Paula's Place

Paula's Place

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Worthless Musicians?

I am aware that this is a longer post than I usually put up, and is a bit of gripe, with no trans content.   This is because I am not just a trans person, I am also many other things to many different people, not least I am a musician.   I have another blog which has a different target readership, I shall be putting this post on there as well.

So far I have tried to avoid any mention of the Olympics, since I live in London it is going to have some effect on me.   When the first registration for tickets came up I registered on the basis that since it was going to be here I should go to something.   When it came to applying for tickets for specific events, I cogitated for a while, then asked the family what they wanted to go to, they sat and thought for a while, and between us we couldn't think of a single event that we would want to go to.   It is not that I’m not interested in sport, I follow Rugby, Cricket and motor-sports with various levels of enthusiasm, we just couldn't think of an Olympic sport that we would want to make the effort to and watch.
However that is not my beef with the Olympics, it’s their attitude to professional musicians.   Like many other musicians I was invited to play for the opening and closing ceremonies, like most of them I was being asked to give up not just the two days of the events but several days for rehearsals, and all of this for nothing.   For some reason there seems to be a view that playing music is not a proper job, and that musicians are happy to give their time free just for the privilege of taking part, or because they enjoy playing so much.   London is a world-wide centre of excellence for top level music, that is only possible because musicians can make a living and not have to fit  it in around work.

To be a professional musician requires years of training, hours of practise, and a collection of expensive instruments.  Because of the dedication of musicians we can enjoy the benefits of their excellence.   London hosts the finest music festival in the world with the Proms, we have three or four of the finest orchestras in the world, two first class opera companies. These top professionals are supported by all the freelance, gigging musicians and teachers playing at local events and concerts, take away this support and the whole will collapse.

I have worked in many fields often being self-employed, I have done mobile car servicing, used car dealer, I have been a landscaper, a cleaner a delivery driver, musician and I am now a self-employed gardener and waste management consultant.   It is only as a musician that I have ever had any trouble getting paid.   It is hard enough to get worthwhile work as a musician these days, a trio will cost around £300 per night, and you can add £75 to that per person as the band gets bigger, that is why you will so rarely hear a top rate big band these days.  
My Brass Band is an amateur organisation, but we have a lot of costs.   In theory the conductor should be paid, music has to be purchased, rent paid for the rehearsal room  instruments bought and maintained, all this adds up, so as well as the members paying a subscription we rely on being paid when we play for people.   To have a brass band at a fete or play in the park will normally cost in the region of £300, this is way below what a professional band would need to be paid, and is not really a true reflection of the work that the band will put in but it is what the “market” allows.  Like many other bands we have been asked to play on the route of the Olympic torch, we have agreed in the hope of some publicity, but once again there is to be no pay.   Security guards will be paid, drivers will get paid, administrators will be paid, why not the musicians?
We need to get away from this idea that musicians do what they do for the love of it and live on that without being paid.

On a different note tomorrow (Wednesday) will be another strange day, in the morning I shall be attending the funeral of a colleague and friend from the recycling world, then in the early evening I have another appointment wit my osteopath, I have a playful pair of panties set aside, but I don't know whether I will be in a sufficiently silly mood.
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