Tuesday, September 26, 2017
Dave Carlock - A Day In The Life
TIMES CHANGE FOR BANDS, BUT NOT PAY
Originally Posted: 11-15-2013 4:08 PM
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If you have a 30-40 hour job as a employee somewhere, I'll tell you something that you may not know about most musicians, even professionals. Most of them will never have a single, continuing music employer. Think about that for a second. The greater majority of the workforce in the world is employed at a steady job, primarily for security, the health care benefits and a feeling of team. But professional musicians almost always go it alone from job to job!

In this time of increased awareness about musicians not being paid for their hard earned skills, I'll be focusing a look at what performing musicians' experiences are over the next few weeks. Times have changed for bands, but not the pay. Here's a few reasons why…

The landscape for performing musicians has drastically changed in the last 30 years. Until about the mid-1980s, there were bands and live music everywhere you turned. Most hotel lounges, downtown bars, and coffeeshops had live musicians performing multiple days a week. Having a DJ was neither considered “entertainment” nor even exciting until disco came along in the late 70s. But even then, live bands could learn disco set lists and provide live entertainment to a crowd that wanted to hear and came out to hear live performers, even in smaller markets. Unfortunately, those days are gone.

Crackdowns on drinking and driving over the last few decades have cut heavily into profits at bars and nightclubs. After all, they were always selling booze, in case you so caught up in the music that you hadn't realized what was happening.

Unless one lives in a major city with public transportation, attendance is down too, as most heavy drinkers are now determined to stay home and get their drink on for less money and no hassle with friends at home parties.

As this downward trend in attendance began in smaller markets, bars and nightclubs increasingly switched to DJs and stop hiring musicians. In smaller markets it's increasingly difficult to find any club owners who will support the hiring of bands and musicians and when they do, they're paying fees equivalent to the same fees paid 25 years ago, despite the fact that inflation has increased prices on everything else by approximately 1.6 times in that same quarter century. But instead of keeping up with the times in the way they pay, club owners have gone the other way and essentially frozen wages unless they were tied to door receipts.

One really sad trend is that club owners rarely look at the idea that providing exceptional entertainment is a manner of attracting clientele to their establishment. More than ever, clubs tend to book only bands and musicians that have a following. In smaller markets this is an indicator that the club has a sure-fore strategy for just getting by called “no-marketing plan”. In this scenario, the club owner shortsightedly throws their branding out the window, driving away any core clientele for a "quick" attendance fix of 50 friends of the band on a given day. After a few crappy bands, the core clientele won't show up without being marketed to. And because the club is "taking a chance" on this "new" band, they usually force the band to play for a percentage of the door receipts. Or is it that they give a “new” band a chance *because* they're willing to play for the door? Hmmm…

Since the club owner has shifted away from paying for quality and has put the responsibility of the attendance on the band, the band can't realistically expect to play in that town more often than once every eight weeks. If the band is decent and market themselves well, they can begin to build a following.

However in the club owner's business model the club owner is failing the band and failing their own club because they are doing little to no promotion to encourage attendance outside of the bands' efforts. The club is not building the mailing list, the club is not in touch with its clientele, so the club offers absolutely nothing to the band's development aside from a few dollars earned at the door. Then everybody wonders why no one's making any money. The club puts the hope on the band that they will make enough money at the bar on Friday to cover a week's operating costs yet they pay the band an amount less then any janitor makes during the week.

You may be surmising that there's no real income in this scenario for musicians. The musicians also have to do small-scale tours to cast the net wide enough to build a following in 12-16 different regions so they can begin to earn attendance at each club by controlling supply. Unless they live in a city that offers a much higher population and more clubs, the genesis of a band is one filled with a lot of expense, travel, time, and very little money.

TO BE CONTINUED...

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Dave Carlock
DAVE CARLOCK -
A DAY IN THE LIFE
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