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Old 04-03-2012, 08:14 PM
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zambizzi zambizzi is offline
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Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: Big Bad Boise
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Default Re: Why Musicians Shouldn't Work for Peanuts

Originally Posted by inneedofgrace View Post
From my perspective, it all seems relative. I consider my practice of engineering to be very important to society. I doubt many people want to drive over a bridge that has been designed by an engineer that isn't qualified. There are a lot of steps (education, testing, experience, etc) that an engineer has to go through to obtain their license and be able to sign engineering drawings. In this field, I make a pretty comfortable living (I'm now at the management level), so I'm definitely not complaining. However, with the economy in the crapper, clients are significantly cutting back what we can charge for our services, as if somehow what we do is worth less now.

Ironically our clients are squeezing us, yet continue to pay upwards of $400/hour for legal services, and the attorneys aren't cutting back on their fees.

Meanwhile, professional (and non-professional) musicians continue to earn less, yet professional entertainers and athletes continue to make obscene salaries.

Two of my bandmembers are unemployed, so paid gigs are pretty important to them. Right now we can only find one venue that is willing to pay us, and fortunately they haven't squeezed us yet. There are so many horror stories about how venues have broken promises about hiring or payment.
Here's some economic food for thought and conversation:

- What good would it do for an unqualified "engineer" to build a bridge that collapses and kills people? In a theoretical situation where there were no coercive regulations and licensure for your profession - who would want to hire someone with such a reputation...and why would an inexperienced engineer accept a one-time paycheck for what are clearly much more severe consequences than the paycheck can justify? Even if I were the most sinister of con-men, the valuation seems obvious here. With that, a rhetorical question; why are so many bridges, roads, and other infrastructure crumbling, anyhow?

- Lawyers can charge what they want...the law is a monopolistic institution. If/when engineers become a function of government, they'll enjoy the same monopoly privileges. Licensure and regulation can only go so far in squeezing out competitive (price-reducing) forces. What you do is in fact, worth less now, according to the market. Value is subjective...which means prices are ultimately determined by the market.

- Athletes make obscene salaries because of us - the market. People are willing to pay obscene ticket prices to attend sporting events, therefore athletes can continue to demand obscene contracts. Musicians are seeing less money because consumers aren't willing to pay as much to see them, and are fed up with paying protectionist prices for copies of mediocre, rushed, over-produced albums, cranked out by the corporatist music industry. No longer can musicians afford to put out electronically-enhanced, carefully airbrushed albums, and put on relatively poor performances. Thankfully!

My wife is our band manager. She also manages a few other bands in town and has become pretty active in the local music scene. She hears the same thing from club/bar owners all the time - prices are rising and profits are falling. The owner of the Knitting Factory wrote out all of his costs for doing a show, in detail. These guys are squeezed as tight as they can possibly get and most of them are *still* willing to do whatever they can, as far as paying a band to come and play. Too often, bands want to walk into a bar, lay it down for a couple hours, and still complain when they only walk away with $50 in each of their pockets. It's the band's responsibility to get people into the venue and spending money. If you're doing that, you deserve to get paid. If you feel it's not good enough, renegotiate or just quit playing there. If someone fills your spot for the same weren't worth more. The supply of musicians is typically much, much higher than the demand, so competitive pressure keeps the prices low, for club owners.
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