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Open Mic (love it or hate it)

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So you get a chance to open for the Rolling Stones on live national television, but it pays nothing. You say you have to turn it down... and the resultant cash made from the bookings you'll get from that "free" performance.... because it's taking food from the mouths of musicians who will only play for pay....

 

Interesting.

What a fantasy. Like that's really going to happen. (1) nobody but Union musicians will open for the Stones and (2) the Union won't let you play for free.

 

I've opened for The Four Seasons, The Association, The Kingsmen, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, and many of the Motown acts when they were in their prime with top ten hits. They got paid a lot more than we did, but we got paid a lot more than we would have at a night club. And yes, there was a union rep there.

 

And how does this equate with setting up in some coffee shop for free while your brother and sister musicians are looking for work?

 

True, the majority of artists have always been underpaid, but that is mainly because so many of us will do it for free or almost nothing. You can get exposure on a free gig or a paid gig. If nobody would play for free, they would all be pay gigs. Nobody from Warner, EMI, Universal, or Sony is going to discover you in a club that doesn't even pay the bands, because nobody playing there is going to be groomed enough to attract their interest.

 

Back in the day before the "open mic" exploitation, we simply set up in the afternoon and auditioned for the gig. Then when we got some reputation under our belts we had the entertainment purchaser from another club come to our gig to hear us, and later we relied on a promo pack with good referrals and a sound recording and of course Booking Agents. You don't have to play for free to get noticed, but playing for free does hurt your chance of finding a place to pay and get paid for it.

 

And in the 'old days', jam sessions were done at a friend's club who had the late night closing gig. We'd get off work and join them. Plus there were jam sessions at non commercial places. I remember while on the road in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan going to an Air Force base and playing in the cafeteria mid-afternoon when no food was being served.

 

I also remember playing at the "Four O'Clock Rendezvous" in Fort Lauderdale FL. We and another band started playing at 10:00 trading sets, when the 2:00 clubs closed other musicians joined us, when the 4:00 clubs closed more came in, and at 6AM we closed and went home. Good times.

 

And if you aren't worth any money, perhaps you shouldn't be playing in a commercial establishment.

 

BTW Rabs, the Anvil film was great and all too true.

 

Yes I'm in the music business, and with any business there is competition and people who undercut your prices. That's life. I was almost famous once but due to failed negotiations between our lawyers and Motown (they wanted money and Motown didn't want to pay) we never 'made it'. But we still made a living playing music.

 

Playing music has never been fair. A person who can't sing can be a star if he/she has the right connections and some amazing talents will end up scraping out a living. But until recently, we didn't have to compete with against many free people.

 

Like many other businesses the music business isn't what it used to be. I'm very lucky to have grown up when I did and am now playing for the retirement crowd where they still appreciate live music. I've had my ups and downs, never made it rich, but so far have been comfortable, and most of all happy. No regrets. I've treated it like a business and it has taken care of me just fine. Now I'm at retirement age, and I still play for pay. I am not going to undercut someone who doesn't have that automatic income and make it difficult for him/her to make a living.

 

But what other business do you have to compete with people doing it for free?

 

Would my sisters who are CPAs like it if someone opened up shop next door and provided all the same services at no charge? Even if the weren't as good at it? But were figuring they'd get "exposure"?

 

Or a Real Estate agent advertising they will forgo their commission and use that figure to reduce the price of the house? Have you ever seen that?

 

Or would McDonald's like it if Free Burgers opened next door and gave away edible hamburgers for free?

 

Karaoke doesn't bug me because it's people entertaining themselves. No more competition than a dart tournament.

 

Jam sessions don't bug me IF the core band is getting paid the going rate for their services if there wasn't a jam going on.

 

But playing for free so that somebody else can make a profit from your services is exploitation and it hurts the people who are trying to make a living at this. It's as bad as having your job outsourced to India.

 

That's my opinion anyway.

 

I know I'm not going to change the world, but I do feel I need to express my point of view anyway.

 

Notes

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Well it's simple, really, hyperbole notwithstanding. The difference is in exposure. Playing at Tootsie's for tips grants a level of exposure you won't get playing at a tavern in Gallatin, TN for half the door. Playing at the open mike venue at The BlueBird Cafe will get you a different level of exposure than playing a hotel lobby in Birmingham for free.

 

Of course, playing the foyer at 100 Oaks Mall in Nashville for cash will get you more bookings than playing the lobby of the Canfield Inn in Hendersonville for free, too.

 

Perhaps in Nashville it's different. Exposure IS currency here.

 

I mean, isn't exposure REALLY what drives your success as a musician? I don't play out anymore at all, ergo I have zero exposure and am making the exact same amount in income from said non-exposure. I have it on good authority that there are lots of musicians in Nashville who play out all the time, get lots of exposure, and make a certain level of income from that exposure... based on bookings from folks they've played for, with and to, and both free and otherwise. Do they prefer paid gigs? SURE! But they aren't above doing free stuff when it benefits them. I got a friend who plays with folks all the time... it bings in some extra cash, and sometimes it's just a lot of fun. Want to get some time in his studio? Cool, but that is NEVER free.

 

 

For the record, yes... I do work for free, and have many times. From that "free work" I've gained around half my paying customer base.

 

A draftsman needed his plotter reconnected to his PC.... free.... who referred me to a draftsman buddy of his who lost his ability to boot his PC... paid.

 

A local tax firm needed copier repair, which I did for free, and was later called out to their home to work on their PCs.... paid.

 

Stuff like this happens all the time. Seriously. I've also been known to barter PC repair for other things... like having the ground pre treated when we had the garage built.

 

/shrug

 

I'm not really disagreeing with your perspective, because technically, you're correct. If no one ever played for free anywhere, any time that really would create more gigs for folks who only play for pay.

 

I'm just saying that's as realistic a possibility as me being asked to open for the Stones, and it doesn't really hold up well in the face of bands like Guns n Roses, who rented flat bed trailers and generators and gave free concerts on the beach to develop a following. Or Jewel, who was an internet hit long before she broke into the more traditional limelight.

 

I guess it's just a different reality. I can see where, in towns where the music industry doesn't make up such a large portion of the economy, there is probably a LOT of pressure for the fewer paying gigs, so if I agree to play for free somewhere that would normally pay for a band..... [blush]

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But what other business do you have to compete with people doing it for free?

 

To be honest I think that a lot of the entertainment industry is like that..

 

And where as maybe its not quite the same, the result is the same in the fact that they like young hip people in that industry. If you havent cemented yourself in by the time your about 35 by getting an upper management job then your pretty screwed.

 

My own story is like that. I speant over 15 years in the computer games industry working for some of the biggest games companies in the world and been a Tester, Designer and Producer. Ive been made redundant 7 times now and each time as I get older (im nearly 40 now) it gets harder because I have probably been more unlucky than most with the companies I worked for and I never quite made it to the level I needed to as after each redundancy you have to start again and build your name in a new place. So younger people desperate to work in games come in willing to do my job for much less (almost nothing). Youd think that they want experience like mine but they always seem to go for the 25 year old that they can pay less and boss about more easily. And the reason for that is that there are no real qualifications for that industry, you get work based on your games and technical knowledge. And with the higher jobs like Producer that you need experience for, theres too many of us and not enough jobs and as ive now been out of it a few years (was an IT manager in my last job) I dont get a look in.

 

Im now at a point where ive been out of work for almost a year. Havent even managed to get a single interview in that time because there so many other people out of work and people looking to come into that industry... So the employers can be really picky about who they hire. And now if im missing one tiny bit of experience they are looking for I dont even get an interview.

 

Also its the nature of that industry that when you first start you get no credit at all.. I actually designed the controls for a Playstaion game that sold over 10 million copies and never got a single ounce of credit for it as I was "only a tester".. If id have got credit for some of my early work id be retired by now :) but thats again just the way it is.

 

All of that plus one of the worst recessions we have ever seen and your looking at really hard times.

 

Im now thinking of doing something completey different but I have very few qualifications and my own industry seems to be out right now. So what ever I do im gonna have to start again from scratch which is not a fun prospect.

 

Its tough and its kinda wrong the way things are, but thats they way things are so you gotta just get on with it.

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What a fantasy. Like that's really going to happen. (1) nobody but Union musicians will open for the Stones and (2) the Union won't let you play for free.

 

I've opened for The Four Seasons, The Association, The Kingsmen, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, and many of the Motown acts when they were in their prime with top ten hits. They got paid a lot more than we did, but we got paid a lot more than we would have at a night club. And yes, there was a union rep there.

 

And how does this equate with setting up in some coffee shop for free while your brother and sister musicians are looking for work?

 

True, the majority of artists have always been underpaid, but that is mainly because so many of us will do it for free or almost nothing. You can get exposure on a free gig or a paid gig. If nobody would play for free, they would all be pay gigs. Nobody from Warner, EMI, Universal, or Sony is going to discover you in a club that doesn't even pay the bands, because nobody playing there is going to be groomed enough to attract their interest.

 

Back in the day before the "open mic" exploitation, we simply set up in the afternoon and auditioned for the gig. Then when we got some reputation under our belts we had the entertainment purchaser from another club come to our gig to hear us, and later we relied on a promo pack with good referrals and a sound recording and of course Booking Agents. You don't have to play for free to get noticed, but playing for free does hurt your chance of finding a place to pay and get paid for it.

 

And in the 'old days', jam sessions were done at a friend's club who had the late night closing gig. We'd get off work and join them. Plus there were jam sessions at non commercial places. I remember while on the road in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan going to an Air Force base and playing in the cafeteria mid-afternoon when no food was being served.

 

I also remember playing at the "Four O'Clock Rendezvous" in Fort Lauderdale FL. We and another band started playing at 10:00 trading sets, when the 2:00 clubs closed other musicians joined us, when the 4:00 clubs closed more came in, and at 6AM we closed and went home. Good times.

 

And if you aren't worth any money, perhaps you shouldn't be playing in a commercial establishment.

 

BTW Rabs, the Anvil film was great and all too true.

 

Yes I'm in the music business, and with any business there is competition and people who undercut your prices. That's life. I was almost famous once but due to failed negotiations between our lawyers and Motown (they wanted money and Motown didn't want to pay) we never 'made it'. But we still made a living playing music.

 

Playing music has never been fair. A person who can't sing can be a star if he/she has the right connections and some amazing talents will end up scraping out a living. But until recently, we didn't have to compete with against many free people.

 

Like many other businesses the music business isn't what it used to be. I'm very lucky to have grown up when I did and am now playing for the retirement crowd where they still appreciate live music. I've had my ups and downs, never made it rich, but so far have been comfortable, and most of all happy. No regrets. I've treated it like a business and it has taken care of me just fine. Now I'm at retirement age, and I still play for pay. I am not going to undercut someone who doesn't have that automatic income and make it difficult for him/her to make a living.

 

But what other business do you have to compete with people doing it for free?

 

Would my sisters who are CPAs like it if someone opened up shop next door and provided all the same services at no charge? Even if the weren't as good at it? But were figuring they'd get "exposure"?

 

Or a Real Estate agent advertising they will forgo their commission and use that figure to reduce the price of the house? Have you ever seen that?

 

Or would McDonald's like it if Free Burgers opened next door and gave away edible hamburgers for free?

 

Karaoke doesn't bug me because it's people entertaining themselves. No more competition than a dart tournament.

 

Jam sessions don't bug me IF the core band is getting paid the going rate for their services if there wasn't a jam going on.

 

But playing for free so that somebody else can make a profit from your services is exploitation and it hurts the people who are trying to make a living at this. It's as bad as having your job outsourced to India.

 

That's my opinion anyway.

 

I know I'm not going to change the world, but I do feel I need to express my point of view anyway.

 

Notes

 

Nice stories!

 

Q:"Would my sisters who are CPAs like it if someone opened up shop next door and provided all the same services at no charge? Even if the weren't as good at it? But were figuring they'd get "exposure"?"

A: Isn't that what the 'internet' is doing to music, making it so accessible that it's almost 'free'? Competition?

It makes me wonder how radio station signals can still be free, guess they survive on advertising ... satellite radio! What happened to 'Keep On Rockin' In The Free World'?

Free has to do with the business model. How can I make money playing music? When money becomes involved so does responsibility, doesn't matter if you make music or sell lemonade. I just think some people do 'open mic' for the easy cash rush from drunk customers and not for the enjoyment or advancement of musical interests. When greed becomes involved people get hurt.

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I think there is some misinterpretation involved here.

 

Playing an occasional gig or doing a little work for free is different than the exploitation NOTES is trying to inform us about.

 

I think as musicians, there is the idea and this dream that in order to "make it", you will be world famous. But there is a reality that only the very few will achieve that. And a music industry as a whole can not support itself based only on that idea. MOST musicians that actually make a living at it will make more of an average wage like the rest of us humble worker-bees.

 

Being able to do it as a job and support yourself on it IS a reality that can be achieved. You still have to work hard at it and get good at it just as any job. And there is a difference between the guy who does it on the side, and the guy who does it full time. It comes down to practice, and available time to work on your materiel, your show, and your bookings. At the very least, the guy who plays out 5 nights a week is going to be MUCH better at it that a guy who plays once every two weeks. Right?

 

It isn't just a matter of "doing what you love" or the day job getting in the way. If it's your JOB, you need so many bookings, so many shows, so many players, etc. You can't just have fun all the time, you got to get busy.

 

Here is the thing: if you do it on the side, there is STILL work involved. You have to learn songs, you have to know who you are playing with and how to play with them, you have to get the gigs, and hopefully learn and adjust to them. If you want to be any good, you have to work at it and prepere. We all know that, right?

 

The EXPLOITATION comes out of an element of IGNORANCE. There is a difference between "look...my band played a gig!" and putting on a good performance for the audience. Again, this isn't skill level, it's TIME and preparation, and experience. A lot of the ignorance involved is the belief that you CAN'T make a living at it, and get good at it.

 

The other ignorance is that you are gaining good exposure. You aren't getting valueable exposure, you're getting EXPERIENCE. Practice. After youy have played so many gigs this way, after you have put so much time into your band and materiel, you HAVE to learn that it isn't a matter of how good you are or how much you suck because of natural ability or talent, it has to do with invested time and effort of your product. And, you can SEE where your time and effort of your show results in poeple showing up, buying drinks, and making money for your abilities and the time you spend showing up, setting up, performing, and going home. By the time you figure that out, you also should be able to see that the guy you were when you were first exploited is NOT the guy you wanted exposure for.

 

The point that NOTES is really trying to make is that the restaurant owner or club owner who is seeking "free" music is banking on this ignorance, both that the musicians who don't know better, and an audience who won't know better.

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You get experience no matter what the venue or pay scale is. Complete non-issue.

 

Exposure IS important. It is a basic of business regardless of what that business is. Experience may, or may not be a plus, as has been noted. Suck is suck.

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You get experience no matter what the venue or pay scale is. Complete non-issue.

 

Exposure IS important. It is a basic of business regardless of what that business is. Experience may, or may not be a plus, as has been noted. Suck is suck.

Yes experience is experience. The only difference between gaining experience being exploited in one of these "non-paying" venues vs a paying venue is you learn how to be taken advantage of in one, and you learn how to make a living or other things involving higher standards of performance and good connections at the other.

 

I don't agree exposure is king. If you aren't getting the RIGHT exposure, or are getting bad exposure, it isn't good to have it.

 

Playing non=paying venues is NOT a stepping stone to better things. It is not a nessesary evil. It is a set-back for everyone involved.

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Yeah, that's been my point all along. The "no free gigs" logic breaks down at a certain exposure level.... so it's not an absolute, as some seem to be advocating.

 

Again, I point to venues like The Bluebird Cafe which, by their very successful existance, prove my point.

 

You're also assuming that venues currently hosting "play for free" events would actually pay for acts if open mike nites were outlawed, which I believe is over optimistic. I've known far more venues that would let us play for free, or the door (or 50% of the door) that would just as happily have an empty stage (or patio, in some cases) if it meant coughing up cash. So.... you play there when you're starting out. For exposure, at least to your friends and initial band followers, and experience. You're not robbing some bar crooner from his paying gig.

 

 

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Yeah, that's been my point all along. The "no free gigs" logic breaks down at a certain exposure level.... so it's not an absolute, as some seem to be advocating.

 

Again, I point to venues like The Bluebird Cafe which, by their very successful existance, prove my point.

 

You're also assuming that venues currently hosting "play for free" events would actually pay for acts if open mike nites were outlawed, which I believe is over optimistic. I've known far more venues that would let us play for free, or the door (or 50% of the door) that would just as happily have an empty stage (or patio, in some cases) if it meant coughing up cash. So.... you play there when you're starting out. For exposure, at least to your friends and initial band followers, and experience. You're not robbing some bar crooner from his paying gig.

If a venue does not pay thier musicians, chances are you are wasting your night there when you could be spending time at a venue that DOES pay thier musicians.

 

For example, given the choice between an "open mic" that pays the host band or an "open mic" that doesn't, which do you think I would want to go to? I'm going to go where the music is. The GOOD music.

 

You bring up another good point: if the music isn't bringing in more money or poeple or drinks, maybe the music isn't that good. It isn't an absolute, of corse, but almost as a rule, when a band (or group of bands) are good and play a venue, crowds increase and money comes in as a result. If it doesn't, chances are PRETTY good you are at a place that doesn't have the "good" music in your town. My point:? FIND it.

 

A good clue you offer: a venue LETS you play for HALF the door? They aren't paying you to begin with, but if you do, you have to give up half the door? Is that a favor to them? If you are being told they would as soon not have a band at all rather then make half the door pure no-risk profit, You are being lied to. And the only reason they can get away with it is either you accept it, or there is another band willing to play behind you.

 

So yea, if you accept this as reality and the live music scene as a culture, you ARE robbing others of paying jobs. In fact, if you accept it, you just robbed yourself. I might add that if you believe the line that they can't afford to pay or would assume they are truthful in rather having an empty stage when you OBSERVE more money being made by them, they might BE paying bands. You might be "that guy" the other bands don't like. THAT'S a situation where you want to question it, and question the other bands.

 

You don't HAVE to accept this "places can't or won't pay" as the reality. If there is money to be made and bands making the money for the clubs, chances are there is a club, or clubs, in the area that ARE paying the bands. If you hang out there, network with those crowds and musicians, SPEND YOUR MONEY THERE, you'll be in a way better spot.

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If a venue does not pay thier musicians, chances are you are wasting your night there when you could be spending time at a venue that DOES pay thier musicians.

 

For example, given the choice between an "open mic" that pays the host band or an "open mic" that doesn't, which do you think I would want to go to? I'm going to go where the music is. The GOOD music.

 

You bring up another good point: if the music isn't bringing in more money or poeple or drinks, maybe the music isn't that good. It isn't an absolute, of corse, but almost as a rule, when a band (or group of bands) are good and play a venue, crowds increase and money comes in as a result. If it doesn't, chances are PRETTY good you are at a place that doesn't have the "good" music in your town. My point:? FIND it.

 

A good clue you offer: a venue LETS you play for HALF the door? They aren't paying you to begin with, but if you do, you have to give up half the door? Is that a favor to them? If you are being told they would as soon not have a band at all rather then make half the door pure no-risk profit, You are being lied to. And the only reason they can get away with it is either you accept it, or there is another band willing to play behind you.

 

So yea, if you accept this as reality and the live music scene as a culture, you ARE robbing others of paying jobs. In fact, if you accept it, you just robbed yourself. I might add that if you believe the line that they can't afford to pay or would assume they are truthful in rather having an empty stage when you OBSERVE more money being made by them, they might BE paying bands. You might be "that guy" the other bands don't like. THAT'S a situation where you want to question it, and question the other bands.

 

You don't HAVE to accept this "places can't or won't pay" as the reality. If there is money to be made and bands making the money for the clubs, chances are there is a club, or clubs, in the area that ARE paying the bands. If you hang out there, network with those crowds and musicians, SPEND YOUR MONEY THERE, you'll be in a way better spot.

 

yes i agree about the good music bit, rather hear a good band and have to pay a reasonable door charge than free suck music. all the ins and outs of the screw job. haw haw

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Yeah, that's been my point all along. The "no free gigs" logic breaks down at a certain exposure level.... so it's not an absolute, as some seem to be advocating.

 

Again, I point to venues like The Bluebird Cafe which, by their very successful existance, prove my point.

 

You're also assuming that venues currently hosting "play for free" events would actually pay for acts if open mike nites were outlawed, which I believe is over optimistic. I've known far more venues that would let us play for free, or the door (or 50% of the door) that would just as happily have an empty stage (or patio, in some cases) if it meant coughing up cash. So.... you play there when you're starting out. For exposure, at least to your friends and initial band followers, and experience. You're not robbing some bar crooner from his paying gig.

 

yep, but when you ask for $ you have to deliver the goods. you know new bands are forming all the time, they need experience to get good. understandable, you're not going to pay a band that's not good, but what's the measure of good, door sales? I'm sure some owners wouldn't care if you stood on your head and blew bubbles as long as there were people in the bar spending money, heh?

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Yeah, that's been my point all along. The "no free gigs" logic breaks down at a certain exposure level.... so it's not an absolute, as some seem to be advocating.

 

Again, I point to venues like The Bluebird Cafe which, by their very successful existance, prove my point.

 

You're also assuming that venues currently hosting "play for free" events would actually pay for acts if open mike nites were outlawed, which I believe is over optimistic. I've known far more venues that would let us play for free, or the door (or 50% of the door) that would just as happily have an empty stage (or patio, in some cases) if it meant coughing up cash. So.... you play there when you're starting out. For exposure, at least to your friends and initial band followers, and experience. You're not robbing some bar crooner from his paying gig.

 

yeah, flirt with the idea 'ban all open mic' ha ha, dry downtown district too, Branson?

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To be honest I think that a lot of the entertainment industry is like that..

 

And where as maybe its not quite the same, the result is the same in the fact that they like young hip people in that industry. If you havent cemented yourself in by the time your about 35 by getting an upper management job then your pretty screwed.

 

My own story is like that. I speant over 15 years in the computer games industry working for some of the biggest games companies in the world and been a Tester, Designer and Producer. Ive been made redundant 7 times now and each time as I get older (im nearly 40 now) it gets harder because I have probably been more unlucky than most with the companies I worked for and I never quite made it to the level I needed to as after each redundancy you have to start again and build your name in a new place. So younger people desperate to work in games come in willing to do my job for much less (almost nothing). Youd think that they want experience like mine but they always seem to go for the 25 year old that they can pay less and boss about more easily. And the reason for that is that there are no real qualifications for that industry, you get work based on your games and technical knowledge. And with the higher jobs like Producer that you need experience for, theres too many of us and not enough jobs and as ive now been out of it a few years (was an IT manager in my last job) I dont get a look in.

 

Im now at a point where ive been out of work for almost a year. Havent even managed to get a single interview in that time because there so many other people out of work and people looking to come into that industry... So the employers can be really picky about who they hire. And now if im missing one tiny bit of experience they are looking for I dont even get an interview.

 

Also its the nature of that industry that when you first start you get no credit at all.. I actually designed the controls for a Playstaion game that sold over 10 million copies and never got a single ounce of credit for it as I was "only a tester".. If id have got credit for some of my early work id be retired by now :) but thats again just the way it is.

 

All of that plus one of the worst recessions we have ever seen and your looking at really hard times.

 

Im now thinking of doing something completey different but I have very few qualifications and my own industry seems to be out right now. So what ever I do im gonna have to start again from scratch which is not a fun prospect.

 

Its tough and its kinda wrong the way things are, but thats they way things are so you gotta just get on with it.

 

In Ontario, the Ontario Arts Council grants offer funding to further an artist's work. Their requirement is that amateurs need not apply, in other words, a professional musician is someone who is paid for their work. there's a line to draw.

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If a venue does not pay thier musicians, chances are you are wasting your night there when you could be spending time at a venue that DOES pay thier musicians.

 

For example, given the choice between an "open mic" that pays the host band or an "open mic" that doesn't, which do you think I would want to go to? I'm going to go where the music is. The GOOD music.

 

You bring up another good point: if the music isn't bringing in more money or poeple or drinks, maybe the music isn't that good. It isn't an absolute, of corse, but almost as a rule, when a band (or group of bands) are good and play a venue, crowds increase and money comes in as a result. If it doesn't, chances are PRETTY good you are at a place that doesn't have the "good" music in your town. My point:? FIND it.

 

A good clue you offer: a venue LETS you play for HALF the door? They aren't paying you to begin with, but if you do, you have to give up half the door? Is that a favor to them? If you are being told they would as soon not have a band at all rather then make half the door pure no-risk profit, You are being lied to. And the only reason they can get away with it is either you accept it, or there is another band willing to play behind you.

 

So yea, if you accept this as reality and the live music scene as a culture, you ARE robbing others of paying jobs. In fact, if you accept it, you just robbed yourself. I might add that if you believe the line that they can't afford to pay or would assume they are truthful in rather having an empty stage when you OBSERVE more money being made by them, they might BE paying bands. You might be "that guy" the other bands don't like. THAT'S a situation where you want to question it, and question the other bands.

 

You don't HAVE to accept this "places can't or won't pay" as the reality. If there is money to be made and bands making the money for the clubs, chances are there is a club, or clubs, in the area that ARE paying the bands. If you hang out there, network with those crowds and musicians, SPEND YOUR MONEY THERE, you'll be in a way better spot.

 

 

Yeah... it was half the door AND a 2 pitcher minimum. So you pack in 50 or 60 people at 5.00 a head, your band makes $100 and change.... and you get very little in the way of useful exposure. It was, however, both experience and a paying gig.

 

Play The BlueBird for free and you might land a deal with a record company.

 

Here, you also deal with venues that won't hire you unless you are already an established act. A place like The BluebIrd is an excellent way to get "established".

 

And actually, yes, if you are going to live in the real world, you most certainly DO have to accept that some places can't or won't pay for live music, especially given that there is no way to force someone to hire a band who has no inclination to do so.

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I recently started going to an open mic night in my town. I am not much of a singer but open mic gives me a chance to practice singing in front of people. An added benefit is getting to know some of the locals and the bar owner who hires the bands to play.

 

My guitar chops are good enough to the point where I don't feel I have to compete with anyone (at locally) but my singing needs work as does singing while playing.

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I recently started going to an open mic night in my town. I am not much of a singer but open mic gives me a chance to practice singing in front of people. An added benefit is getting to know some of the locals and the bar owner who hires the bands to play.

 

My guitar chops are good enough to the point where I don't feel I have to compete with anyone (at locally) but my singing needs work as does singing while playing.

 

[thumbup]

 

V

 

:-({|=

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<...>Playing non=paying venues is NOT a stepping stone to better things. It is not a necessary evil. It is a set-back for everyone involved.

In one sentence, what I took many paragraphs to say. Excellent.

 

-----

 

And I've heard "Pay to pay" and "Pay for free" schemes in both LA and Nashville. People do it with the dream that they are going to "Make it big". Unfortunately, for every one who makes it in those towns, there are thousands who play for free, or pay to play, and never make it. It's a rip-off for over 99.99% of the free and pay to play people.

 

The only sure way to make a living at music is to treat it like a business. Work at it, practice your craft, dedicate yourself to it, and take advantage of all the opportunities offered to you. Playing for free in a local restaurant or coffee house is not going to get you anywhere but a cup of coffee and perhaps a dinner.

 

And if enough amateurs are playing for free, it does take money out of the pockets of the people who are trying to make a living at this. There are 3 restaurants in our city that are getting free entertainment 4 nights a week. The entertainment is a draw, and the owners are making money from the services of the entertainers. These businesses would have to actually hire entertainers to create that ambiance if it weren't for the musicians willing to be exploited. This is very much like outsourcing someone's job to someone in India or China, and the person playing for free becomes a willing participant in the reduction of jobs in the USA.

 

You can get exposure in a free gig, and you can get exposure in a gig that pays you money. The exposure thing is just a con game. It's a tool to fool you into giving away what you should be selling. And if you aren't good enough to sell it, you shouldn't be there in the first place.

 

If you want real exposure, get a 'day job' in a music store or a recording studio. You'll meet and get to know the people who matter there. You won't get to know them at your local low-ball, play for free restaurant.

 

If a venue does not pay thier musicians, chances are you are wasting your night there when you could be spending time at a venue that DOES pay thier musicians.

 

<...snip...>

 

You bring up another good point: if the music isn't bringing in more money or poeple or drinks, maybe the music isn't that good. <...>

 

So yea, if you accept this as reality and the live music scene as a culture, you ARE robbing others of paying jobs. In fact, if you accept it, you just robbed yourself. <...>

 

You don't HAVE to accept this "places can't or won't pay" as the reality. If there is money to be made and bands making the money for the clubs, chances are there is a club, or clubs, in the area that ARE paying the bands. If you hang out there, network with those crowds and musicians, SPEND YOUR MONEY THERE, you'll be in a way better spot.

 

The job of a small-time musician is to entertain the customers that go to the Establishment. To hold the crowd that enters the door. Drawing their own crowd is an extra and is icing on the cake, not the responsibility of the band.

 

And when you play for free at a commercial establishment, when they are making money and you are not, yes, you just robbed yourself as well (Good point)

 

When you play for free for the profit of somebody else, you are the lowest paid worker in the world.

 

------

 

You get good by practicing and playing for your friends in your garage. Take videos of your performance and analyze them to improve your stage presence. Record your performances to improve your music. Get ready to play the honest way, by hard work. Don't bring your half-baked, not ready for prime time out to a commercial establishment who is going to exploit you and avoid paying somebody who has done the hard work.

 

You can also volunteer to play for charitable organizations, they always need help. Go to the VA hospital and play for the disabled vets. House concerts. There are plenty of places to play for free where you aren't being exploited and not robbing yourself and a pro musician their livelihood.

 

I know we all want to play, and we all want to play for an appreciative audience. It's what our goal is. But if somebody is making money from your performance in front of that audience, make sure they aren't ripping you off by not sharing that money that you are making for them with you.

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Share your stories about Open Mic night ... I'd be interested to learn the origins of 'OPEN MIC' how long has this been going on? I've been paying attention to it for at least a dozen years ...

 

check out this link to Just Plain Folks Music Organization

http://www.jpfolks.com/forum/ubbthreads.php/ubb/showflat/Number/888568/page/3

 

Open Mic Is Exploitation. Someone else shares this opinion. Apparently Open Mic has been going on in some form since the eighties. Young people just learning about this open mic thing need to be educated that exploitation is not new and has been going on for decades.

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check out this link to Just Plain Folks Music Organization

http://www.jpfolks.com/forum/ubbthreads.php/ubb/showflat/Number/888568/page/3

 

Open Mic Is Exploitation. Someone else shares this opinion. Apparently Open Mic has been going on in some form since the eighties. Young people just learning about this open mic thing need to be educated that exploitation is not new and has been going on for decades.

Amen.

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I see it as a new area for a bar/club to get people in the door. I hosted an Open Mic for a few month's last year and was paid for my time and equipment, I didn't get rich but I got paid. With a few exception's most of these event's are nothing but hobbyist with less talent and/or ambition's to be in a working band. And all of these venue's that put them on are 2nd or 3rd rate places where you wont find 1st class act's so I don't know what the big deal is. There is a lower amount of people that go out to bar/club's than there was 20 years ago so they got to find new ways to get "Butts on Bar-stools"!

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I suspect most "open mics" are a play-for-fun kind of deal. The person hosting and bringing the gear may be getting something, but no one else is. The people that play are pretty much as described. They're not looking for a band, no great ambition to be the next Elvis. They're just playing because they enjoy it, or want to get some experience, like showing-off, or they just like the social atmosphere. To me it's not a big deal. Just so a bunch of people show-up, I don't care why they're there.........I have no issues playing or hosting at a coffeehouse that is 2nd rate or whatever else you call it. There are lots of those around here. I don't feel I'm being exploited. I fit in pretty easily with those places...They're just trying to survive in a tough business. Sometimes I have some really talented folks show-up. Most times it's just the journeyman musician/songwriter types. I don't know how someone could make a good living by just playing gigs. At least not in the Kansas City area. There simply are too many musicians and too few good-paying gigs. For me, I've never been good enough to make a lot of money with music, but I have one-hell-of-a-good time pretending I am.

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I've never been to an open mic night that is actually taking any business away from live music. If it's a venue that's so small it's actually an "Open Mic", that is a microphone/PA and nothing else, it's been a venue so small that a live band wouldn't fit, so the only thing it's taking the place of was Karaoke. If it is a big enough venue for a live band Open Mic situation the band gets paid. Either way it's an invaluable way to break into the scene and eventually get paid.

 

Also, from my business experience, hosting open mic night has brought my band contacts and gigs that we wouldn't have gotten without the weekly exposure our PAID GIG gets us every Thursday night. A night that the venue had given up on until it was brought to life by OPEN MIC NIGHT. Now we're making money and the venue is making money on a Thursday Night. At least two of the singer/songwriters we've had visit us have gotten paid gigs from the venue and patrons that come to watch our OPEN MIC NIGHT.

 

Then the exposure for my band, it's absolutely incredible. We play a couple songs between acts, so people that like to hear us don't get enough and end up coming to our weekend gigs or hiring us for their private event.

 

There's nothing free about it. Exposure for up and coming artists is priceless. There will always be those that want to monopolize the market, but like it or not it will always be a very competitive field with new guns trying to carve their niche. Open mic is simply a niche carving tool. If you want more gigs, polish your act, get on the phone and book. Stop complaining about those around you that "Have your gig", 'cause the gig ain't yours, it's the venues. And they'll give the gig to the best candidate for the job, there is no kudos for doing it longer than the new guy.

 

Final thought, not everyone wants to be entertained by one act all night long. It's always been that way. Whoever said that Open Mic Nights have been around since the 80's only started paying attention in the 80's. There's been open mic nights since the advent of the piano bar. Swing bands used to host Open Mic Nights in order to make ends meet (getting paid, even back then).

 

Seriously, get out and join in the fun of an open mic night. You'll find the exposure and boost to your reputation is worth more than the buck fifty you think you're missing out on.

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