Monday, May 31, 2010
The Pay Problem
The other night I was outside Otto's Shrunken Head in Manhattan, watching the band manager distribute the "pay" to the band. Everyone got $6. That was money from the tip jar. One of those dollars was from me.
Many NYC bars have stopped paying bands. They expect bands to want to play for free.
It started because a lot of really wealthy people moved to this city, and they have hobby bands. They have plenty of money and don't need to be paid for gigs. So, if the bar owners can get these rich guys and gals to come in and bring 20 of their friends, why should they pay real musicians for real music and real fans? It ruined things for working musicians, people who paid their rent and bought food with money made from playing out at bars and nightclubs.
You may say, "That's tough. That's the market right now. People shouldn't be making that much money having fun anyway." I say it takes a lot of work being a musician. How can you play at night till 2am or 4am and then expect to go to work the next day? It also takes money for rehearsal spaces and to repair and maintain musical instruments.
Should the bars start charging a cover? Should the person in charge of booking bands at these bars start trusting their own aesthetic instinct and book better shows? Should you give a little extra the next time the tip jar goes around? At the end of a shitty show, should we go up to the bandleader, and tell him he sounded like crap, and that he, personally at that moment, is ruining the NYC music scene for everyone else?
Probably all of the above, and more that I haven't thought of yet. But I think we should take this very seriously. It is not just about money, but also the quality of life for both musicians and listeners, and the reputation of New York City as the entertainment capital of the world.