One of the first blogs I wrote was about musicians getting paid, oe rather not getting paid, and it’s clear that since then things have got worse not better. There appears to be an endless supply of musician turkeys voting for Christmas, accepting gigs where they don’t get paid, where they get paid a percentage of the tickets they sell and numerous other variations. The arguments for not doing this are well-known and appear blindingly obvious to all but the turkeys, who persist in offering their idiotic justifications: “we just want to play”, “we need the gigs”, “we’ll get exposure” and so on. And given that they think accepting these deals makes sense it seems unlikely that they’d understand how much damage they’re doing to the wider musical community either so that having that debate is pointless.
But, from time a wave of online outrage surges up about a venue or a promoter who’s ripping off bands (and quite right too) and to a chorus of approval they are named and shamed. Venues are boycotted, promoters promise to mend their ways, and while this may be temporary or window-dressing, in some cases at least it seems to have a positive effect. It’s a pity that we can’t do the same for the musicians who accept the deals, because if they didn’t accept them the whole practive would ceas to exist overnight. If only…
If there’s one thing that musicians agree on, it’s that they want, in fact need, to be paid. Spotify, illegal downloads, file-sharing, pay-to-play gigs and many more are all railed against. If musicians aren’t paid music will die, they proclaim, and they are right. And yet a significant minority – at least I hope it’s a minority – are not so much colluding as happily encouraging their own demise.
Here’s an example. A gig I went to recently featured four acts. On the undercard were two no-name local singer-songwriters and one partial name local singer-songwriter. Headlining was a four piece band from London, an Americana name (though not a major one) that possessed the usual large amounts of critical acclaim and is in fact very good. The price of entry to this extravaganza? £3. Three pounds. Less than the price of a pint.
The paying attendance peaked at no more than 25, which seemed to disturb the promoter not at all. The headliners were on a £100 guarantee (I asked) so I’d guess that the no-names got nothing and the partial name (who, incidentally, played with three friends) maybe £20 if he was lucky.
This is far from an isolated instance, even just thinking about my neck of the woods, and so long as musicians are prepared to accept deals like this then so long will people be conditioned to think that music should be free or next-to-free.