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You Could Make a Killing
I've said it once, I'll say a million times more...being a musician is one of the hardest jobs imaginable. Not only is it our duty to innovate, create, perform, inspire, challenge, and knock your socks off every time (and look good doing it), but we're also expected to market, manage, and sell ourselves for - get this - little to no pay. I don't know what it is, but everyone from fans to music venues feels like musicians don't deserve to be paid for the work they do - and make no mistake, music takes a lot of work. Talent can only get you so far. Rehearsing, memorizing, and perfecting every nuance of your craft takes time and dedication. In other careers, this type of passion is met with promotions and success...in music, it only seems to be met with disappointment. Am I naive to think that musicians deserve to be compensated for their talent? Is it wrong to believe our hard work and dedication should not go unrewarded?

For the past several months, I've been looking for musical work, both for myself and for my band, Almost Eliot. So far we're in the hole $500 (all fees for rehearsal space so we can perfect our art). Sure, we've found several gigs to play. But each of these venues ask you to draw 30 people before you make 50% of everyone who shows up after that (and in flakey LA, drawing 30 people is a feat of Herculean magnitude). Or they ask you to pre-sale 25 tickets at $10 a pop...and if you don't sell them all, tough - you owe the venue $250 before you can get up there and play. Or they ask you to play for "a tax deductible charitable contribution"...after 10 hours of rehearsing for a 4 hour show. Or they flat our ask you to play for the exposure...in other words, for free. Why is it that no one says "we will pay you X amount to perform"? You couldn't get away with this kind of treatment in any other profession. A hospital could never ask a doctor to perform surgery "for the exposure."

There are musicians who make a living sure. Every rare now and then, someone will manage to land a steady gig playing for a national act or (at their own peril) sign with a major label. But these gigs are few and there are far more musicians than there is steady work. Music is one of the most lopsided industries there is. There's a handful of the very rich and very successful and droves of the underpaid (and usually more talented). 90% of the musicians you know (and listen to if you're into Indie music) have another job they live on. That might not bother you until you realize that making music (at least music that's worth anything), marketing your music, perfecting your craft, and generally managing your musical career is a full-time job in itself.

You may ask yourself why this is...why there is so much unfairness when it comes to musicians and money. The problem as I see it is with musicians themselves. See, passion is what drives us into this crazy lifestyle knowing full well that our chances of success are slim and none. We do this because we love it more than anything else and will jump at any opportunity (even bad ones where we're taken advantage of) to do what we love. The venues, labels, and others who profit off of musicians have figured this out and use our eagerness to their advantage. While that may be good business, it's not good ethics and its been sucking the life out of the music industry since...well, since there's been a music industry.

"That's just the way it is" doesn't cut it for me any more. I for one am sick of starving for scraps. I'm tired of being marginalized and ripped off. I'm tired of losing money doing what I was born to do. I'm tired of venue's unrealistic expectations for me to become a salesman; to be that annoying guy on the corner handing out fliers for his band (which he paid for out of his pocket and you're just going to throw away, quite possibly after making fun of him). I'm tired of working for the exposure, for a chartible contribution, and for any other form of free. I'm tired of all these sharks who try to charge naive artists for useless services they don't need at prices they can't afford to pay. I'm tired of music being in such a sad state that I could make more money working at 7-11 than I could making art. I'm tired of the corruption, the greed, the disrespect, the bullsh**, and the blatant injustice that characterizes what should be the most sincere and powerful form of art.

Who's with me?

Mercurius James
Community Member
Mercurius James
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