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...