[Dixielandjazz] Steve Barbone and gigs

Larry Walton Entertainment larrys.bands at charter.net
Wed Sep 28 11:42:12 PDT 2005

Music is a business like all others.  The more aggressively you work at it
the better you do, usually.  Some of it is what you want to do to book jobs.
Personally I have never wanted an "on the road" job.  I would have to work
everyday just to equal my sign business income.   Everything is a
compromise.  This way I can play gigs and have money too.

I don't care how you cut it if you work 250 jobs a year and make $200 a gig
you still aren't making the money a machinist or truck driver makes and they
have no overhead like agents or advertising etc.  Now the leader of a group
or headliner might make more but it's a tough life no matter what.  There
has been only a couple of guys in the past 50 years that do or did that well
here or lived well on playing music alone.

The second thing is that groups tend to book the same bands for several
years running, usually three and with a core of jobs you can get other jobs.
The more you play the more you work.  If you are in  the wedding business
you better have gigs around Xmas and into January because that's when all
the girls get engaged and are looking for a band.  If you aren't working in
that time period you will be seriously crippled the rest of the year.  The
same is true with Dixie bands.  Most of the park concerts and municipal gigs
are booked in February and if you aren't hustling then forget it.

I do book old folks homes and I work them as a Duo.  I do OK until some
group only wants to make $30 or $40 a man.  $200  is just about the max
although some will go for as much as $350 but around here there's only a
few.  There are a lot of people around here that will go play or sing for
them free.  The only people who work more are the singles who get about $100
or less.

Obviously Steve has never tried to book regularly in St. Louis (or a lot of
places that we live).  The schools at least in the city have just about shut
down music.  The guy I work with on Sat nights quit his job with the STL
school system because he had music 2 hours a day and he was to work as a
teacher aide for the math teacher 4 hours a day.  These guys aren't going to
hire anyone to entertain.  He now plays taps full time in the national
cemetery here. (people are just dying to hear him ---BOO BOO)

As in any business if you have a good product to sell and have been in
business for a long time you will build up a customer base or a clientele.
Sometimes that doesn't work though.  The casino's here pretty much only book
through booking agency's.  So if you don't work for agency's then no

Mailing lists are IMHO a waste of money but not a total waste.  They are a
pain to keep and people move a lot.  I was secretary of 2 Masonic lodges and
I chased people around the country all the time.  Mailing lists are time
consuming and many notices are not going where you need them to go. I can
guarantee that unless you pay for forwarding, which is expensive, your
notices aren't getting there for about 20%.  Bulk mail. is fairly cheap but
I'll bet if the truth were known, with a list of 1400,  it is costing in
time, printing and postage about $200.  If you are only getting 200 or so
out to hear you then you are bumping into the law of diminishing return.  If
having that group follow you is important then it becomes a business
decision.  Personally I'm not in the part of the business (clubs, hotels,
bars) that a following is necessary.

Yellow pages are no better.  The band I work with on Sat. night has a budget
of close to $8000 a year and that gets about 40-45 Saturday nights a year
and a few others.  Needless to say he's dropping the YP but then the gigs
will drop off too.  You get caught in a bind on pricing.  If you charge the
big bucks to cover advertising then you lose out on a lot of smaller budget
gigs.  If you don't hold your price then you can't book the big budget
things.  The guy I work for handles this partially by having two groups.
The second group is the Blue Light (as in K-mart bargain sales) Jazz band.
It's the same guys  with a little different format.

I find Steve's hints and ideas to be helpful but for most of us the reality
is far from 250 gigs a year.

Larry Walton
St. Louis

----- Original Message ----- 
From: <Vaxtrpts at aol.com>
To: <dixielandjazz at ml.islandnet.com>
Sent: Wednesday, September 28, 2005 12:24 AM
Subject: [Dixielandjazz] Steve Barbone and gigs

> Most of you know that I agree with most of Steve's insights and feelings
> about OKOM and even more modern forms of jazz.  So, Steve, this message is
> to be a little bit of a departure for me.
> I must admit that sometimes I get a little tired of you're telling us that
> we don't do it "right" as far as promoting jazz music.  You have set up a
> wonderful arena for yourself over many years in a certain area and it
> works well for you.
> BUT - out in the real world of the rest of this country, gigs are hard to
> find.  You make it sound like we either don't even try, or we are too
inept  to
> be the "booking guru" that you are.
> Well, I know of LOTS of bandleaders and musicians who do try to get as
> gigs as they can, but their whole year wouldn't add up to one month of
> schedule. (or maybe even less)  They do what local advertising they can,
> even play free bees (which I hate) sometimes to try to get into more
> The reality out in the real world is not what you talk  about.  Many
> and people do NOT want to pay even bare minimum wages  for musicians to
> perform.
> You have talked about old people's homes hiring your band......
>  I know for a fact that there are many old people's homes out here on  the
> West Coast that have NO budget for entertainment.  They rely on friends
> relatives to come and perform for free for their tenants.  In some  cases,
> of the tenants still play a little and that is the entertainment  that
> have.
> You talk about booking in schools that are willing to pay you to be
> Well, in California, many schools have almost no budget for  ANYTHING to
> with music any more.  They can't afford to buy new  instruments or in some
> even new music.  How would they pay a band to  come and entertain?  Also,
> many schools out here have NO assemblies what so  ever, any more.
> I book the Kenton Alumni Big Band every year on a tour of high schools and
> colleges. It gets harder and harder every year.  And -- that is with
> to our nonprofit that allow me to keep the cost of the band lower than
> other "road" big bands.
> My big band in the bay area does a concert series at a wonderful  theater.
> We have a mailing list of 1400 people who SIGNED UP to be on  it.  We are
> to get more than 200 people.  Again, the musicians  and guest artists are
> paid by donations to our nonprofit.
> I could go on and on, with examples, but I think you get the picture.
> You know that I respect you and I applaud you for what you have been able
> do for many years, but please don't say that it is "our own fault" that
> music doesn't have as big an audience as it used to.  Many of us are
> our best.
> OK - I got that one off my chest and I hope we are still friends!
> Mike Vax
> _______________________________________________
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> Dixielandjazz at ml.islandnet.com
> http://ml.islandnet.com/mailman/listinfo/dixielandjazz

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