To every gig there is an end
Posted by keithosaunders on December 12, 2015
Being a musician and trying to maintain a career gigging is akin to Charlie Brown trying to kick that football. Just when things are going well a club owner pulls it away.
On one hand the job rarely gets boring. I play in a different place with different people most every night of the week. If I have a bad night I can go home, practice the next day, wipe the slate clean and start over the next night.
The flip side is there is no job security. I have roughly a half dozen steady gigs, some of which are once a week, some twice a month, and others once a month. Any one of these gigs can end with hours notice. There are no contracts, no year-end bonuses, and certainly no severance pay. One year a dive bar back east in Queens called Brandy’s, where I had a steady Thursday, gave us a Christmas bonus of $20.00. It was about 15 years ago but I remember it distinctly because it was the only time it ever happened!
This particular subject is top of mind because my favorite gig – a jazz quintet at a bar in Haight Ashbury called Club Deluxe – is being cut back from twice a month to once a month. The gig is with some of my favorite Bay Area musicians and it’s a place that we can throw down hard in front of appreciative crowds. It was always a somewhat lucrative night — they charge a cover at the door and the place is usually packed.
Due to a strange twist of fate, however, our pay has recently risen by approximately 30%. The club fired the old doorman and it turned out he had been skimming off of the band. For years we went home from that gig thinking it had been a good night monetarily. Little did we know they should have been great nights. So here we are with a defacto raise – something that happens to mus
icians with the regularity of alternate leap years – and *now* they cut us back?! COME ON! But that’s the way it goes in the Charlie Brown-esque world of the jazz musician. Gigs come and go. Somehow the music preservers.