[Dixielandjazz] Side Man pay & Websites

Kimberly Shaffer kimberly_shaffer at pgn.com
Thu Mar 11 14:09:38 PST 2004

Heh - actually, this list has made the rounds before... One time on a 
gig, one of the guys brought in a photocopy of a  handwritten list 
that's supposed to be an authentic sheet from Paul Whiteman's books.  I 
think it's sad that sidemen are making less money now for playing jazz, 
but then I think even back in those days not everyone was earning as 
much as Whiteman's band, who were the top money-earners in the 
pre-integration, "white" jazz music world.  Bands who had TV and radio 
contracts, such as Whiteman, and later Dorsey, Goodman, Shaw, etc, were 
paid like the rock stars of today.  Compare these guys' wages to the 
scale of the Britneys and the Boy Bands in today's world, adjusted for 
inflation, and it makes sense.  The only difference is that back then 
there were a lot more real musicians on the payrolls instead of synth 
programmers, dance choreographers, costume designers, etc - the 
commercial music industry is a lot different now than it was back then 
as far as who gets paid to do what; but the wages of the people who get 
paid to put on a mass-market, commercially-oriented show to entertain 
the masses are a lot more, even after adjusting for inflation.

Our problem, as musicians, is that we hold ourselves to a higher 
standard of artistry than the "show" people do, and as such have a 
difficult time watching the music industry make a mockery of the 
countless years we've spent actually learning how to play our 
instruments as they throw someone up there with not an ounce of actual 
musical talent to writhe around on stage and flip their hair and sell a 
zillion records while we languish in relative obscurity.

Oh wait -- this too was true in Paul Whiteman's time.  The "real" 
musicians of the day never took him seriously for appointing himself 
the King of Jazz.  They all knew that Fletcher Henderson was really the 
one who deserved the title... but Fletcher was <gasp> BLACK, which the 
record executives knew would never sell to white audiences -- so they 
'invested' in Paul Whiteman, whose own musicians didn't even really 
take him seriously... but he paid well and had some really good 
soloists in his band as a result.  But he was pretty much a construct 
of the record industry, just like the "superstars" of today are.  Heh- 
he was like the Kenny G of his day.  <grin>

There's a story about how Eddie Lang and some other band members burned 
down Whiteman's house and blamed it on Bing Crosby.  Bing (being young 
and not-yet-a-superstar) took the rap and was convicted of arson even 
though he knew the other guys were the ones who really did it.  Instead 
of serving prison time, he spent a year or so under "house arrest" with 
a policeman handcuffed to his wrist at all times, even while he 
performed on stage.  He and the cop got to be such good friends that 
they stayed in touch for the rest of Bing's life.


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