What was the moment and/or the event that gave event planners or heads of catering (or whatever the hell corporate title you want to insert here) the idea that musicians are a part of the staff?
First and foremost. I became a musician because I wanted the chicks, the fame, the chicks, the jets, the limos and the chicks.
In hindsight, they were wrong reasons for me. But the part that wanted the pampering, the money and the recognition has NOT changed one bit.
Unfortunately, somebody has decided to lead people with access to work, to the idea that a musician, the person in charge of being the life of your party; the person whom the party couldn’t do without; THAT person… is exactly like the rest of the “staff”.
I’m here to challenge that.
First, I am NOT saying that a musician is better than a bartender or a server. I have been both. And for many years. What I noticed about it, was that it doesn’t require the same level of preparation and skill than a musician.
Let me put it this way, it’s harder to replace the worst prepared musician, than the best prepared bartender or server.
If a server or a bartender at any point decided to flip a bird to a hiring agent and say “Fuck the man!” while immediately stopping the rendering of their services, their replacement will come fast and swiftly. But most importantly, none of the guests would even realize that such breakdown occurred.
But if the entertainment (DJ and/or musician/s) decides to act accordingly and STOP rendering services…
THE PARTY IS OVER.
How do I know this? I saw it once, when the DJ pressed STOP, and believe me when I tell you… it wasn’t pretty… for them.
But most importantly, IT WORKED.
It was a wedding in Miami.
The client and people hiring us asked us if we could give them a deal, since they were “on a tight budget”.
Before I move on, let me just say that my wages are NOT random numbers.
My cachet is carefully assessed (that’s another whole new conversation). so when a “client” questions or challenges these numbers, requesting a “discount”, the moment I lower them, for whatever reason I see fit, I let them know that I am not giving a discount. It’s a GIFT.
A gift that, the way I see it, makes me a guest, who should be treated and honored as such.
Apparently, this message did not land clearly to this particular group of corpo hiring people.
We arrived at this very expensive place in North Miami Beach, FL, where the food was very expensive and the flower arrangement in EACH table was worth at least $100.
When we saw such display of wealth, right off the bat, we were upset. We were lied to. The budget was tight, but for the entertainment, one of the two MOST IMPORTANT ELEMENTS in a party. Food being the other.
But we set up and started to play, because we needed that money. But I will come to that, later.
Everything went smoothly until at a certain point, a bartender, decided to refuse drinks to the band. We tried to “reason” with the bartender, but a lesson to learn: do not waste your time with the staff. They are slaves. They do as commanded.
Remember when I said that given the enormous discount we gave, we were to be treated as guests? That meant eating AND drinking among the guests. Apparently, the client didn’t like that and the agent agreed, without our knowing.
We tried to resolve it with the agent’s assistant on site, but when we heard over the phone speaker “the musicians cannot drink”, the DJ, my wife, went to the control board and pressed STOP. Guess what happened after?
I’ll tell you what happened.
Immediately after we had to respond to each and every poor argument from the greedy and cheap clients. It was easy to get them to understand how much in their best interest was to have the band in a good mood.
Right after that, we were able to drink eat and be treated like people.
Who knows? We could have had an orgy with all the bridesmaids, had we asked.
NOTE: I find myself in the obligation to tell you that I am NOT, I repeat: I AM NOT encouraging you to do this. I’m just pointing out, how valuable we are at THE PARTY. And musicians around the world should start fucking acknowledging that.
Hindsight, I think how sad it is that your party has to come into such jeopardy, for you to get how important it is to keep the entertainers happy.
Yes, I know. I won’t be working with that agent ever again. But… do I want to? Would YOU want to? I want an agent that cares about me. I want an agent who understands that the entertainer is THE LIFE OF THE PARTY and the clients come and go.
Besides, and also looking back, I bet a million dollar that all my bandmembers that night remember that event as a victory. We showed them how necessary and important we ARE to be treated as “vendors”.
Do you want a vendor? Get a Spotify account and have the “party planner associate”, play it from his iPhone. You are definitely NOT my customer.
As a corporate band musician, I had personally endured some of the most ludicrous requirements, rules and/or regulations, worthy of an immediate 5 minute long and abundant diarrhea attack.
Apparently, the more money is involved in the makings, the more slave-like the treatment to the entertainer.
A poor person would never dare to treat a musician (or anybody) as a lesser person. But, as the food chain climbs up, the clearest our beloved “western cast system” shows to be.
I have been lucky to never have been humiliated by an entitled prick/cunt. Actually such entitled prick has been lucky not to cross his path with mine, I should say, but unfortunately I haven’t been lucky enough to not have witnessed just a bit of the “I have money, ergo I’m better than you”. Fortunately for me, I learned how to draw the line at an early stage.
The deepest of my lows in my corporate band career, was at a very religious synagogue in Aventura (also FL), where I was “invited” to go have my “non kosher” sandwich (provided by our band leader, out of his own pocket, instead of the client, (whose party we are supposed to bring to life) at the back of the building, right beside the garbage dumpsters.
Really? You have a band of 10 people who are entertaining your guests and you treat them as if they were NOT special?? Are you shitting me? What kind of an idiot wouldn’t feed and pamper the people who make your guests happy?? You are hosting a party for 250 people you can’t accommodate your entertainers at a table, with silverware and food? You just missed out on having the best party of your life.
And why did the band leader allow this? Because he was of the philosophy “hit me and call me Martha” as long as he got paid.
So there goes our dignity cheapened again.
Something similar, but for a longer period of time happened in Dubai.
My experience in Dubai is worth another post, but the point is that we were treated so slave-like, that after that, I developed the following policy:
If you want me to go play at your venue/ party (or middle eastern/ arab countries), you either pay me like a Rock Star or you treat me like a Rock Star.
Yes, I know what you’d like to vomit out. “One time, one of the musicians got drunk and it was a problem”.
First, I’m sorry if you ever had to deal with such unprofessional fucks. All disciplines have them. Musicians are not the exception.
But I will not allow you to put me and most of my colleagues in the same bag that some low-life, good for nothing, low-class, room temperature IQ moron, unprofessional musician, who can’t handle his alcohol or knows no class… They do, however, cause less damage than a junkie or drunk pilot or doctor, I’ll tell you that.
However, it is NOT my case. If you hire me, you’ll honor who I am and what I came here to do.
Not long ago, at a gig in Malibu I finally got tired of this mistreatment that entertainers endure and decided that enough is enough.
It was a 4th of July gig and the agent said “invite your husband” to the DJ, my wife… I got invited.
It started with the event planner telling my wife “tell your husband to stay with you” as in “he’s invited, yes, but I don’t want him mingling with the superior people”.
After a few “you have to talk with the head of…” in order to get our food and drinks, the head of catering told us, when we explained to him that we were not “staff” or “a vendor”, matter of factly, almost as if he was trying to bring us back to “reality”: “Just so you know, three years ago, the staff would never be allowed to go to the bathroom.”
I’m not surprised. And it’s so sad that such is HIS reality. However, I told him “We are “special guests” at the party. We eat with the guests, we mingle with the guests and we play music for the guests.
Evidently, the food and drinks part was clear. The mingling part, wasn’t.
It bothers me to have to explain to these heads of a certain part of the “back of the house”, that I am not an equal and that I don’t like to be told when to eat and what to eat, especially if there’s a buffet being served with lamb and other delicious morsels.
I’m tired of having to clarify every single fucking time that entertainers are guests and NOT staff.
I’m not saying that musicians are better than the rest of the staff.
I’m saying that being a musician is CLEARLY different than being staff, since the former requires a level of preparation that takes years to master and that it’s about fucking time that entertainers get this and start pricing their work and selves as they should.
Some artists think that the problem is excessively rich people taking advantage of other people’s necessity by holding to their wealth so tightly that they give themselves the right to order you around. To tell you to go eat your filthy food by the dumpsters and the pigsty. To tell you WHEN you can go and eat such filth. And the agent wants his money and you’re just a mean.
In other words, some people think that this is the customer’s fault. The rich motherfuckers who take advantage of the musician’s necessity. Maybe.
I disagree, because…here’s the pickle: YOU allowed it. I’m not saying you don’t have justifications and reasons. I’m saying you allowed it. Everytime you allowed them to lower the bar more and more because “I need the money” or “If I don’t do it, someone else is going to do it”. you allowed it. One band leader I used to work with in Miami, had the following approach to all this crap: “You don’t want to feed me? Ok. You don’t want to treat me like the rest? ok. Just give me my money and I’ll go home”, which to me, sounds like “If you pay me, I don’t care how you treat me.”
I’ve seen Kanye’s contract. He even requests the clients private jet, if there’s one available.
He gets to see (or not) the guests if he’d like to. Not otherwise.
But I know. You’re not Kanye. You do not manage a multi million dollar operation.
You don’t have to be. But you should be treated the same as Kanye, at whichever level of the corporate ladder you do gigs for. Being treated like a guest, would be the minimum requirement.
There was this violin player girl in the LA area with whom we shared a gig.
Me as a solo, my wife as DJ and the violin lady.
All hired by the same agent. All having the same level of clout, careerwise.
But, for some reason, the violin lady got to mingle in the party, being offered hour d’oeuvres and drinking and chilling. We weren’t.
When I saw that, I wasn’t angry at her, I was angry at me. She was smart and “in the right”. The artist IS the most precious jewel of the most precious crown. She sold herself as such. We didn’t.
Never again. From now on, my contracts include THE clause in which you treat me like a special guest. If you don’t like it, then you can’t afford me.
I don’t know how to redact it, but that’s next for me.
If you are a talented and proficient artist and are willing to keep working for ludicrous and draconian wages, with disgusting and slave-like requirements, then I’m sorry you don’t have the imagination to make it work without lowering the value of your colleagues’ work, I’m sorry you are a part of this problem and I’m sorry if you don’t get to see how much value you provide.
Slavery is over and musicians are special.