It’s been a while since I’ve gone on a bit of a rant hasn’t it? I can’t even remember but I’m pretty sure its been all puppies and ice cream for the last several months. I find it funny how the puppies and ice cream posts don’t exactly break the ‘visits’ record like the controversial ones do. Oh well.
I have had some dealings lately that have flustered me and made me think about a lot of things lately so I guess I’m about to rant but not necessarily. I just want to get a few things straight.
First off let’s talk about the DOOR DEAL. I was NOT the person who invented the door deal. For those not up on the lingo, the door deal is the dreaded deal where the club takes no risk (but when you think about it this is not true, the club takes a lot of risk) and the musicians play for whatever comes in the door via cover charges collected. For obvious reasons it’s not the most lucrative deal and there is a lot of risk on both sides. From a musicians stand point (let’s not forget I AM a musician) it can sometimes be tough to swallow. All the same old questions and arguments come up that quite frankly I find boring. I have been burned on door deals and I have done very very very well on door deals. Seems to me they have balanced each other out. This for me is part of a bigger issue…….letting the amount of money you get paid determining how you represent yourself both in the way you look, act and behave professionally.
I get that when a presenter whether it be a club owner or corporate event booker etc. calls and says this gig pays $500 each, you need to be there at 2:00 for a sound check and you need to wear a tuxedo, musicians generally have no problem doing it. Of course, human nature, you’re getting paid well so you do as the presenter asks but there is a BUT here, usually those gigs suck, you’re playing for people that don’t care about the music, think you’re actually more of a nuisance than an enhancement to the event. When you’re playing a jazz club, presumably you’re playing your music uninhibited and unencumbered so although the pay isn’t great I think most musicians would prefer the latter scenario.
I can’t and won’t speak for other musicians but personally I care about the way I represent myself, the way people perceive me and albeit sometimes naive I do try to look at every gig as an opportunity for future work. Call me what you want, but I do. Do I show up in a suit and tie ever gig? No. Do I look at a Monday night gig at The Cellar different from a weekend slot? Yes of course I do. I generally however always try to look respectable and I always try to know the details of every gig so I can make a decision on whether to do the gig well beforehand.
There are 2 answers to a gig offer: YES or NO. I respect either one but it is not good form to say YES to a gig then to educate the presenter on the way things SHOULD be or what things SHOULD pay. Last time I checked you don’t HAVE to take a gig that doesn’t measure up to your standards for whatever reason.
I send out a COE (confirmation of engagement) for every single act that I book. It is very detailed with what is expected on a number of levels. I do not put anything in there about dress code because for the most part the musicians that play The Cellar ‘get it’ and look respectable and represent themselves well. If they show up to the club and look like slobs I generally say nothing. Its a reflection of the level of care they have for what they’re doing. You be the judge about how much someone cares when they show up to a gig looking like they just came from the gym.
I give detailed information about how I want promo sent to me (only about 50% of people do it right), what the food and drink policy is, what time the sets are, what time load in and sound check is and where to load gear in and out of. Its all right there in plain english, easy to read and understand. If there are things that are simply unbearable then the gig doesn’t have to happen. It’s easy, just say ‘NO THANKS.’ I have done a pretty good job at not judging or being upset if someone doesn’t take a Cellar gig for whatever reason.
I am not perfect, The Cellar is not perfect and I’m sure there are many opinions out there about what I do and how I go about it. That’s totally fair. I have made countless mistakes and will likely continue to make some but one thing I know for sure. I’m not some 20 year old kid trying to make his way onto this scene. I have been on this jazz scene for a long time and think that I have earned the respect or at least earned the right to have my wishes and my requests at MY jazz club respected and honored if in fact you are playing there.