Listen Up, Musicians!

andrew london 1Pay me, I’m a Musician

By Andrew London          

‘Musicians have a right to be paid for what they do’, you say.

Well of course you do darling. So do plumbers, firemen and petrol station forecourt attendants, according to a previously formalised contract or prior mutual agreement.

But that’s not what you mean, is it?

What you really mean is ‘Musicians have the right to an income’.

Three decades ago some contemporaries of mine formed a band to play original songs, and were selected to participate in a ratepayer-funded work-development programme where they were paid a living wage for six months to develop and hone their act, and funded to do a short tour.

It looked like Shangri La

To those of us who indulged our musical proclivities around the demands of a full time job, it looked like our mates had found Shangri-La.

After a while some of them began expressing dissatisfaction at the Council’s reluctance to supply biscuits for their morning tea, and a petrol allowance to help them get to the practice rooms.

The programme was discontinued, which of course solicited even more copious bleating.

To claim that you have a right to an income, implies that someone else has an obligation to provide it.

Artists of all stripes habitually look to that ephemeral entity referred to as ‘Society’, or those more corporeal (and thus more easily touched-up) chaps ‘Taxpayer’ and ‘Ratepayer’.

If you are fortunate enough to succeed in extricating funds from such sources on an on-going regular basis, it is perhaps natural for you to develop a sense of entitlement and come to see this as a ‘right’.

But it is not. It is something we call a ‘privilege’.

My plan

How about this:

Consult me first about whether I want to listen to you, let me hear a sample, tell me where and when you’re playing, how much you are going to charge me, and I will decide whether to come along and pay you or not.

If I do come along and pay what you ask, and if you entertain me, I will go away satisfied and maybe I will come again. Maybe I will buy your CD

If you do not entertain me I will be disappointed and consider that I made a bad investment and put it down to poor judgement. I will probably not pay to see you again, and I will probably not buy your CD.

Yes I know it’s hard in a country like New Zealand with a small population, most of it obsessed with an oval shaped football. Harden up.

If insufficient numbers of people are paying to hear or see you, maybe you should consider either modifying your product to render it more accessible or popular (OMG!), or pursuing a different line of work.

However, over the years you have persuaded us, as a community, to contribute some of our income to you artists so that you can reflect our culture back to us in all its glorious diversity

We are generally OK with this, and invite you to apply for a range of subsidies and grants that will enable you to continue along the self-indulgent career path you have chosen.

But please read what’s written on the back of the cheque:

‘This donation is not given as a ‘right’, and should, instead, be considered a ‘privilege’. Please treat it as such. Thank you’.