July 15, 2003

After reading some of my old weblog entries, I realized now might be the time to address our change of address. First we considered Chicago, then Seattle became the plan. My record label is based out of Seattle, and therefore it would make most sense to run the business from there. The Northwest is my home and I miss it greatly. However, living in the Midwest has provided me with some excellent opportunties to practice and develop my sound, and it serves as a central point from which to tour and find gigs in other cities. So although it was announced in the Columbia Trbune that we'd be moving to Chicago later this summer, it looks as though any move will probably be postponed for several more months, if not an entire year. There are some other avenues I still need to explore, such as Chicago and Nashville, and I can do that easily from the mid-Missouri area. So ten or eleven months from now we will probably pack the yam-colored Vanagon and start the long drive back home to Seattle, but for now there's plenty to keep my and my music occupied here. And who knows what will happen in the interim?
Well...the Artisan issue turned out to be mighty interesting! In the end the owner made some moves that were less than consistent. Firstly the woman who used to do their booking and was in contact with local musicians regarding the stage policy change was FIRED after attempting to bring some other options for musician payment to the owner's attention. Well, that put the last nail in the Artisan coffin in some people's opinion, but then it went further.

In an article published by the Columbia Tribune, for which I was interviewed, as well as the owner and some other local musicians, the owner stated that once people have seen a band once or twice they won't pay to see them again. That directly contradicts everything that local music is about. Most bands in this town who have been around a while and have a good following would say precisely the opposite is true: we have people who come to EVERY SINGLE ONE OF OUR SHOWS and PAY EVERY SINGLE TIME for which we are extremely appreciative!! Thank you loyal fans!!!

Furthermore, the owner essentially said he had NEVER changed the stage policy and it was crazy that people were discussing a non-issue. In response to that, the woman who was fired for relaying the policy change to musicians posted the owners' original e-mail to her, complete with language that definitely suggested a stage-policy change. Hmmm.. how did us "crazy" musicians get the idea that things had changed since HE SAID THEY HAD???

Well...business is business, but it's too bad people feel the need to talk out of both sides of their face, especially about issues they clearly don't understand fully. It's completely his perogative to do everything he can to make money and stay afloat, and I guess he doesn't have any obligations to us musicians, but I'd rather he'd just been honest about his intentions from the start.

I don't really want this weblog to turn into a politics page, so I'm going to stop writing about this topic, but I feel it's important to bring some of the issues musicians face to people's attention. Sometimes it's a struggle to do what you love, but you do it anyway, thankful to all of those wonderful people out there who make it possible by supporting music with actions, not just words.

July 1, 2003

It's time to take a stand against the abuse of live musicians! Recently in my home base of Columbia, one of my favorite venues, The Artisan, decided to change its stage policy, and now has an "unfriendly" policy toward local musicians, to say the least. Friday nights were the only night large bands such as my own could play at The Artisan, and the payment policy was decent, with a door charge being split between the band and the venue, seventy-five percent of it going to the musicians. This is fair, since the venue definitely doesn't LOSE money on a door fee, they actually make an added profit above and beyond the food and drink sold.

Now the policy is that they will no longer charge a door fee, and will only book acts willing to do free showcases for donation only. I don't have the luxury to do this sort of free gig, especially where I had been previously paid, and especially when I brought a lot of business to this venue. When you have a band you have to pay every member, and lest I be called a money-hungry corporate pig, I must say I play music for sheer enjoyment, but expect payment to move gear, do sound checks, and load in and out. (But let's face it, being entertained and listening to live music is something worth paying for, so the art itself has monetary worth, since that's the only concrete way this society has of determining value.)

I will play at restaurants for food, I will play for free at benefit concerts for good causes, and I will play for no compensation at festivals where you are playing music to gather the community and celebrate. But I can't and won't play for free at a venue that will STILL charge me for my dinner even though I worked there for seven hours that evening to entertain their clientele, and furthermore won't guarantee me even a small amount of payment for my time. This is not about getting rich playing music, which has become a near impossibility these days, it's simply about being treated fairly and being able to compensate the people who support my sound, my other five band members.

They may claim they can't afford to pay bands, but again that point is moot when you charge a cover since that's the whole point of a ticket charge, you "cover" the cost of the entertainment. They may claim that door fees turn away customers, but if that is the concern, eliminate the door charge, get more people in the door, and then give your band a guarantee from the night's profits. They may say some bands don't bring in enough people to hire, so then don't hire those bands again, and for those bands that DO bring in enough people, do your part to support their advertising efforts since they are in turn supporting your place of business by getting their friends, family and fans in the door.

Ultimately this is not just about one place or one policy. It is about a disturbing trend that has hit the entire nation. People don't seem to treat music with the value it deserves. Music is a basic part of our humanity; as important to us as food and water and air. Some might argue it is more important. There have been days when I've forgotten to eat because I was sustained by some amazing new song, or working on a musical project that got me lost in another world. Music has been proven to make us smarter, to heal us, to make us more empathetic and understanding. There's no place for this sort of brutality against the beauty and joy that music brings to our lives.

Over and out...