[Dixielandjazz] Economics of OKOM

Larry Walton Entertainment - St. Louis larrys.bands at charter.net
Fri Mar 13 18:32:51 PDT 2009

I guess that there are a lot of factors that decide what you may charge for 
a gig.  One is how much you value your time and how much you want to 

This seems to be what separates the hobby players from the pros.  Personally 
I value time off occasionally and I'm not hungry to appear anywhere but by 
the same token I know that every gig can lead to more.  Typically I do not 
turn down paying gigs.  Although I did this weekend because it was out of 
town and didn't pay enough.

I think you have to ask yourself how much are you worth?  While this is 
really subjective you can tell if you have a steady influx of gigs.  Mine 
tend to bunch up around the Mini holidays.  I did two gigs yesterday and 
have one for Monday and two on Tuesday for St. Pat's.  I could have squeezed 
in that other gig over the weekend but why?  I typically make $500-$650+ for 
each of the mini holidays depending on the number of gigs.

You will see on almost every musician's card, "music for all occasions". 
That's usually so much B.S. but with 15 different shows I really do it and 
so far as I know I'm the only one who does in this city.  That's why I 
command the prices I get.  This week I was O'Larry and the Shamrock band 
with appropriate green trappings, music stands and all Irish music.  In 
October for Oktoberfest I will be Ach Du Lieber Larry and I will be a polka 
band.  I have a new one celebrating the Gaslight Square jazz era of St. 
Louis.  The band is called Gaslight and another new one is a C&W show called 
Ragtime Cowboy Larry complete with cowboy hat and cap gun.  Come on guys 
quit laughing, it's Show Biz.

I play a lot of one hour gigs and for that I make $125-$175 with most in the 
$150 range.  I pay side men $50-60 for the hour.  This is by the way over 
the top for most people in this niche.  That is playing for Senior groups 
and homes.  Remember this is against a whole lot of people that think $30 or 
$40 is great for an hour or who flat out perform for free or a small token 
donation to their group.

There are about 120 senior venues in St. Louis and I work about 15 of them 
on a pretty regular basis.  Some have no budget at all but some are pretty 
well fixed.

How much am I worth?  Valentine's day I talked to the customer and since it 
was so close to Mardi Gras she only wanted me as a single for $125.  I 
performed and got my check.  I got home and discovered that it was for $200. 
I sent a check to them for $75.  They returned the check with a nice note 
saying they appreciated my talent and that their guests liked my show.  Does 
that make me worth $200?  Well maybe, but if I charged that I would work a 
whole lot less and I like what I do so I don't want to play fewer times. 
Fewer gigs equals fewer people that hear you and want you back or for new 
gigs.  It's kind of a tight rope we walk.

Now to turn the page.  I have a seven piece (with a girl singer) Dixie band 
that I can't give away.  I just can't find a market for it even cheap.  The 
sad thing is the band is pretty good and may eventually blow apart due to 
inactivity.  I have just a real hard time suggesting to the members to play 
for free or very little.  Yet I want to hold the group together.  This part 
of my music is hobby because it just isn't paying for its self and has cost 
me a bunch for charts and other things.  I figure I'm about $2000+ in the 
hole on that band but dang it's so much fun.

You have to find your niche and every band has one where they can work as 
much as they want and make money at it but it does take work and doesn't 
happen overnight.

Sometimes you have to think out of the box and reinvent yourself.  Today I'm 
nothing like the same musician and performer that I was in my college days 
or for many years.  I have changed so much that I'm not even the same guy. 
Today I am an entertainer that plays a horn and not just a horn player 
waiting by the phone.

I try to always think ahead to the next thing or to avoid a bump in the 
road.  A long time ago I got in an argument with one of the band members and 
I told him to just wait until we were all 60 and look around to see who was 
still playing.  Well I am and they aren't.  It's only because I change and 
reinvent myself.

About 15 years ago the band I played with folded and I was the typical side 
man who worked at the whim of the leaders in town. As things dried up most 
guys made the choice of becoming a member of a hobby band or just quit.  The 
DJ's had bitten into a lot of the wedding business here and I was headed 
down the road of so many older musicians.  I really didn't like the "new" 
music and wasn't keeping up very well.  As a sax player the number of bands 
that would use me was drying up.

So the choice was do something I didn't want to do or come up with something 
different.  I started computerizing my act and now I don't need a band or 
have to depend on less than good rhythm players.  I can now do singles where 
that was the domain of the keyboard player forever.  The result is that I 
make more in one hour than most side men make in three to four.  Around here 
that is usually a once a week gig on Saturday night where my gigs are during 
the week and now I'm starting to get weekends off and I book multiple gigs 
on some days and usually 6-8 around Mardi Gras and some of the other hot 
days.  I did 11 Veteran's day shows last year.  I also do a lot better than 
most single acts too.

I have already planned for the next change that I can see coming in the next 
year or two and it won't even cause a glitch.

My formula is pretty simple.  Play well, be colorful, be versatile, connect 
with the crowd, find your niche, advertise, sell yourself, use new 
technology and don't be afraid to change.  Above all don't sit back and 
expect your phone to ring because it won't.  I always try to give them 
exactly what they want.

Evolution is based on the willingness or ability for a species to change 
over time or not.  It's the same in the music business.  It can come down to 
change or die.
----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Stephen G Barbone" <barbonestreet at earthlink.net>
To: "Larry Walton" <larrys.bands at charter.net>
Cc: "Dixieland Jazz Mailing List" <dixielandjazz at ml.islandnet.com>
Sent: Thursday, March 12, 2009 11:23 AM
Subject: [Dixielandjazz] Economics of OKOM

> Here's what happens when music is viewed simply as a commodity and not  as 
> something that will enhance the event. <grin>
> This was sent out to about 50 bands. I've deleted the name and other 
> contact information, but if anyone is interested to do this gig for  the 
> exposure, write me and I'll supply it. Caveat, if in an outdoors  venue, 
> it is likely to be about 45 to 55 degrees.
> I did reply with our band information and our minimum charge for a  three 
> hour gig, during the day, and/or night (indoors only) which far  exceeds 
> their stated pay scale. <grin>
> I don't know how BSJB got into their data base as we have never  performed 
> at this Wine & Dine Festival, though we have performed in  several venues 
> in Newark, including several at the University of  Delaware and the Iron 
> Hill Brewpub.

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