.  I paid 
mine $40.00 to $80.00 in those years for a three or four hour gig.   

In the early 1970s I was promoting concerts and dances and did a two day 
promotion for Woody Herman at a Hotel and sat in with his band for two numbers on 
the second sold out night.  He offered me a job with the touring band for 
$350.00 a week and a seat on the tour bus, plus my hotel room and $10.00 a day per 
deim.  I thanked him and passed on the honor.  I had just made $3,500.00 in 
two nights promoting his show and I had paid him $3000.00 a night to play.

In 1990 I booked the Johnny Otis show a tour, and he was paying his sidemen 
$450.00 a week + hotel and one meal a day that I was paying for.  He was also 
taking out taxes from their salary.  Same time period Fats Domino was paying 
his sidemen $3,000.00 a month + expenses on the road.

That should provide you with a partial view:

The amount of money a good sideman can make today is relevant upon his talent 
and abilities as well as his repertoire of tunes he can play without charts.  
Since there are varying degrees of musicians there are varying degrees of pay 
scales.  A good one gets what he is worth because he knows what he is worth 
and won't go play for less.  Others will go play for free just to get on a 
stage, and be recognized for being an entertainer rather than some obscure ( Brain 
Surgeon". :)

If you live in the Bay Area of California the cost of living is about $125.00 
a day easily, so if you work for less than that a day you better be flippin 
burgers at McDonalds for eight hours a day to survive, or be a Brain Surgeon.   
The club musicians around her are still working for $25- $85.00 a night 
average, and not too many of them working either.   Weddings and corporate gigs pay 
them $100 to $150.00 a man average with the leader making double or more if 
he contracts the gig.


Tom Wiggins
Stirring the pot again.

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