Thursday, November 26, 2009

From the mailbag...

Anon writes:
I just had a rather scary conversation with one of the younger band organizers in the Jewish club date biz. I was called about a possible Chassidic wedding gig, and was asked how much extra I would want to play the mitzvah tantz at the end. I asked if I would be playing it by myself. Told that I would be, I simply read to him the sublead overtime charges on my union card.

"Really? It's so much?" he asked me.

I told him that I wasn't charging any more than the minimum amount I should be getting. It seems that the fellow was in competition for the booking, and was trying to slash prices in any way he could. "Can't you do any better than that?" he asked.

No, I said. I really couldn't.

"And what if the mitzvah tantz goes longer than expected? I'll have to charge them so much more?"

That's right, I said. They call it a mitzvah tantz; I call it overtime. And overtime is overtime. Meter's running, clock's ticking, business is business.

The guy gave me a hold for the date, but I got the distinct impression that he thought I was being greedy. For charging scale. And that if he could find someone who would charge less (I believe the technical term is a "scab"), he would hire him in a heartbeat.

Truth is, I still might get the gig. And maybe enough of the older musicians in the biz will set this guy straight. He's not a bad guy. What frightens me is the mindset - that the scale card doesn't really matter any more. And the possibility that some musicians, faced with an empty schedule book, might buy into it.

Look, this year has been a disaster. For me and every other musician I know. I just want to implore my fellow club daters: No matter how bleak things look - no matter how many open dates are sitting in your schedule book - don't ever, ever, EVER do a gig at under scale. Because if that starts happening, we're back to the Stone Ages. We might as well all sell our equipment and start collecting unemployment.

I really hope this isn't the start of a trend. Because that would truly be the end.
I've been meaning to write a series of posts about the recession and musicians/live music. I hope to post on the matter soon. in the meantime, this is as good a starting point as any for a discussion on the topic. Comments are welcome. Anyone want to write a guest post on a releated topic?