Wednesday, March 07, 2007

From the mailbag... Updated

KFAR's Adam Davis writes:
Here's the thing about the fundraising concert tzedaka to cost ratio: its not the artist's problem.

Too many clients tell me during the process of planning their event with them that it can't be too expensive because they have to raise $XX, XXX. I understand that, but as an agent, how is this my concern? As a musician, how is it theirs? We're I the fundraising consultant, I suppose I would understand, but in that case, I'd be handling a retainer and a fee which in all likelihood is more than the band makes anyways. Most often the venue costs as much to rent as the act's fee. Sound and production and advertising are usually more than the act, and I feel that beating up the talent for a fair price" is unethical. Most acts would be scraping by if they were just living off their music, and that's the case with many talented Jewish acts.

You want cheaper talent, fine, I can get you cheaper talent, but don't expect it to be a draw or to impress your big donors. Only in a few cases can one make an arguement that talent fees are too high, and perhaps in the case of these overated, schmaltzy shiney-shoe performers, that's exactly the case. So much of a premium is placed on a big name that its because the rule to depend on their draw rather than the quality or originality of their music. Were that the case, you might hear more instrumental, experimental music at some of these concerts rather than big bands and big names. To me, that all sounds the same anyways.

The fact is that most of the money raise from concert events does NOT come from ticket sales. Or at least it shouldn't. Who cares if the event sells out or not? The real bucks should come from pre-show soliciations, not the concert itself, which is just the excuse to raise money. If the issue is truly expense to tzedaka ration, why have a concert at all? Just ask for a straight up donation. The answer is that the concert is the sizzle, not the steak. And you need that steak to sizzle a bit to sell it the customer. Its up to the sponsoring organization to make the most of their fundraising concert and not rely on the draw of the act or beating up on them to reduce their fee to fund their new social hall. That's just lazy. There's not question that fundraising concerts are expensive, but they also present great opportunities to raise funds. If they expect to raise funds through ticket sales, it should be due to a sense of obligation to the organization, not reliance on the draw of the act.

Maybe its my mistake for not working with any artists that don't too much (the highest and most rarely booked act asks $8000 for a show). For most organizations, even $4K is unbelievably high, though nearly all of them still expect me to be able to "get them Matisyahu" for that amount.... The number of organizations that can afford to produce such events are to few to waste my time on it. I really wish there were better ways to promote some of the talented acts out there to the general populace, so that these organizations would have more acts to pick from when they look for acts with a draw. But at some point its a catch 22.
I don't think we disagree. I actually think the smaller concerts can earn more proportionately, with a lerger percentage of the funds raised going to tzedakah and less of a "draw down", as it were, on available tzedaka funds in general. My point was with regard to the big shows occuring with increasing frequency here in NY. There's going to be a scandal at some point, I suspect.

Chasidi news sends a hilarous "English" translation of their Hebrew email. Here's a taste:
Chaim Yisrael Halperin presents – “Relaxing Moments 2” – a high quailty album of quiet calm music, with the participation of Misha Gutberg “the Jewish of the Violin”, Yoeli Barech the saxophone artist and Tzvi Goldring who is also on the tenor saxophone.

Blue Fringe band are releasing a new third album – “The Whole World Lit Up”. Blue Fringe’s third album, like their first two albums, is exactly what Blue Fringe fans everywhere have been expecting and it presents excellent music and compositions while the current album’s novelty is mainly new arrangements for well-known folk songs in Blue Fringe’s special style. Among the ten songs in the album you’ll find the well-known ‘Etz Chayim’, R’ Shlomo Carlebach’s ‘Yehi Shalom’, the Moshav’s ‘Bereishit’ and others. The band, made up of ten friends who had met at the Yeshiva University, include: Dov Rosenblatt, guitarist and lyricist; Avi Hoffman, also guitarist and the band’s composer; the drummer Dani Zwillenberg who binds beats from various musical sources; and Hayyim Dantzig on the bass while the current album was produced together with C. Lanzbom. Distribution: Sameach Music.

Susan writes:
Thank you so much for taking the time to help all of us who have completely fell in love with the music from this movie! I am so thankful I found your site after being frustrated in the search for this music "sound track." (I would have been searching forever!) I would love it if you could suggest any other Jewish music that is this beautiful. Thanks again for helping!!!
Adi Ran needs better representation/marketing here in the U.S.A. Anyone want to suggest some more artists for her?

Dave Kerner writes:
I was sitting in my kitchen the other night, just me, my ukulele and an Enntenmann's apple pie, and came up with, bezrat Hashem, a Purim song. I finished the pie, whipped out my little Fostex digital recording unit and - wha-la - posted it (the song) on the homepage of my website - Please have a listen when you have a chance.
Hmm, maybe we should ship a case of Entenmann's and a ukelele to Seagate!

Shamol writes:
" Eurovision Song Contest organizers say song by Teapacks seemingly refers indirectly to Iran's nuclear ambitions and its hard-line leader Ahmadinejad. "

In 1931, Fritz Lang was filming a thriller about a serial killer, tentatively entitled "Die Mörder sind unter uns" (The murderer is among us). He received threats from the Nazis, who (having only heard the title, but not seen the screenplay) naturally enough assumed that the title referred to them... it was eventually changed to just "M".

The guilty flee where no man pursueth, eh?
Update: Azriel writes:
If I had a buck for everyone who's called me to see if Chaim Dovid or Shlomo Katz could play for their charity "but I have a very small budget and can't pay much", I could retire.

I agree with Adam. It's hard enough for a Jewish musician (especially one who won't play many types of gigs) to make a parnasah. It's nice that people want to raise money but it shouldn't be on the backs of the musicians. If they think that a musician will be a draw that will distinguish their event, they have to pay up.

L'maisah, the gigs we run at Aish Kodesh are run for the sake of the music. We never make money; we are happy to break even or even lose a little bit. But the costs are a tiny fraction of the shiny shoe mega events.
I agree. I think artists should be paid a fair price for their work. And, I think they can set their own fees. But, there's a difference between an artist asking a reasonable amount of money for a full concert (Adam's most expensive artist gets $8000 for a full show) and a singer being paid in the five digits for singing 45 minutes as part of one of these big shows. Also, there's a difference in venue rental fees and associated costs. From the standpoint of using tzedaka money appropriately, these expenditures are outrageous. The mix of large budgets, producers and event planners that are unaccountable to the public (some with a history of bankruptcy and dishonest dealings) uninvolved (or unaware) board members, etc. all play a part here.

Another update: "Max" forwards some upcoming Ed Alstrom NJ gig info. I've removed the Shabbos gigs.:
Ed Alstrom, (piano, vocals)
March ‘07

Thursday, March 8 - 4:30P - 7P
Ed solo (piano, vocals)
Godwin Ave., Ridgewood, NJ
No cover charge!
Ed plays at an organic supermaket, of course.
Do your healthy shopping while digging the sounds.

Tuesday, March 13 - 6:30-10:30P
No cover charge!!
Ed solo (piano, vocals, guitar)
Walnut St., Montclair, NJ 973-744-2600
Just Ed, no group, at Jersey’s best jazz club; best of all, no cover charge!

Ed Alstrom Home Page
We've mentioned Ed here, here (in a post on tefilah groups), and here. I wonder if the record people are coming!

If you go, you might want to see if Ed still has any copies of "The Record people Are Coming" available. It's a fun album. I can't find any purchase info online.

Amazon has his album "Acid Cabaret" here: