[Dixielandjazz] FREE GIGS - (The Austin Gang)

Steve Barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Thu Jan 18 14:32:51 PST 2007

"Jim Kashishian" <jim at kashprod.com> wrote in answer to a post of mine:

>> Steve wrote:
>> Most recently we played Free in Hospitals and small Assisted Living and/or
>> Hospice Facilities during the Christmas Season. We don't feel used, we feel
>> blessed.

> Kash answered (though my post was not directed at him)
> You're mixing two themes into one here, Steve.  I said a musician would be
> "used" when he is attracted by a commercial venture that wants the musician
> to pay for the right to perform.  Playing charity gigs is another thing
> altogether, and has nothing whatsoever to do with my original question.

I quite agree with you, except in the case of the Austin Festival. My
"charity response was just a case of my explaining that I sometimes violate
my own "don't play for free" stance. Bear in mind also that "Charities" make
a lot of money these days. Not as "profit" per se, but in exorbitant
salaries, high administration costs etc. Nothing is FREE. And the "pay to
play" fee in Austin is less than six cups of Starbuck's coffee for the band.
> My original question was, why the turnaround?  A year ago or so, it was a
> sin to go out & play a friendly lunch gig (that apparently is some kind of
> tradition there), when there is now the suggestion that going out & paying
> someone to play is a good idea!  And, I understood that the luncheon place
> in question is one where lots of people in the entertainment business come
> for a quick bite.  Could be wrong, but that is what I recall, so the desired
> "exposure" was a valid point.  And, at least they weren't paying to play.

Not a turnaround at all. My position has been consistent for years. In fact,
I said the very same thing about this same Austin Event a year ago on the
DJML. Concerning that California restaurant gig, it was a place where
ordinary old folks came to eat a low priced lunch and get some free music
along with it. Same people came in every time. Exposure was not the reason.
Not a place where big timers in the entertainment business went. The band
was being "used" by the owner of the joint. And the market for music is
harmed. As you may recall, I suggested a small cover charge and band
salaries, rather than playing free and begging for tips.
> Perhaps I shouldn't have muddied the waters with something so very much in
> the past, and I still say "someone is going to make a lot of money from all
> those poor wannabees honking their heads off all day/night!"  They ain't
> getting my money.

I don't disagree with you, but the Austin case, as I cited it, and as past
history of its success indicates, is a bit different. Another exception to
my own "no free gigs" rule because the benefit might far out weigh any cost
involved. Local Austin Bands have an enormous upside potential here, for a
lousy $25 fee. I think we all pretty much know that usually, when a band is
hired, "someone is going to make a lot of money because of it". And that
someone is usually not the musicians. They wouldn't get my money either, but
then I already have a working band and a young following. Some local Texas
OKOM bands are not so lucky.

In many cases, here in the US, we get bands that drive 200 miles round trip
to play a free gig, in a public venue that should pay for music. That 200
mile drive costs more than $90 at current mileage expense rates, for each
car. So they are, in effect, paying to play. And undercutting the market at
the same time. Here, a local Austin Band might perform and spend far less.
I did not suggest that bands from the nether regions come and play there,
though quite a few bands do come from Europe to be there. We might ask why
before we dismiss them as fools.

The other thing a local band might do is stake out a venue that will let
them play fre. One not associated with this showcase company. In effect,
ride the coattails. Certainly wouldn't hurt to try and they'd save $25.

Steve Barbone

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