I'm interested in creating a new page on the MBH site specifically focused on offering advice to players & students, young and old, who are interested in what it takes to make a living--or at least a life--as a working harmonica player. I'm soliciting contributions.
Because Walter Tore and BBQ Bob have made it clear, on this forum, that they have not only lived long and complicated blues lives that intersect with many well-known blues elders, but have lots to say about those lives, I'd like to begin with contributions from them. I'm not sure what form these contributions should take. Each man has touched on a number of subject areas in the course of various posts here over the past few years. (Walter's posts about playing with and learning from Lightning Hopkins and Bob's posts about how to carry the groove come immediately to mind.) It's possible that a search of the forum threads would pull a lot of useable material up right away.
In any case, I'd like to extend my offer first to Walter and Bob: if you're interested and when you get a moment, work something up for me and/or point me towards particular threads in the MBH forum archive where you've said stuff that you think would be appropriate for this sort of page. The moment I get something from either of you, I will create the new page.
As thanks for you contributing your wisdom and knowledge in this way, I will post a significant, tempting excerpt from your contribution on the new page; I will make your complete statement available as a PDF download, accessible through a link on the page; I will be happy to link additional threads in which you've said stuff that you think would be of interest to other players; AND--most importantly--I will include a direct link to your personal website. I guarantee you will get some traffic from that.
Both you guys have contributed immensely to the level of practical discussion of the blues harmonica life on this website; you've shared your knowledge generously, freely, and it deserves to have a more permanent place.
I'm also going to put Jason Ricci's infamous long letter about the blues life on this page. So it will be you three to start things off.
Finally, it occurs to me that Greg Heumann might have something singularly useful to say about mics and amps for the working pro--something grounded in his work as a supplier to a number of working pros. So Greg, I'll extend this same offer to you.
I plan to add to this page as time goes by, and I will extend the same courtesy--a direct link to the contributor's personal website--when I do. I plan to move slowly on this. But I'm happy to accept--which is to say, to consider--nominations for future contributors. To avoid hurt feelings, I would strongly prefer that individuals NOT nominate themselves--unless, of course, such individuals have had long and impressive experience as working pros and are quite certain that they've got something to say that will look like hard-earned wisdom to the rest of us, and to the young.
My vision is to create a page where the person interested in pursuing blues harmonica as a career can come and be enlightened. What does it take to put a band together, and keep one together? How do you book gigs as a harp guy fronting a band? What about duo gigs? What sorts of emergencies are you likely to confront on the road, and what is the most skillful way of resolving them? How do you split the pay? How do you land a record deal--or is "landing a record deal" a quaint, outdated notion? How do you adapt your live show to different venues, different audiences, different promotional needs? Do you have--and need--a stage plot? How do you talk to a sound man so that he gives you the best possible sound in the room? Under what circumstances should you ask for some harp through the monitor and under what circumstances is that a bad idea? What songs and grooves should you know in order to be able to work as a sideman? What's the usual fee for session work? Do you book your own gigs, or do you have a booking agent? What are the advantages of each way? When you're out on the road putting in long miles, who does the driving? When you open for a much bigger act, what's the protocol--i.e., Does B. B. King want to be left alone? As the band leader, should you allow harp players to sit in if you don't know them? If so, what is the right moment in the evening to do that? If your band sounds terrible in the first set, what's the best way of turning the situation around so that the band sounds better when they come out for the next set? Are there ever situations in which you should just say F--k it and get drunk? How many sets should you play, how long should they be, and how long should your breaks be? How does merchandising work? Does the club or other venue usually pay for the hotel/motel rooms, or does the act, and how does that conversation play into the negotiations? How much should you ask as a gig fee, and what should you settle for? When you play for a guarantee plus points, what's a fair %? (i.e., $600 plus 75% over $850). Should you ever play for the door? Are there ever occasions when a club is so dead that you should pack up after the first set, take half or no pay, and leave? Are there things a harp player should know about how to get the optimal sound in various kinds of rooms--i.e., very small room, very long rooms, large rooms with no baffling, etc.? What are the advantages and disadvantages of using a wireless mic? What are some of the ways in which your elders on the bandstand have criticized your playing, and what is the most effective response to such criticism? If your guitar player is too loud, what's the most effective and/or diplomatic way of getting him to turn down? When you drop in and play at a radio station, should you play acoustically or bring a small amp? Are there a handful of songs--not just blues, but rock, pop, "situational"--that EVERY self-respecting blues harmonica player should be able to play in live situation. (Answer: "Happy Birthday to You" is one, but there are surely others.) If you're the bandleader, how should you handle unruly or abusive patrons?
These are just a few of the questions that deserve answers. But there are many more questions that need answers, and there are many stories that need to be told.
I'd be very interested in getting contributions from Rob Paparozzi and Dennis Gruenling, so if you're in regular email contact with either, please let them know.
And if you've got a moment, any of you, and feel like tracking down a few old threads that contain useful wisdom in the directions I'm gesturing at in that long list of questions, please post those links in this thread. I'll certainly take a look at them. The new page I envision might have a long list of links, in fact, arranged by topic.
Last Edited by on Jan 02, 2012 4:54 AM
Hi Adam: Thanks for including me in this endeavor! I am not sure how much help I can be. My path is one that has shifted radically since I started out mentoring under the blues guys. I loved those days as much as any I have had but they wouldn't fit my life today. I was young and trying to make myself known. It was all part of the path. What worked 30 years ago doesn't work today. I view this as a healthy thing- moving with ones time of life. I have always been driven to do my spontaneous music and it has increasingly taken over my every aspect as a musician and most of my advice will pretty much be the same- listen to your heart, not your head.
The head leads to wanting to fit in the crowd and will do most things to get there. The heart is not concerned with this. All it is concerned with is the unique truth in our soul. So if one follows their heart they will always be on the road I follow. Finacial rewards, being regarded as a somebody, don't enter in my journey anymore. If they come via my path great and if not that is great too.
I am a guy that played 200+ gigs a year for about 20 years because the drive was there to do so. I did a total of 4 for 2011 because that same drive is not there to hustle 24/7. That drive has a lot to do with ending up playing gigs that often are not at all tuned in to how I do music. This was another trial and error endeavor that resulted in me learning what it takes to make me excited about a gig.
Now I play 365 gigs a year in a detached recording studio on our property to no one. Why? Because my heart has guided me here and my musicial experience in it is the same pure joy of a good live gig 99% of the time. Live gigs fell more in the 30% range due to a ton of factors that are not present in my studio. The key is to find out where ones art flourishes and go with it blindly. If this means leaving ones secure life so it has to be. You can't live with one foot in being an artist and one foot out. You can do this with commercial art because your true vision will never come out unaltered. Also the place where ones art flourishes will most likely change over time and if you are not willing to flow with it, you lose it. You can keep the chops but the essence of art, the direct soul to the world expression will vanish. Most people aren't interested in that so you can still make a big name for yourself via the commercial route. Most likely you will make more money and fame going the commercial route and this includes blues and all forms of established musics.
If I let my head get involved with the process it will try and convince me I should get back on the hustle and book gigs-my musical career is slipping away by the day, do some covers to bring comfort to the audiences, take requests, let jammers up, soon I will be so obscure I will disapear, and stuff like that. Conversely, my soul gently tells me this path is not for me. It contains way too many compromises and to compromise my art makes it artless. I have learned through trial and error (the main component to finding a meaningful life) that the for my music to work I need to be left alone creating it. Each of us has to find this place- the one where our soul can flourish. This will take on countless scenarios because each of us has a unique soul.
I look forward to doing a hundred or more gigs a year again. they will come via joyus scenarios where my musical approach is accepted. How that will manifest I have no idea but I know it will. This is pretty much how I do life. It often seems like things are going in reverse but as long as I am at peace in my soul I know the path is correct. I have had countless things happen to reafirm this in all aspects of my life. Most recently, on the musical front, it has been the creation of my recording studio here in Ohio. If you still want me on board great, if not, no offense taken. Take care. Walter ---------- walter tore's spontobeat - a real one man band and over 1 million spontaneously created songs and growing. I record about 300 full length cds a year. " life is a daring adventure or nothing at all" - helen keller
The book is about done. We are just waiting for the right inspirational moment to publish it. Thanks! Walter ---------- walter tore's spontobeat - a real one man band and over 1 million spontaneously created songs and growing. I record about 300 full length cds a year. " life is a daring adventure or nothing at all" - helen keller
I appreciate your insight into including the letter from Jason. The music scene in some ways has stayed the same the last 30yrs, but in other ways it is drastically different.
I would imagine the path be becoming a full-time musician would be entirely different now than a generation or two ago. One immediate topic that comes to mind is the need to diversify and not just seek income as a live performer. Another topic that would maybe be noticeably different is touring. Even a decade or two ago, traveling bands could play upwards of a week at one venue or even town. Nowadays, most bands get one night tops, and have to travel a much larger region to be successful.
Radio play, marketing, recording....all entirely different models today then even 20yrs ago.
For me, the moral of the story has always been that the most talented business-minded musicians have the best shot whereas the most talented musicians focused solely on their playing have a much harder time of it.
From written record, someone like Jason Ricci obviously has some of the business figured out, and oodles of talent, but there are numerous harp players of lesser talent making a better and more stable go of it.
IMO, the journey starts with making a decision on your target audience and going from there (essentially the masses or your peers at the most basic level). David Barrett, for example, is not a name you'd expect non-harmonica playing blues fans to rattle off as a famous pro. However, I bet he makes a very comfortable harmonica living compared to a lot of other pros.
It might be interesting to come up with a list of contemporary pros and discuss their model of success at some point.
good points harpnija! When I was playing full time no one sold records or merchandise off the stage, gave lessons, ran clinics, and the stuff you hear about nowadays. A week long gig in the same club for a touring blues band never happened much if at all to my knowledge. Usually those gigs happened in resort settings and cover bands had that sewn up. A touring blues band or original band played at most a friday/sat in each town, or an off night if they had a hole in their schedule. The big cities always paid bad for the middle/lower/locals, except for the top showcase clubs that featured the biggest names in the blues. Thus the big name touring blues bands usually did 1 night stands if they played the town a few times a year. If they came through only occasionally they would get a weekend. The big money venue opportunities for the top tier bands has dropped in number/changed but is pretty much stayed the same compared to the next rung down which I was a part of. That level has changed beyond belief.
We were able to find a home base club that would book us at least 4 times a month and often every weekend and could fill 4-6 gigs per week in our hometown region. They paid usually 2-500 dollars a night on weekends and 100 or less on weeknights. The money was to be made playing outside the big cities and when you were based out of big one, that got you gigs in the smaller ones. Rents (1-200 a month for a small house/apt)Gas(under $1 gallon), food(15 a day would do you fine), lodging(20-50 a night with 3 beds in it) were cheap as heck as compared to today and the pay was much higher than today. Harps cost $5. YOu never played to a diner crowd. It was strickly dance floor, stage, tables ,with a bar and pool table in the back. People paid a cover to come and interact with music. That scene is about dead today. Middle american clubs and Europe basically supported the full time blues performer from a dollar sense back then. For guys in my league, one could survive much of the year without day work playing locally/regionally. My friend sean carney played/was good friends with robert lockwood jr. He drove a delivery truck much of his days in cleveland. There were always small clubs to be found that would give you a gig then.
Europe was good for 1 gig per year or 2 per club. The problems then were many fold. There weren't any booking agents at the lower rung level that could get you into many different countries. Most ran a small region of their country at best. There was no cell phones or email. It was big buck landline phone bills, language confusion, money exchange confusion, and cultural issues that often led to problems that were never intended to be. Work permits were near impossible to get without a major agent so guys like me toured and lived (2.5 years) overseas illegally. Checkpoints at country borders, exchanging currencies, france would never book a blues based band with a white frontman, getting famous in one country meant nothing in the one bordering it, were ongoing problems. Still the money was great. I could make a years salary here in a month overseas.
The best businessmen always make the most money. Unfortunately money has never held my interest for long enough to be a good businessman. I have learned the hard way - a great example was when Knut Reiersrud invited me to tour Norway. We sold all our stuff at the flea market the night after he invited us, drove our caddy from Ca- NJ, parked it, got on a flight to norway and got out with $100. Well the tour got canceled and he had no way to reach me. I had no contract but it all worked out because we ended up doing several tours of norway and lived 2.5 years in brussels, reconnected with lousiana red, luther tucker and eddie c. cambell. I could go on and on about this stuff but after all was said and done, all my bad business moves led me to great bluesmen, playing opportunities, and a life I wouldn't trade for anything. A great example of an average player that has a great business sense and has turned it into a lucritive thing is mark hummel. He started in the bay area when I was living there and would get the old blues guys gigs if he could play harp. On his own he never commanded much of a gig and got with that and it has evolved it into his harp blowouts of today that probably make more money than most blues bands make. Mark Naftlin was another with a great business head. He turned it into headlining most of the festivals blue stages and big clubs up and down the Ca coast via his mark naftlin revue shows that featured the biggest west coast names like hooker, musselwhite, fulsom, etc. I got to be a part of his blue monday shows at the sleeping lady in fairfax and got to know charlie via them.
Most players then just got by via playing and hosting a sunday blues jam or blue monday jam. Everything was cheaper then and the pay was enough to not push one to get anymore creative than that. Most of us went into music for the stage not the accounting sheet and the times were good enough to support us. It was bare bones but it worked for the times. Today I wouldn't get back on that lifestyle but if I was young today I have no idea how I would deal with the scene.
Today presents so many more roadblocks that I am amazed that anybody tours anymore. My friend sean carney is a great example of a young bluesman that is making it. He struggles but continues to play full time doing european tours, US tours, teaching seminars, lessons. Like I said, those things never came up back then unless you weren't good enough to get a playing gig. Today the best are having to do these things. Walter
---------- walter tore's spontobeat - a real one man band and over 1 million spontaneously created songs and growing. I record about 300 full length cds a year. " life is a daring adventure or nothing at all" - helen keller
I had been thinking about a post dealing with some of this stuff for awhile now and before even starting it, I knew they'd be very long and in the first sentence, I'd wearn people that if they had a curse of having a short attention span, it would not be for them, but if they want to learn something, they would need to read the post at good 10 times because a lot would be in it.
NO doubt, things are different but some things still haven't changed as much as one thinks.
Learning the business aspect of music is often times overlooked and it is NOT easy by any means, especially if you tend to be very thick skinned because there are ALWAYS going to be obstacles no matter what level you're in and just on this forum alone, when some people have put up sound clips or videos of their playing asking for opinions and the saying be gentle, and then lash out at the least bit of criticism, even when it's not personal attack, that says thin skinned in a big way, and if you think you get criticized hard now, wait until you are a pro, especially when you are more visible on the scene where you start to get reviewed in the media, and those reviews can often times be a trillion times harsher, and one of things I was told a long time ago was that it is better to get lousy publicity than no publicity at all and that is the truth.
This would be a long, slow project, realisitically speaking and for many on this forum, they will most likely be, as Dr. Phil once said on his TV show, "what you NEED to hear isn't necessarily going to be what you WANT to hear," and trust me, that is the absolute gospel truth, and I've had tons of that along the way.
I am thankful that one thing that the internet replaced was the snail mail maling lists, which got very expensive and time consuming to do, and deadlines for getting them out in a timely manner was crucial, and thank goodness I lived near a post office, which at the time, was open 24/7, and in the late 90's, a mailing list of 500+ people was often well over $120 per month.
The email press kits are a nice thing, but even with that and a website, there are still a number of venues that still prefer the old school snail mail press kit with the 8x10 glossy photo, hype and bio sheets, reviews, schedule, posters, CD/cassette, or maybe a T-shirt and that even goes for many local media types as well.
For many in the business, the level of pay hasn't improved much, if at all, and in fact, many gigs still pay the rate they paid back in the 70's, but tho some expenses have been eliminated due to the internet, many others have gone way up.
Until the mid to late 70's, you could actually tour without a product, as the T-Birds did until they got signed by John Fahey's Takoma label (which was owned by Chrysalis) in 1978, and they had quite the following even without it, but that's almost impossible to do that now, altho on the other hand, You Tube, Facebook, and Twitter can still make it possible, tho still quite difficult.
The other thing, on a local level, is what do you consider local, based on where you consider your home base is. Back in the 80's, I took a music business business siminar and the guy running it, who managed a number of rock bands in his time (but lawsuits from both the record industry as well as the musician's union hit him with truckloads of lawsuits that he could do it anymore and he told a lot of truths they didn't want out there) said for many bands, local bands shouldn't gig beyond 50 miles of what they considered home base, but some, like blues bands, think more like 100 miles. For some, it's the drive time, and for some, if it was longer than an hour's drive, that's what they considered local, and some, if it was with 6 hours drive it was local, but every region is going to be different.
The business side is only going to get harder and not easier and learning the business side is important unless you like living getting a dull telephone pole stuck up your rear end at every turn in the business and there are always going to be tough decisions along the way that HAVE to be made. ---------- Sincerely, Barbeque Bob Maglinte Boston, MA http://www.barbequebob.com CD available at http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/bbmaglinte
What a great thread and what a great page that will be. Of course there is no substitute for time in grade so to speak. One of the bad things the internet has brought us is the view that somewhere on some web page is the quick fix answer...something that will turn me into a pro musician overnight, no practice needed(actually saw this one the other day. It was a pure market ploy but still said no practice..umm)
Once section I would love to see on this sort of page is how to deal with getting screwed on a contract. For every group it will be different but how do you protect yourself as much as possible without torpedoing your ability to book gigs..that sort of thing.
That seems to be an area that is not talked about often.
BBQBob, that segment about time from home base is interesting as 6+ is not unusual for us. But that goes to the nature of our group.
Speaking as guy whose band works alot but whom all of us still hold down day jobs :)
Contracts rarely existed for anybody but the top tier players. I never had one and I estimate I have done at least 5,000 gigs stateside. I remember playing with albert collins. He got screwed almost every gig stateside. It went with the territory. If he raised a fuss he would get blackballed. Those guys taught me to pick your battles with that stuff. If you do have a contract and are screwed on it, you will most likely end up in small claims court and the time spent dealing with it will most likely end up with you not getting anything. Plus if you are a touring band, you will never be able to make a court date 2 months from the day it happened. I lived like the old blues guys- out of my suitcase. I moved so much, that doing a course like Bob talked about was not in my realm. I learned from the old guys firsthand and thier rambling lifestyle fit mine. They played and got paid sometimes for what was agreed to, sometimes less, and sometimes not at all. We carried guns and pulled them at times to get paid. Things are much more sterile today from that perspective. Plus these forums pull in thousands of people that would never live the kind of life I talk about and are local, occasional players at best. They hold no hopes of the music being their life. The group I ran with did and the code was totally different that what most go by today. If you are going to do contracts and make less than a few grand a gig, you will have to most likely be well situated in one place for a long time and have enough outside music income to persue getting ripped off more for the point than for comepensation. Most clubs can easily show no income, and fold faster than we like to admit. Booking Agents would rip off the old blues guys all the time. It was wrong, but it was the way it was. Walter ---------- walter tore's spontobeat - a real one man band and over 1 million spontaneously created songs and growing. I record about 300 full length cds a year. " life is a daring adventure or nothing at all" - helen keller
Well we most often do NOT have contracts for bar gigs. But for some shows we do get them. Most bars/pubs we play at we do not have anything written down. But occasionally for things like holiday gigs we do get written contracts. We have been overall pretty lucky and getting shorted. It has only happened once. And yes pursuit of said issue is more for the point of it than anything that might be made from it.
Booking agents these days just jack the percentage of their take often instead of out and out screwing the band. :) not always but it seems that is what is happening a lot.
I never have been in the musicians union either. It seemed contracts and the union ended up costing us and would often turn off most clubs. There have always been blues guys that have their paperwork togehter. Howling wolf was one, but he was by far way in the minority. Plus he was at the level of the rolling stones in the blues world. Smaller players couldn't afford to keep a full time band and most all of them did day work. Plus there wasn't much outside of the region opportunities for them. Booking agents ran the circuit and you had to be willing to play on their schedules. The cover band club circuit made 20x's more revenue than the smaller blues/roots music clubs. They did contracts and union cards. I knew a southern rock band called southern cross that played the northeast cover circuit and made a couple grand a night in the 70's. Guys like sonny rhodes, charlie musselwhite, frankie lee, cool papa, freddie roulette, lowell fulsom, were happy to make $100 for a 200 mile trip. To bring in contracts, union cards and such just didn't happen.
Typically you could call up the old blues guys and tell them you had a gig for them and they came a hundred miles or more just on that phone call. If you came in like a wall street accountant on the blues circuit you would scare everybody off because they would think you an IRS agent or something. Realistically, until you start making enough $ to comfortably live off your music, contracts are not that common. Plus cash money was always prefered by the blues guys with no paper signing for it. That made it tax free. I listed myself as a laborer on my tax returns. I did get caught one year from a string of gigs that paid me cash but I had to sign for them. That led to me getting audited and I had to pay close to 10k in back taxes and fines and also was audited for the next few years. Still I never did report any income. I just took cash with no signing. The main thing is to do this stuff the best way it suits your makeup. I am and always will be, a handshake guy. I did stupid things when I was young when cheated on the pay. I got my money but never played those places again and they spread the word I was no good to deal with. You had to watch that stuff. Plus back east in the NYC area most of the clubs were mob connected. Telling them you needed a contract signed would immediately get you shown to the door. As I look back on my playing days I am glad I did it this way. Recently I did a few shows in columbus with 3 different venues and was cheated on all of them. I could have bashed their heads in with a mic stand like I did in my younger days, but now I just said whatever and won't deal with them anymore. Festivals today pay pretty good and I have signed on those for payment. I was told by my taxman that I don't make enough to have to report it. So far, and it has been 5 straight years of this and no problems.
PS: In the late 80's at his peak, albert collins averaged a grand or so a show and he had at least a 5-6 piece band and lightning hopkins would play tramps in nyc for a grand for a 1 night gig and he would fly in from houston alone with just a guitar. ---------- walter tore's spontobeat - a real one man band and over 1 million spontaneously created songs and growing. I record about 300 full length cds a year. " life is a daring adventure or nothing at all" - helen keller
shadoe42: I reread my posts and realized I got too emotional with my own baggage in spots and deleted it. Life is about learning and I continue to learn. Thanks for the response! A full time musician has to be willing to do basically whatever it takes to stay full time. I felt a calling to make music my life so I did it. I thought living off the music was the goal. I have learned through the journey that I am not willing to do whatever it takes to keep playing full time because it takes me away from what is the music in me. Music is a gift and I have come to learn it is a fragile one that can easily be ruined if I try to control its destiny. Being an artist has nothing to do with making money. I continue to learn how to let music guide my life... Walter ---------- walter tore's spontobeat - a real one man band and over 1 million spontaneously created songs and growing. I record about 300 full length cds a year. " life is a daring adventure or nothing at all" - helen keller
And I actually agree with what you say about being an artist not about making money. But it helps :) There is a part of me that thinks if ever music does become my full time it won't be a good thing. Right now since I have a full time job during the week. I travel 40+ weekends a year because I choose to. Not because I have to. But I could not do it with no pay. I don't make any money off the band. But because we get paid I have to pay less :)
And while I feel blessed to have never gotten to that point(although I ride that line all the time) of getting stuck somewhere because I did not get paid I do know plenty of performers who have.
In the genre my band sits in most of the time contracts are pretty common. That being renaissance faires and the like. for the bar/pub gigs they are not so common. We occasionally get them though. And have been shorted on them. My questions was I guess more of a wonder of how other musicians handle that sort of thing. The not getting paid part :) To which you did in fact answer :)
You mentioned too that back when you were hard into the bar scene that no bands really sold cds/shirts/etc. Whereas we make the bulk of our income on cd sales and tips. To me its an interesting thing to look at. The changing of the times. We pretty shamelessly promote all the time on the internet. I would certainly say the net has allowed us to reach a far wider audience than we could have without it.
Anyway keep preaching Walter. :) Your advice is solid. And I do wish you had left the previous post up as I recall there were some good things in it as well. You have such a unique way of looking at things. A different perspective than most of the rest of us :)
Alright so enough highjacking of Adam's thread. :) Sorry :)
you sound like you have found a good balance with things. I am finding it but it has been a rough road. I didn't want to let go of the way of life. I really enjoyed traveling, meeting new people, playing in venues where people came to listen/interact most of the time. Most full time musicians I know really are not very satified with their musical life. They have a public face that says the opposite but when we are alone the struggles often overshadow the joys. I never looked at music as a job even when it was all I was doing. I have a day job as special education teacher and see that as a job. I am passionate about it but compromise all the time with it. Music is at another level of existance and I did not go there out of choice. I continue to be pulled to this place and the more I go there the less I am willing to compromise. Again, it isn't a concious choice. It is simply I go with where it guides me, which is to places where I can do the music from my soul, or I fight it and make it happen where I think it should be and it ends in depressing encounters way too often.
The compromises I make on my day job are hard on me but are do-able. To do such with my music isn't do-able. So I played in no name clubs, bars, private clubs/parties for most of my career. I moved all the time because the scenes I was able to shirtail on or create myself were forever folding. But I did my music my way. It got me fired and not rehired in many clubs but I did find several venues over the years that basically let me do my thing uniterupted at least a couple times a week. Those gigs, which didn't overlap chronologically, lasted for almost my entire 20 year career and I feel like another is about to open to me soon!
The wierd thing is most of my full time musician friends don't really have hobbies. I think it is due to their lack of $ more than anything but also the struggles they encounter with their music on a daily level runs them down. I had none when I was doing nothing but music. When I saw something that looked interesting I flashed on - man I would like to do that- but it soon vanished because I needed money for new harps, promo pictures, or something music related. It consumed my every moment and between that and sleep, it was all I did. Drugs and alcohol offer short term fixes but long term wrecks and many have gone that route sadly. Now music is my hobby for lack of a better word. That is still not easily digested in my head but my soul loves it. Van Gough never sold a painting in his lifetime. I guess he was a hobbiest as well. I continually reflect on that. Art is done because it has to be done with no concerns for money or compromise. Commercial art is done with concerns for making money and a willingness to compromise as a given. To be a professional musician one pretty much has to be a commercial artist(I hope I get to change this reality someday :-) ). Also with todays scenario it is ever harder to be able to play just as one wants and make a living. Reflecting on this gives me a peaceful feeling.
Keep following your path and it will only get better and better over time! I sometimes think when I retire of opening my own club that features only me. I would play Fri/Sat nights. It would only open for music like many european clubs do. I wouldn't deal with a liquor or food license. Just byob, a cover charge, and that way I get to play out and not deal with the BS that abounds in the club/music world. I had 3 clubs that allowed me that over the years and it left an deep impression on me that is starting to come into focus with this vision as I get older. Right now it is my recording studio. I see this as a training ground for the next step in some way. If I never make it out of this step that is ok because I am able to have more joy and hope in that little building everyday than I did in most clubs-like a 99% success rate. Clubs had about a 30% rate. Plus I don't have to pack gear, set up, break down, travel. I just walk out my back door 30 feet and turn on the power and let the music flow with no concerns of obligations except to please myself. I think I will nix the club idea. I have found that spot! Walter ---------- walter tore's spontobeat - a real one man band and over 1 million spontaneously created songs and growing. I record about 300 full length cds a year. " life is a daring adventure or nothing at all" - helen keller
Booking agents can be both good and bad and for someone on a local level, unless you're gigging at least 10-15 nights a month AND all of your gigs, based on a 4-piece band, is a minimum of $700 per night, you are hardly going to attract the interest of most agents anyway and much of the stuff they do, you can learn how to do, BUT it takes TONS of work and you have to MAKE the time to do things any you're gonna constantly be married to the phone.
In another thread sometime ago, I stressed, if you're not using a contract, make sure you send out a letter of confirmation, and like a contract, you send one copy to the club owner (or whoever is in charge of the bookings in the club you deal with, keep one for your own records, and make DAMNED SURE you have a copy of that letter with you at the gig, just like a contract).
As far as working with agents, on a local level, my advice to you is work with as many different ones as possible because a number of them can get you into places or gig types you may not be able to do so yourself, BUT tell them this: "I will NOT be interested in signing ANY exclusive booking deal unless within a 6 month period, I see you have us booked a minimum of 10 nights per month, and ONLY THEN will this be discussed."
Why do this?? If you sign an exclusive agreement, you also sign away your rights to do your own booking and if you book a gig on your own while under contract, you are legally bound to pay the agent his percentage fee, even tho you did it yourself, because you'd be in violation of the terms of the agreement and he can legally recover that cost and then some in court.
Most musicians don't learn the business side of things and think too much with the stars in their eyes. Guys who have only been sidemen can be the biggest whiners and often when having to do the stuff the leader has to do, they can't handle how rough a business it really is. Today, both in print as well as the internet, there are music business seminars and publications available I'd dearly love to have when I started and believe me, I've learned the hard way.
Hell, I've even had a pistol stuck in my teeth from a club owner when trying to get the money.
As far as percentage for most agents, it's usually 10-15% for most club gigs, 20% for GB gigs, and if they're getting more, they better also be doing management services as well. ---------- Sincerely, Barbeque Bob Maglinte Boston, MA http://www.barbequebob.com CD available at http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/bbmaglinte
Is there an excerpt that you'd consider giving me to the purpose I outline above?"
Hi Adam: To be honest reading the book has not been much fun for me. It brings up lots of sad memories from my youth and my parents not letting me play music. My childhood was a sad one and many of my therapists over the years have told me I am lucky to still be alive. I last looked at it about a year ago. Maybe it will feel different now. I will give it another look and let you know. I only have a paper copy. Nigel Price the author has it on hardrive. He is a minister and just took over the oldest architectually untouched church in england. The BBC just finished a 3 week documentary on it in which he was continually involved with. He is pretty overwhelmed at the moment. It is a trip a minister is writing the story of my life. Walter ---------- walter tore's spontobeat - a real one man band and over 1 million spontaneously created songs and growing. I record about 300 full length cds a year. " life is a daring adventure or nothing at all" - helen keller
This is an awesome thread! Thank you Adam for starting it, can't wait for the page too. Thank you Walter and others, for the candid advice and insight. This thread has already given me a lot to digest. I'll have to read it many more times to glean all the information that is here.
I have recently followed my heart to my music. I like to say, I dreamt of being driven, now I'm driven by dreams. I had a life changing experience and was losing my ability to play harp. After a long road through the medical world, I am back in action! I quit my "day job" after being offered a school of rock for kids. So now I teach, write and perform music full time. I am still trying to get my feet under me, definitely not a financially profitable way of life, yet, but it is where my heart is.
My focus this year is to push my one man band, by traveling more, and marketing my new E.P. If my local market could support me I would be happy to stay here, but I find the need to travel. The closest larger markets are Las Vegas (2 hours away, and a tough town) and Salt Lake City (5 hours).
As has already been stated the business end of things is SO important. After graduating with a B.S. in Art, I discovered the huge hole in my education was the business end of things. It's one thing to be an artist, and an entirely different thing to have a career as an artist. Live and learn. This is the one piece of advice I give anyone who is considering being an artist of any kind, learn as much about business as possible.
Anyway, thanks again for all of the info. I look forward to learning more.
One thing to remember is even with contracts some bar owners will still attempt to short you. It happens. No matter what they decide they are not going to pay what they agreed to pay. It is then you have to decide what to do. Walk away and let it go or take other measures.
congragulations Dick! Life is such a short trip I am forever confused by why so many people have passions that they forgo for finacial stability. I would rather die poor and doing my thing than fat in the belly surrounded by things that eventually just make me face my sadness over forgotten dreams. Walter ---------- walter tore's spontobeat - a real one man band and over 1 million spontaneously created songs and growing. I record about 300 full length cds a year. " life is a daring adventure or nothing at all" - helen keller
These are indeed some terrific contributions. I may just cut and paste some of what's been said here. The key thing is, insight and wisdom this hard-won shouldn't just die with the thread, nor should our wise men be forced to repeat themselves on these topics ad infinitum. I'll create the page next week.
you are welcome! The older I get the more I catch myself judging others. I doubt it will ever go away but thankfully I am able to catch it often and then ask myself- why am I judging this? most all of the time it comes back to something in my life that is not at peace.
There really is no blueprint to follow unless you find one that completely fits you. For me, having kids would have meant I would have made that my dream. I have seen countless musicians children sleeping in cars, on tables, couches backstage, while their parents perform. Also most full time musicans I have known that had children ended up as trainwrecks. I could never lay such a life on a child. They need stability and the full time music life is often lacking in it. I miss having kids sometimes but not enough to regret it. There is only so much time on this earth and I am thankful my passions have consumed me. I use to wonder why so many people seemed to not live this way. As time goes on and I get more feedback from people on this I realize many people don't have a driving passion as I see a driving passion. I still often wonder- is it there and suppressed or just not there? Walter
---------- walter tore's spontobeat - a real one man band and over 1 million spontaneously created songs and growing. I record about 300 full length cds a year. " life is a daring adventure or nothing at all" - helen keller
@Walter: great observation about judging, and great questions to finish with! I too have learned to look inward for problems when I find myself pointing fingers at others, and have counselled others to do the same.
@Adam: it's a wonderful service you've performed, providing a page where aspiring pros can get a "dry run" through the mental processes of the challenges that may lie ahead. We all should get a good look at the reasons there are no shortcuts to success. (btw, I'm not aspiring to be a "pro".)
I have always had a desire to perform and play music, but I was not driven by it. Before my medical problems I was driven by my cars (no pun intended haha). Customizing, modifying, tuning, fabricating etc., it consumed me. Now my cars sit untouched.
Music was an integral part of my life but it was just something that I did. Through the process of losing my music it became much more precious. I began to realize what it really meant to me, and I gained an overwhelming desire to write, perform and share it. Now music consumes me now, and I love it!
I feel that too often music and art are looked upon as only hobbies, and not viable career paths (unless you teach). At least that was my experience. Even in college as a Music major the sentiment seemed to be teach or ?? who knows what, be poor I guess. Later after switching to Art I found the same train of thought, almost all of the art majors were getting their teaching degrees "as a back up plan" or "I'll teach and do my art too." I also followed this direction and received my teaching certificate, as a back up plan. As soon as we tossed our caps in the air we where all looking for teaching jobs, and our artistic dreams soon withered. We where caught needing to maintain a certain lifestyle. I am forever grateful for my education, including my teaching degree, but I wish I would have followed my dream from the beginning. I was a poor college student one day and the next day making a great salary. It is difficult to go back to poor especially when a family and children are involved. I wish I had held to the dream and slowly built an artistic career, instead of chasing the dollar. That being said I am grateful for my life experiences. One of my lyrics says it best for me, "Dreaming about the days gone by, but I'm not gonna cry, for the life that's passed me by, cause all that came before, led me to your door... how could I ask for more?"
You are right about children, and I have seen the same things. I believe in chasing your dreams but not at the expense of someone else, especially your own child. The life of a child is a huge responsibility, and should be ones main concern. Each individual however, needs to draw that line for themselves. I am raising my family and trying to do what is best for them. There are those who would judge my actions irresponsible, just as I may see their choices questionable. I have to remind myself, that in most cases, we are all trying to do what we feel is the right thing.
I hope this is an appropriate place to express these thoughts. The introspection initiated by this thread has been invaluable, and I appreciate the opportunity to express my thoughts.
Last Edited by on Jan 07, 2012 4:37 PM
Kids certainly change the game. But they don't have to end it. what it has done for me is I try to make every minute with my daughter count. She is only two but I am trying to set that patter now. So that she knows even when daddy is on the road that he loves her.
it has cost me a couple of friends. When my now Ex wife was pregnant I was asked by a friend "So when are you quitting the band?" when I replied I was not..she literally quit speaking to me.
Interesting topic touched on in the germs thread was the old saying "the show must go on" . This isn't a job you can call in sick to. heh my band has at times been convinced I was about to literally die on stage. Being on stage not long after surgeries, food poisoning ...etc. Fun stuff :)
Point being there is a cost to do this. Not just monetarily. I would never tell anyone not to pursue a dream. But I do think that going into something eyes open is not a bad thing.
Looking forward to the page just so I can link people to it when they ask these questions :) And I often thought that Jason's letter should be required reading.