Only a dedicated musician would take $20,000 in instruments in his $500 car, 50 miles one way to make $20. ~ Anon
The holiday season is upon us and for most musicians this is a busy time. I am an amateur musician who plays with four groups right now, one that I run, and I have only three gigs from now through New Years. And that is by choice, having decided to take a break from another of many other musical performances I have done in the past.
But I got another of those interesting offers that really gives me pause. It was an offer to do another holiday show, this time as part of a 4 piece combo. Taking a least 16 hours, not counting traffic, the gig would run over 8 days with the pay check of $100. I would be soloing on sax, clarinet, flute, and oboe for $6.25 an hour, in a high stress (because as musicians, you can’t make a mistake). Minus my cost for gas (30 miles one way), reeds, and food, my net return, best case, would be a negative $20!
Don’t get me wrong, I have done more for less, including donating my time. And I have schlepped a record five different instruments to one long-running show. My returns from that show was 4 free tickets to the show. And this was from a theater that runs many shows a year. We won’t mention my soprano sax that got ruined when someone knocked it over during a break or the damage to Suzy’s alto sax by a sub who dropped it when he forgot to close the case before picking it up.
I recently met a very fine musician who after college was trying to make a go of the life as a professional musician in New York. He gave up and is back in Seattle living in his mother’s home. He does lessons for Music Works, thank goodness for those guys. He is struggling to make a living by giving lessons, writing original music, teaching at Music Works, and playing gigs around town. He recently did a sub gig with a professional quality band and got $20 for the night!
Having run a band, I often filled the band with stellar players who tried the life of a professional musician and then went back to college to get a degree for a job that would pay more regularly. It is nice to eat three times a day. Getting a decent soloing sub for my band is not hard because we are a non-profit with little to no pay for the musicians. But when I bring in a quality soloist, we try to pay them extremely well.
This year I decided to do my first New Year gig with this band. Everyone gets $75 for a three hour gig with one 2 hour practice. Yeah, we can afford Christmas this year …