[Dixielandjazz] Something for Nothng was La Fete De La Musique

Larry Walton Entertainment - St. Louis larrys.bands at charter.net
Sun Jun 3 16:03:52 PDT 2007

There are several sides to this and there isn't any real right or wrong.  I think that occasional musicians are entitled to a reasonable return for their time just the same as any other person who works for a living.

This is an important point I think.  The second you exchange money for a job then the ball game changes.  You are acting as a professional and as such you should be paid fairly for what you do.  The question becomes what is fair? 

If you walk into a rental business and rent a piece of equipment that costs the same as your instruments.  In my case $5000 is somewhat conservative but is a nice round figure.  What would that piece of equipment rent for lets say a half day?  Then you hire a reasonably proficient person to operate that piece of equipment for let's say 2 hours with some time to pick up the tool and take it back.  Add that to the rental cost.  

I don't think you could do that for less than a couple of hundred bucks or a hundred anyway.  We aren't even talking about the quality of the worker yet.  Now you factor in a workman that you know will do the job right.  Does he cost more than just anyone?

Yet as a musician, I know four big bands that pay $50 or less to their players.  By the time that they get dressed and drive to the job getting there about 20-30 minutes early you have used up an hour or two.  Then you play for 3 hours probably paying for your drinks and sometimes even parking.  Now you reverse the whole thing, beat feet out of there and get home an hour after you quit.  You remove your Tux that most likely will need cleaning.  Deducting $5 for cleaning that's $45 and $2 for a drink that takes it down to $43.  Now deduct a gallon of gas each way.  That's another $6 which takes us to $37.  This all assumes that you have the perfect musical instrument that never needs repair and cost you nothing. (Yeah and it came tuned at the factory too) So far that's about $6 an hour.  Now deduct 15% social security and state and federal taxes. (you are doing that aren't you) $50 is just a break even point and as far as the musician is concerned is a free gig.  Never mind having anything left over.

This takes you into the realm of working for sub standard wages even less than at McDonald hamburger.

This is substandard no matter how you look at it as a hobby or as a professional.  Even $100 for the same job is somewhat marginal yet there are tons of guys here who think that they are really doing something and are very cool.  $100 a day translates into $36,500 a year with absolutely no days off or vacation.  Almost no one can stay booked that much so it's a lot less.

Normally I wouldn't care what people do but it makes it really hard to get a fair amount for your players when so many people are giving it away.  Truthfully I am embarrassed to ask someone to even walk out of their house for less than $50 but I have to do it sometimes.   Fortunately I'm able to do better than that most of the time

I guess what really surprises me is that many of these guys make much much more in their day jobs and if anyone seriously told them that they were worth the same money they get as a musician they would be seriously offended.

A couple of weeks ago I tried to book a 4 piece strolling Dixie band for $300 for one hour.  That translates into about 3 1/2 hours to do the job plus gas getting there and hassling for parking.  I was going to pay $75 and just split the money four ways.  It was a city that was going to hire us to play for their 75th anniversary and it was before a concert.  They treated me like a rip off artist.  The main attraction, a big band, that takes donations for charity was working almost for free and as it turned out they had no "greeting" group.  So the city got a gala evening for almost free and they did it on the backs of 18 guys who should know better.

I have to deal with these people and try to make a buck.  Memorial day my friend Gary Dammer who has a killer Big band got us $150 a man for a 2 hour concert.  That also included bringing in two big guns from out of town and a singer.  (Elizar: the singer was Sherri Drake the one you heard at the Crossing when you were here)  I guess I get irritated because I'm caught between the many musicians that seem to want to give their services away and the clients who seem to think that I should be grateful that they might let me work for them.

I don't see anything wrong with setting your prices high enough that you can do a little better than break even or work for minimum wage.  What will happen is that occasionally you will lose a job.  So what.  If you are a "Hobby" musician it can't possibly make any difference and you will at the same time make it easier for the pro to make a living without costing you anything.  Remember if they are turning you down then the pro won't be interested in it either so that client may not have live music and may come back with more money the next time which will benefit you both.  By asking for fair money for yourself then the standards gradually become higher which benefits the pro who depends on the money too.
St. Louis

  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: L Patrick Briody 
  To: Larry Walton Entertainment - St. Louis 
  Cc: Dixieland Jazz Mailing List 
  Sent: Friday, June 01, 2007 5:12 PM
  Subject: Re: [Dixielandjazz] Something for Nothng was La Fete De La Musique

  I play with a hobby band.  The guys like to play, maybe once a month, for some dollars, but certainly as importantly, at a venue where they and the audience has fun. The dates we accept, and we turn down few and then mostly because of business and social commitments of key players, meet these qualifications.
  The folks who book us are good people.  They try to make  a reasonable deal for their organization, perhaps a church, charity or whatever.  Now I suspect jazz clubs may be different, but let's not paint everyone with the same brush.
  In my view, anyone who tries to negotiate a "best" price for his/her constituency is not evil and let's not try to be mind-readers.

  "Larry Walton Entertainment - St. Louis" <larrys.bands at charter.net> wrote:
    No it's all about getting something for nothing - it cuts across cultural, 
    social and national boundaries. So you form a jazz club and talk guys into 
    playing for nothing that means you get to listen to your favorite music and 
    have a drink for free or at reduced price. Sounds like a plan and I'm sure 
    that in the back of their head.

    I got a whiner on the phone yesterday who wanted us to take a lot less 
    money, for a Saturday no less, and I said no. Either you are a hobby 
    musician or you are a professional. But even if you are a hobby musician 
    there is no excuse to let them wheedle you down. Your time and talent is 
    worth something. It's very easy just say NO!

    Those guys should not put up with these guys even if they are hobby 
    musicians. I'm sure the list can come up with the top reasons why they want 
    you to play cheaper or at least free to them.
    1. Other bands work for the gate.
    2. We can't afford that, can you do it for less.
    3. The Joe Blow band will do it for less
    4. This is a ............. group (Church, Senior Citizen and so on and so 
    5. You'll get great exposure

    I'm sure there are a lot more.
    St. Louis

    ----- Original Message ----- 
    From: "Mike" 
    To: "Larry Walton" 
    Cc: "Dixieland Jazz Mailing List" 
    Sent: Thursday, May 31, 2007 11:19 PM
    Subject: Re: [Dixielandjazz] La Fete De La Musique

    > Why does it seem like jazz clubs are always screwing jazz bands? Please 
    > correct me if I am wrong but I see gigs like that sponsored by jazz clubs 
    > all the time. These same jazz clubs claim that they are for the 
    > preservation of jazz, but it seems like they care very little for the 
    > musicians playing the jazz.
    > Mike
    > Steve Barbone wrote:
    >> Gee, here is a great event by a leading catering house in Washington DC,
    >> charging a $15 cover to get in. BUT THEY WANT THE BANDS TO PLAY FOR FREE.
    >> Gee, where do I sign up? :-) VBG
    >> Funnier yet, the invite was forwarded by members of the local OKOM Jazz
    >> Society to all the bands on their list.
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