What would happen if...

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Hypothetical situation...What would happen...if it was possible (just humor me here), that ALL live musicians in every capacity, from party gigs to the Vinnies, would refuse to work for nothing less than the equivalent wages of say someone who earns $100,000 USD a year at 40 hours a week, at the very bare minimum. Limiting the discussion to live musicians for now.

Of course the sky is the limit for the guys like Vinnie, but for the purposes of this discussion, we're talking a minimum pay scale of at least 50 dollars an hour, after any expenses are paid by whoever is hiring. Rather than get hung up on minutia like taxes and monetary stuff and feasibility, what I'm hoping for is a discussion on what would you think the music hiring sector would do.

Like if the tables were totally turned, and we got to charge a wage that any other "normal" professional would command, would the music hiring sector then take on the mindset that most musicians currently do? Referring to the attitude that it's better to make something than nothing. Assume that there is enough revenue to pay the musicians, and the hiring person would be absorbing the higher cost for the music. Or would they just kill live music in favor of DJ's or gaming? If all live musicians were to miraculously right now with hold live music unless we were paid at the rate of any other profession.... how in demand would it really be?

Live musicians are in the only profession where this is a problem. I can't imagine doing electrical work just to break even so I can continue to do electrical work.
 

Diet Kirk

Silver Member
Given your specific parameters, i think it would be the death knell for live music.

At the outset ticket prices would soar and the laws of supply and demand would kick in and your average punter would seek different forms of entertainment. Remember for many music competes with film, tv, playing outside, buying magazies, books etc etc for their recreational dollar/pound

High grossing singers (ie to protect their cut of payment) would play to backing tracks

Festivals may still operate, but would run with fewer stages, higher ticket prices and perhaps be the only place you could watch live music, until ticket prices finally got too much

original bands wouldn't be able to make any money (assuming your scenario is applied to the letter, ie they would be taken to court, imprisoned etc if they didn't pay each other the going rate.)

Orchestras would no longer play anywhere. Imagine that wage bill!

in short yes I think live music would cease to exist.

Now, with a few slight alterations to your plan, you might be on to something. But really in the end you would end up with what we have now.

As Bermuda has pointed out (sorry Bermuda if I put words in your mouth here) to a number of these kind of interesting threads. Music is too freely available now and the consumption of music no longer requires you to purchase it. Therefore there is no money in the industry to pay anyone with.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
People will take what you feed them, entertainment wise it seems. If it would be the death knell, how far is the industry from that point anyway? Are we already there?

The thing I get hung up on....just say the hiring guy makes 100,000 on a show in the current system. His profit after all his expenses. Under the new system say he makes 90,000. Is that enough to be a deal breaker? I was assuming no higher ticket prices, extra cost is absorbed by the hiring person, tables are turned.
 

BillRayDrums

Gold Member
I'll tell you EXACTLY what would happen- every weekend warrior band, garage band, kid band, etc. would line up around the corner for the sudden openings in the musical realm of that area and the clubowners would be THRILLED.

It's not about creating music, it's about selling seats and drinks and food. That's what you do when you're a "working musician"... you work with the bar to sell drinks. I mean, you have fun in the process but at the end of the day *if* you pack the place and *if* you make the bar some coin, then you'll be asked back.

And then the only gigs will be with those who are the undercutters.

That's what's going on in San Diego, CA.

Wanna help your local scene? Be the best band you can be, bring all your friends but make sure the clubowner doesn't try to stiff you. Get it in writing. Always.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Great name for a band, The Undercutters lol.

Live music is doomed lol.

It's so lopsided that a bar can make10 grand and they pay the musicians 300 bucks.
 

BFrench501

Senior Member
As others say, it would be the death of music as we know it.

The same is happening in some sports though. I played 9-ball pool to a very high amateur level and the turnouts to tournaments are dire because the prize money isn't enough. But there are professionals there at these comps because there just isnt enough money coming in elsewhere.

There is always someone ready to undercut somebody else and music isn't so specialised that we can demand the extra dough. If music was a necessity in peoples lives then maybe we could demand more but music is just a convenience.
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
It's so lopsided that a bar can make10 grand and they pay the musicians 300 bucks.
There's a bar bringing in 10k in a night? Man, I gotta open a bar!!

You can't base what 'the help' should be paid on what the gross is. The danger in that is, when there's a bad night, the employees (and band) suffer accordingly. Of course we think it should be more equitable, but like almost every business, there's a budget established, and the employer takes the profits as well as the losses in doing so.

Let's say the bar does gross $10k. How many employees are there? What does the booze cost? How much is the rent? Electricity? Satellite TV subscription? Insurance? Liquor license? And how much is the owner entitled to for a return on his investment? Did the band have anything to do with the bar making $10k, or would they have made it without live music? Does the bar make $10k every night it has band??

There are too many unknowns to say that $300 is fair or unfair if the the gross is $10k. And if the band is a trio, is $100/ea such a crime?

At some point, we have to determine if our services are worth a certain amount, or not. It can't simply be based on percentages. If so, than Vinnie's reputed salary of $10k/week with Sting makes him grossly underpaid. Let's not base what we make on what someone else makes. If that were the rule, I'm afraid a lot of bar bands would make a lot less than $300. A sliding scale works both ways.

There are obviously exceptions. one is when a musician - or someone who loves music - opens a joint, and makes sure the band gets fair pay for their efforts. It may not always be amazing money, but there may be other perks such as dinner and bar tab, or having music 7 nights a week so that more bands can work. And if a band has a genuine money-spending following, they possess more value and will be paid more.

Maybe that needs to be a more realistic goal for bands - to attract people who want to hear them! Well, obviously that's what they want, but maybe they'd work harder if they knew that their value (read: pay) was directly tied to their popularity, rather than expecting the bars to give them employment just because they happen to play songs together.

Bermuda
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
There is always someone ready to undercut somebody else and music isn't so specialised that we can demand the extra dough.
That's somewhat true, although the better players can still hold their price against those who would play for less. There are definitely drummers in L.A. who'll do my gigs for less than I do, but my bands like the way I play, and thankfully don't mind paying more for me. Sometimes that difference might be only $25 or $50, but it's a significant percentage in terms of what the whole band gets paid, and usually results in my making more than the other players.

Bermuda
 

Andy

Administrator
Staff member
If your example $50/hour is from the time you leave home, to the time you get back, plus cost/mile on travelling, then unless you have a "name" = no way. $50/hour for actual playing time plus expenses/outgoings, that's about where we are now :(

Doing a normal day job offers the ability to be "average" & make a living wage. That's not something that's possible as a musician. To make a decent living wage as a musician, you need to be the best "electrician" in the area :)

Being one of the best builder of drums out there guarantees zero earnings, & probably heavy losses for years to come, whereas the guys knocking out some basic stuff with a nice finish can earn a crust. So, it could be worse Larry ;)
 

WaitForItDrummer

Senior Member
I think this comes down to what society values - and supply and demand.

I think the question is, how could we get society to value musicians more?
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
I think this comes down to what society values - and supply and demand.

I think the question is, how could we get society to value musicians more?
Supply and demand is right. That's what's determining the value, not society. There are way more musicians and bands than there is demand for them. I'm not saying that bands need to give up, they just need to create more of a demand for their particular unit. They need to demonstrate why they should be hired over another band, and/or why they're worth being paid more if that becomes a bargaining chip.

There'd still be a situation where some bands work, and some don't, and some complain about the money while others are paid more fairly. It's all about the value of the band itself, and not enough players think that's important. Their sense of entitlement about being paid for their dedication is stronger than their sense of making sure they possess marketable value. I guess that's selling out or something. Sheesh...

Bermuda
 

JimFiore

Silver Member
Supply and demand in reality is not what people often think it is. There are many things where the supply is tightly controlled by people/corporations with considerable power. You get what they allow you to get and for the price they want. I am certainly not the first person to observe that unrestrained capitalism eventually leads to monopolies which pretty much dashes most common concepts of supply/demand and free markets. I've become so disgusted with our current economic system and all of its imbalances that I now refer to myself as an anti-corporate post-capitalist.

A friend of mine, quite a good keyboardist, likes to say that musicians spend at least as much time honing their craft as any other professional, if not more, yet the vast bulk of them get paid a pittance. Seriously, how many engineers or doctors started their studies when they were kids? On the other hand, if a musician effs up, no one dies. And although we can all moan about musicians getting lousy pay, the fact of the matter is that real wages (corrected for inflation) for middle class Americans in general have been flat since the 1970s and have actually fallen for those at the bottom. At the very top, however, things are much different.

I hate to say it but musicians are a prime example of the "race to the bottom" in wages. If I had a child who was interested in music I would never suggest that they follow it for a career. A hobby by all means, but a career no way.
 

BillRayDrums

Gold Member
There's a bar bringing in 10k in a night? Man, I gotta open a bar!!

You can't base what 'the help' should be paid on what the gross is. The danger in that is, when there's a bad night, the employees (and band) suffer accordingly. Of course we think it should be more equitable, but like almost every business, there's a budget established, and the employer takes the profits as well as the losses in doing so.

Let's say the bar does gross $10k. How many employees are there? What does the booze cost? How much is the rent? Electricity? Satellite TV subscription? Insurance? Liquor license? And how much is the owner entitled to for a return on his investment? Did the band have anything to do with the bar making $10k, or would they have made it without live music? Does the bar make $10k every night it has band??

There are too many unknowns to say that $300 is fair or unfair if the the gross is $10k. And if the band is a trio, is $100/ea such a crime?

At some point, we have to determine if our services are worth a certain amount, or not. It can't simply be based on percentages. If so, than Vinnie's reputed salary of $10k/week with Sting makes him grossly underpaid. Let's not base what we make on what someone else makes. If that were the rule, I'm afraid a lot of bar bands would make a lot less than $300. A sliding scale works both ways.

There are obviously exceptions. one is when a musician - or someone who loves music - opens a joint, and makes sure the band gets fair pay for their efforts. It may not always be amazing money, but there may be other perks such as dinner and bar tab, or having music 7 nights a week so that more bands can work. And if a band has a genuine money-spending following, they possess more value and will be paid more.

Maybe that needs to be a more realistic goal for bands - to attract people who want to hear them! Well, obviously that's what they want, but maybe they'd work harder if they knew that their value (read: pay) was directly tied to their popularity, rather than expecting the bars to give them employment just because they happen to play songs together.

Bermuda

Venues have a LOT of overhead that the general public does not even know about. There's not just rent on the property but also general taxes, employment tax, cabaret license, liquor license, ASCAP/BMI fees, various association memberships, etc. Then there's employees that gotta get paid, insurance, promotion, food and beverage deliveries, etc. All that adds up quickly!

I see more and more people who are starting their own live music venues and throwing caution to the wind and cutting corners where they ought to not do that. "Jumping over a dollar to get a dime" pretty much applies.

And the first thing they usually "forget to pay" is the ASCAP or BMI vig and then they get popped and have to shut their doors because the lawyers eat their legs off, like little frogs.

(I just read what I wrote and it's pretty much what Berm says...except the part about frog legs...)

It's risky business, this music thing. Wear a helmet wherever possible.
 

larryz

Platinum Member
My in-laws have owned a upscale venue/restaurant for 10 years. Average $$ he'd pay bands was $300-500, and he'd be happy to break even or make a few dollars on the night. He did it mainly because he was a working musician in his younger years. It's tough.

On a side note, I wonder how many here on DW hired a DJ instead of live music for their wedding entertainment. Just curious.
 

tamadrm

Platinum Member
Bill,I get the risky business thing.but it always was a risk.Entertainment,restaurants,mom and pop delis,just name it,it was always a risk.I also understand all the hidden expences thing.That's the responsibility,you take on,and part of the risk you take,running your own business.That goes for ANY business.So if they can't handle the whole package,which includes,paying musicians,then,get out of the biz,and get a job with Citibank.Respectfully,I don't want to hear an owners tale of how tough it is.I know how tough it is.You want me to work for NOTHING,and expect me to just ,go along with that program ,and also expect me to do a great job.....for free?You want me to pay to play escentially,and absorb all my costs,to help make your business a sucess.Say that out loud a few times,to get the full impact.

Dude,I've seen you play,and there's no way,a skill set like that dosen't get compensated.The endless hours of practice,lessons,buying gear...the list goes on.I'm not saying it's all about the buck,but you should be able to make a decent living,being able to play your instrument at the level you do.That level of dedication is ,in my book,equal to a Masters degree in any dicipline you'd care to name.Just my 2 cents.


All the supply and demand economics dosen't explain,why in the late 60's and 70's.,bands played and got paid....period.If you had a decent band,you always got paid.Owners EXPECTED to pay you.It was the cost of doing business,like paying the electric bill.Playing for free was just a joke.My first paid gig was a H.S dance in 69,and they paid 25 per man up to 5 pieces ....to start.We played clubs,bars,private parties and block parties and colleges and there was NEVER a question of getting paid.We did some charity work ,and played for friends pro bono,but that was rare.

There were also plenty of bands around. Just in my neighborhood alone,there were 5 bands in a 3 block area.Things as they are now are just out of hand.If you want to play for fee all the time,you're cutting you own throat,and every other bands that comes after you.Keep buying into the play for free for the "exposure" line kiddies.Your paying the venue owners employee salaries and overhead costs.Tell me that's not true.As a club owner, I have a bridge on sea side property in Arizona I'd like to sell you.

I'm not saying we should all be making 6 figures(but some wedding bands,and bands that played the college circuit back in the days, were making mid 5 figure salaries.per man),but this no pay or 10 bucks a guy..........is B.S.

I'm with Larry.Wake up people,and stop believing the Bull that these owners are selling you,and don't keep saying over and over,that's the way things are today.Things are that way,because you let them be.That's a cheap cop out.Sometimes going on strike IS,the way to get what you deserve.Rant over.

Steve B
 
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BillRayDrums

Gold Member
My in-laws have owned a upscale venue/restaurant for 10 years. Average $$ he'd pay bands was $300-500, and he'd be happy to break even or make a few dollars on the night. He did it mainly because he was a working musician in his younger years. It's tough.

On a side note, I wonder how many here on DW hired a DJ instead of live music for their wedding entertainment. Just curious.

Hey *I* played at my own wedding!
 
G

gf2564

Guest
There's a bar bringing in 10k in a night? Man, I gotta open a bar!!

You can't base what 'the help' should be paid on what the gross is. The danger in that is, when there's a bad night, the employees (and band) suffer accordingly. Of course we think it should be more equitable, but like almost every business, there's a budget established, and the employer takes the profits as well as the losses in doing so.

Let's say the bar does gross $10k. How many employees are there? What does the booze cost? How much is the rent? Electricity? Satellite TV subscription? Insurance? Liquor license? And how much is the owner entitled to for a return on his investment? Did the band have anything to do with the bar making $10k, or would they have made it without live music? Does the bar make $10k every night it has band??

There are too many unknowns to say that $300 is fair or unfair if the the gross is $10k. And if the band is a trio, is $100/ea such a crime?

At some point, we have to determine if our services are worth a certain amount, or not. It can't simply be based on percentages. If so, than Vinnie's reputed salary of $10k/week with Sting makes him grossly underpaid. Let's not base what we make on what someone else makes. If that were the rule, I'm afraid a lot of bar bands would make a lot less than $300. A sliding scale works both ways.

There are obviously exceptions. one is when a musician - or someone who loves music - opens a joint, and makes sure the band gets fair pay for their efforts. It may not always be amazing money, but there may be other perks such as dinner and bar tab, or having music 7 nights a week so that more bands can work. And if a band has a genuine money-spending following, they possess more value and will be paid more.

Maybe that needs to be a more realistic goal for bands - to attract people who want to hear them! Well, obviously that's what they want, but maybe they'd work harder if they knew that their value (read: pay) was directly tied to their popularity, rather than expecting the bars to give them employment just because they happen to play songs together.

Bermuda
As someone who has spent most all of my career in hospitality management, I can attest that profit margins are slim as a general rule. Of course there are always exceptions and in the interest of full disclosure, it has been many years since I have been exclusively in the "bar" business. At one time the booze side of the things was pretty profitable relative to other areas. This was based on lower cost of goods sold (18-25%, depending on sales mix) and generally lower labor cost (mostly low hourly rate,"tipped" employees). Bermuda and others are right however, there are a lot of "miscellaneous" expenses that many do not realize. Liability insurance, for example, has really gone out the roof with all of the Dram Shop laws that came in years ago.

I would think most bar owners would be lucky/happy to have 10-15% return, even on the best of months and this would not even include the price of entertainment. Do the math on that and you see there isn't much left when all is said and done! As far as even breaking even on a band, assuming 25% cost of sales and paying a band $600 means you are going to have to sell $800 more booze than you would have just to pay for the band! (assuming no cover charge revenue).

I do agree with others on how much the pay has actually gone down in many cases over the last 30-35 years for "bar bands". I can remember booking and paying bands in the $600-800 range back in the early '80's for Holiday Inn type gigs and those weren't even the most popular ones! Bands rarely get more than $100 per member when I play now; sometimes less. It is about supply and demand.........I live in a college town and supply definitely exceeds demand! But Larry and others are dead on, many will play for next to nothing (or nothing) so it is definitely a one sided business model in the favor of the bar managers here!
 
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