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Australian singer/musician/composer, Tommy Pickett asks the following question...

Tommy Pickett

September 2012

The Question:
What If....?

by Tommy Pickett share this - email, favourites, social bookmarks and more

What if...

A dozen bars and restaurants in a particular part of town, (Lets call it Newoxfordtown), decided to stop having musicians and bands play for free and instead have ONE band ONCE a week, and pay them $600.

The accountant at the first venue, thought it was the stupidest thing he’d ever heard. "Where’s the return, in that?", He said. "Why pay for something that, apparently, is so easy to acquire for free? They all kind of sound the same anyway.. You know, couple of guitar-shaped things, some of that stuff someone hits and a couple of in-and-out of tune microphone-jockeys."

But the venue manager, that month, had obviously attended some kind of spiritual group, or had something slipped in his drink because he wasn’t going to budge from his plan.

The first Friday came and the band weren’t tight or inspiring... and no one danced.
The accountant and the chef said, "Guys! If we’re going to pay for this we have to pay more attention to who we hire".
The chef then got the job of having a ten minute meeting with any prospective acts, which pissed him off and, like chefs do, he got straight to the point.
"You guys better not stop for breaks longer than 20 minutes". "You can have TWO beers each and no more", "You better dress nice and you better dedicate a song to my Mum when she’s in".
The band were so taken with the fact that they were getting paid enough to ditch a day at their shitty warehouse jobs, they willingly made these concessions.
As the new approach took off in this part of town, all twelve venues, motivated by their need to justify this $600 they were parting with, took a bit more notice of their live music and reasons for having it.

A couple of funny things started to happen.
Several 4-piece bands, duos and solo, skinny-legged, singer-songwriter harmonica-blowing types started getting a bit excited and practicing more.
They found that IF they polished their act and attitude just a little and played their hearts out, they reliably had a couple of gigs a week which earned them enough to free up a couple of days a week from their day jobs.
The warehouse guy told his bosses they were smelly retards, stole a bunch of IKEA lampshades, hidden in his guitar case and never went back.
The kitchen-hand set fire to the Peking Duck on purpose, threw his hairnet in the soup and shinnied down the balcony, went home and practiced his bass-playing ALL night.

The musos in that part of town suddenly found they had a couple of days free to practice, jam and Write.
The level of playing and quality of the material written increased noticeably.

Word began to spread that Newoxfordtown was a hotbed of music and creativity.
The eaters, drinkers, dancers and listeners started showing up on Friday nights from miles around.
The accountants of the dozen venues couldn’t explain the sudden increase in revenue but, being highly-trained marketing people, they quickly assessed that it was because of the new flat-screen tvs in the pokie-rooms and "cheap spaghetti Friday lunches".

© 2012 Tommy Pickett

Have Your Say
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"What if" could be "If only".I think your scenario is well set out and we would all love to see such a result but unfortunately I think the logic is flawed. I don't think we would ever find such an inspired accountant and you began your article by pointing out that the musicians were already playing for free. Until we are prepared to put a worth on our work that we won't compromise on we can't begin to change the status quo. This requires solidarity amongst the musicians which is hard to obtain. I can see someone approaching an accountant and saying "we will do the gig for $550.00 if you give us 3 gigs a week and let us bring a friend for free". The American musicians managed to get a good result back when they went on strike from recorded music to obtain residuals. On the whole there was no new recorded music made for 2 years or so and the live scene went through the roof as it was the only way to hear your favourite bands. It took a couple of years of solidarity (some broke the ranks but used assumed names to avoid backlashes from their peers but they got their demands met and have never looked back - something that the Australian musicians couldn't pull off as they opted for short term gain over long term financial security. The first step must come from us. We can't wait for an inspired accountant to help raise our standards.

Posted by David Pudney on Sunday 2 September 2012

I think your point is well made, and very appropriate in today's climate - and to add to it, there is the value added because of the perception of quality due to the fee charged (i.e. it MUST be good because it's costing us $600...). The only question it doesn't answer is why there are so many musicians at the absolute top of their field (who DO practice almost more than there is time in the day) who are without work, or who have day jobs. Perhaps this is a result of people's perception of their own value - i.e. If you don't think you're worth $600, then no one will pay you $600.

Posted by Bill Risby on Sunday 2 September 2012
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