[Dixielandjazz] Hobby Musicians

Larry Walton Entertainment - St. Louis larrys.bands at charter.net
Thu Jun 7 16:05:14 PDT 2007

I completely understand the desire to play for people.  After all we learn 
to play instruments to play them for people.

I play music to make money and have done that ever since the first person 
handed me $5.  Growing up without things, like food, was a motivation to get 
paying jobs.  When I was in H.S. I had the best cloths, a car and I had my 
shoes shined.  I owned more and much higher quality cloths than I have now. 
These are pretty big incentives. The need to put myself through college and 
try to provide for a family was all the impetus that I needed to keep 
playing.  I was also willing to go to the background work to keep employed.

Honestly today I don't need to do anything for anybody but I charge money 
for several reasons.  The first is money is good to have and I have 
expensive tastes in music stuff.  I am still good enough to command a 
reasonable amount of money in the field.  I charge enough that I am not 
undercutting any other pro.  I don't want to play clubs so I am not taking 
money from other pros who have to live on the steady gigs.  I prefer to make 
it in single engagements which is a lot more difficult than steady gigs.

I guess I would rather have money than someone tell me how good I am.  By 
the way I'm one of the few guys that will walk up to another player and tell 
him how well I thought he did but I don't gush either.  My point is how much 
is it worth if the leader of the band complements a guy that totally sucks 
and then comes over to me and tells me how great I was?

I also understand that it's very nice to receive complements but when a guy 
who is very picky about who he hires calls me I take that as a complement. 
I have been playing for two such guys one of whom is a real trial to work 
for.  Do I like working for him?  Actually yes but it's not because of his 
charming personality.  I like playing his book and the rest of the guys in 
the band and I like the finished product.  I also feel good about playing 
with a good band.

I guess I have never known what it is to play recreationally.  Even the 
"fun" bands I have played with were to keep up chops or to make contacts 
with other musicians and sometimes clients.  So even they are business with 
me even though I didn't get paid.

Does it suck the life out of creativity?  I can't agree with that although 
some leaders with their BS can do that but there are people in hobby bands 
that can do that too.

I think that hobby bands should play for things that would never hire 
someone to play such as church picnics or street fairs or a school event. 
You could play yourself silly on those kind of things.

The minute you start playing for a profit making entity weather it's a run 
down coffee house or a senior citizen home, a bar or a country club.  It 
makes no difference, you have in fact become a part of commerce that will 
enhance that business and as such should be paid for that service.  If that 
business won't pay for your service then go elsewhere don't just gift them. 
As I said there are hundreds of places to play that are out of that realm 
where you will be appreciated.

Although I mentioned churches I may hedge that a bit because they have 
become venues with paid musicians.  My daughter goes to a Mega Church and 
they have a sound stage that can put a pro studio to shame.  The musicians 
are paid and even tour.  They bring in "names" in that field too.  Going to 
church is like going to a concert.  Even that has become show biz.

I make a very clear separation between the two.  Occasionally I donate my 
services.  I have a gig coming up in September where the band is getting 
paid but I am donating my services.  I can donate for myself but not for 

It seems to be a fact that if you turn a hobby into a profession that tends 
to kill the hobby.  I have seen it dozens of times but it doesn't have to. 
That's a function of your, or anyone else's, personality and how much 
individual drive and love of something you might have.  There is a term for 
that and it's called "burn out."  It happens across the board in all 
professions and it's not confined to people who turn their hobby into a 

I don't have a solution for that.  If I did I would be very rich.

I think there is another difference between pros and the hobby musician. 
The pro is available all the time but the other guys don't play on holidays 
or days or at their whim.  I work a lot because we are available at odd 
times when it isn't convenient to perform.  I am working this Sunday because 
a band decided for what ever reason to not show up.  We are reliable whereas 
hobby bands aren't.

There are paces in the country that just won't support professional music 
and you may very well be in one of those.  I think the rules may very well 
change in places like that.  I know there are places in Missouri where no 
matter how good you are you couldn't get a paying gig.

I have always gravitated to the big city for that exact reason.  If I lived 
in an out of the way town what would I do?  It wouldn't be professional 
music I think.
St. Louis

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Bob Loomis" <miltloomis at yahoo.com>
To: "Larry Walton" <larrys.bands at charter.net>
Cc: "Dixieland Jazz Mailing List" <dixielandjazz at ml.islandnet.com>
Sent: Thursday, June 07, 2007 12:14 PM
Subject: Re: [Dixielandjazz] Hobby Musicians

> Larry wrote:
>   "There is another difference between a hobby
> band and a pro band.  That is the amount of
> praise you get when you play a solo or do well.
> Hobby bands fall all over themselves telling each
> other how well they did even when they didn't.
> Pros just don't do it or it's subdued a lot.
> Another way is warming up on stage, practicing
> between tunes or on breaks or holding a
> conversation between tunes."
>   IMHO yet another example of how
> professionalism can remove the fun from any
> endeavor ... to a greater or lesser degree ... I
> know first hand not from music but from
> journalism, writing being my primary talent. I
> made it my career, which gradually sucked the fun
> and creativity out of writing for me. YMMV, of
> course. I'm sure the pros do enjoy performing on
> some level.
>   However, pro musos aren't the only ones who
> adopt this strictly business attitude when it
> comes to complimenting someone. I've noticed this
> at bluegrass festivals where someone will do a
> hot solo in a campground jam and everyone just
> stands there sucking on their teeth after the
> tune is over as if nothing special happened. Not
> sure if that's just a case of music macho or
> what. Maybe they are all just zen masters ...
>   I do know that 99% of the time when business
> and only business becomes the driving force of
> any art form (and some would say any other
> activity), that step sucks some of the creative
> juice and joy out of the art form. I'd argue that
> worship of the almighty dollar and the bottom
> line as the be-all and end-all is sucking the
> creativity right out of our culture. When only
> pros do something, it leaves out huge chunks of
> people.
>   Now mind you the argument that hobby bands are
> robbing pro bands of their livelihoods is another
> matter entirely ... I would argue that the
> coffeehouses where I've played had/have NO budget
> for paying musos. They are lucky to survive, and
> in fact two of the three places our hobby band
> played once a month over the past 5 years went
> bust. These were not Starbucks or Peets kind of
> chain operations but individual, independent
> operations paying high Bay Area rents and hiring
> staffs.
> Larry further wrote:
> "A more subtle thing is that hobby band guys will
> almost fight for a solo and the pros could care
> less most of the time.  The pay is the same.
> There was a guy that would show up early and go
> through my book ( I subbed occasionally for the
> lead tenor player) and pull out the tunes that
> had
> solos that he wanted to play and swap parts then
> put them back later.  The same guy in another
> band
> got bent out of shape when he missed the lead
> alto
> part on In the Mood and I played it.  Some of
> these guys go to great lengths to protect their
> turf or to play solos.  I think it's funny
> (strange) when guys do that stuff."
>   Well, I've experienced that to some extent,
> especially way back when I was playing in rock
> bands and the lead guitarist(s) would always keep
> turning up the volume ... in our current acoustic
> hobby band, that's not a problem ... we work out
> who's going to take a solo and who's not on a
> given song and stick to those head arrangements
> unless the given soloist happens to be absent ...
> Our harp player is the shyest harp player I've
> ever seen, will sometimes shake his head "No"
> when I look at him for a solo at a gig, even on a
> song he has done well many times and usually
> plays well ... that's as exasperating as the
> opposite problem sometimes, but as was said
> earlier in this discussion, hobby bands usually
> don't fire or replace people, especially if they
> are founding members of the band.
>   You pros can rest easy though, we will never
> take away any of your paying gigs, we just ain't
> professional and are too lazy and/or busy to work
> that hard ... most of us work full time at day
> jobs and can barely spare the time to get to
> practice once a week. We aren't even coffeehouse
> gigging right now, just getting together to jam
> once a week and working up some new tunes just in
> case we ever play out again.
>   The highlight of our performing year for 10
> straight years was our annual Geezerpalooza
> potluck and music gathering. Last year's was our
> 10th and probably our last under the old format.
> This year we plan to invite only our close muso
> friends and their families. That should cut
> attendance (from about 75 each of the last 4
> years) to about 25, and spare us old farts the
> work and expense of preparing for a bigger party.
>   Many of the musos who formerly performed at
> the event have gone on to professional gigs, and
> simply aren't available most weekends. That
> leaves us old retirees and near-retirees and a
> few youngsters who only get to play at the annual
> event to our own fun.
>   So we're now we've dropped back from small
> coffeehouse status to garage band status and
> we're still having fun ...
> Bob Loomis
> Concord CA
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