Nobody likes a crybaby. It’s lame to complain. Life ain’t no cakewalk. That’s reality.
I’m blessed and lucky to be able to do what I love for a modest living, so if I have to pay a little tax on that here and there, that’s cool. I figure that’s part of the package. But then a few things came to mind that I have always thought could use addressing.
If you are a working musician, sooner or later, you’re going to get bumped. A venue double-books, “forgets,” or, for whatever reason, cancels the date you have with them. It doesn’t happen all the time, but it happens more than it should.
Most times, you don’t find out until the day of the gig. The worst-case scenario is when you’ve packed everything up and find out the hard way when you get to the club that there is either another band setting up or the management tells you that you’ve been bumped.
Most venues book at least a couple of weeks out. So by the time you realize you’ve been bumped, it’s far too late to pick up a new gig to make up for the money you were planning on making (and most likely really needing).
Getting bumped is a drag. It’s unprofessional. For the part-time rocker who is doing it for fun and for the love of making music, it’s a bummer. But when gigging is your livelihood, it’s totally unacceptable.
Sometimes a venue will have a few different people who handle the booking and they don’t communicate well with each other. Sometimes the person who books the gigs will have different calendars. They might forget to write down the date, or they’ll write the date on a scrap of paper and never transfer it to the “real” calendar. Sometimes the calendar get lost when the booker takes it out into the field. And sometimes people keep their calendars on their cell phones or computers and then lose them through some sort of technical snafu. These are all recipes for disaster. One, preferably sober, person should do the booking on one real, hard copy calendar that stays in one place.
If you get bumped, especially if it’s within a week of the gig, you really should get a bump fee. You should get half of whatever was agreed upon. You probably won’t be able to pick up another gig, but at least you’ll be compensated with something. If it’s the day of the gig, or moments before starting time, it should probably be more than half. If they screwed up, double-booked, or forgot, technically you should get full pay. Musicians should not have to suffer for these mistakes.
If it’s a really slow night, or something like inclement weather has affected things, you should work together to come up with something that everyone can live with. Perhaps some money, some tab compensation, and/or a few solid dates on really good nights in the near future.
There are places that do work to make it right when this happens. Sometimes a place will actually compensate you fairly and square you with the bread or a piece of it. But that’s rare. Sometimes a place will make a gesture with some sort of tab, which some musicians are all right with. But not all of us drink, believe it or not. And none of us can pay the rent with Jägerbombs.
What if a band tried to pay for $200 worth of a restaurant’s food with a few songs? What if a band reserved every table at a restaurant for the night and then decided to go somewhere else at the last minute?
Bands need venues more than venues need bands. In Charleston, there are more bands than venues. A club can always get someone else to play, even at the last minute, and probably for less than they would pay you. So in a way, they hold all the cards, but this one-sided thing is no good. The venue and the band need to meet in the middle. Both the burdens and the wealth should be shared.
If it’s a slow night, the band should work with the club. If it’s a great night, the club should throw in a few more bones. It’s a dance; sometimes you dip, sometimes you get dipped. But if you compromise and accommodate, things work out eventually. Everyone should remember to look at the big picture and work together.
Doug Walters plays guitar and sings as a solo act and with the bands Torture Town and the Fairy God Muthas.