Again, with feeling. Repeat ad nauseum.

I found this on my Facebook feed, via the brilliant guitarist Ken Navarro (he wasn’t the one who replied to the ad, changing that bit for context):

Craigslist Ad: We are a small & casual restaurant in downtown Vancouver and we are looking for solo musicians to play in our restaurant to promote their work and sell their CD. This is not a daily job, but only for special events which will eventually turn into a nightly event if we get positive response. More Jazz, Rock, & smooth type music, around the world and mixed cultural music. Are you interested to promote your work? Please reply back ASAP.

A Musician’s Reply:
Happy new year! I am a musician with a big house looking for a restauranteur to promote their restaurant and come to my house to make dinner for my friends and I. This is not a daily job, but only for special events which will eventually turn into a nightly event if we get positive response. More fine dining & exotic meals and mixed Ethnic Fusion cuisine. Are you interested to promote your restaurant? Please reply back ASAP.

—-

Note that there’s absolutely nothing in here that says how the musician will be paid, or how much. In the restaurant circles, this sort of an ad is a thinly veiled notice that the musician will not be paid for this.

Let’s say this again. With feeling. Ad nauseum, until the message will sink in:

No one is entitled to receive creative services for free.

This is especially true of contemp jazz. While I’m perfectly aware that the terrestrial radio exposure for this format is on life support, if even that, there’s a massive online following, and the genre, contrary to whoever says otherwise, is alive and well. It’s just not mainstream anymore, and hadn’t been since CD 101.9 started off the chain reaction of format flips.

Is there any legitimate reason not to pay a musician for their work?

Really. Get with the program. The musician in this case would be promoting the restaurant as well as themselves. If the people come in to listen to the music and like the food, they will come back to the restaurant. So the restaurant is benefiting twice over from the musician’s presence: live music, and an uptick in clientele. The musician gets…what, exactly? Exposure? They can get the same exposure from a paid gig as opposed to a freebie.

“But they play for the love of music, don’t they?”

Cut that out. Seriously, stop romanticizing jazz musicians. They may do what they do because of the love of music, but they sure as hell do not get on a stage just because of the love. The love is great. It warms the soul. It does not pay bills. Love does not put food on the table. Love does not pay the income tax, because guess what: most of the time, the artist is working as an independent contractor, which involves paying the self-employment tax, which is a higher bracket than most W-2 income. And love especially doesn’t pay the mortgage, rent, or studio expenses that are requisite fees for the musician to ply his or her trade. You want live music? Pony up the dough. You want promo through live music? Pony up the dough. Life isn’t free, and I’ve yet to hear of any apartment building that lets people live for free that doesn’t end with “correctional facility” in its name.

This sort of an ad is only a drop in the heap of BS attitude of, “You’re just a starving artist who needs to be seen, and should be grateful there’s someone willing to throw you a bone, how dare you ask for money if you’re in this genre?” that even established, A-List musicians get on a regular basis from venues all over the world. It’s patronizing, disrespectful, outright insulting, and needs to stop immediately. And it’s disgustingly pervasive in contemporary jazz, because it’s not the “cool and popular” genre of music. The response to the above ad is absolutely classic and there should be more of such replies.

Really. Is there any legitimate reason not to pay a musician for their work? Because that’s what they’re doing when they’re on stage: working. They’re not doing it for the love, at least not only. They’re doing their job. They have lives, families, loans, bills to pay, and they are working so they could do exactly that. It’s no different from the owner going to the restaurant to oversee the running thereof, or a Joe Analyst going to a 9-5 job.

Long story short: pay the piper. Or the guitarist. Or the saxophonist.

K.G.

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