by Frank Sardella
Sure musicians get paid for their efforts. We receive money from those who hire us to play their clubs and private functions. And, on the surface, to an outsider, it may look like we’re well-paid in dollars and cents. But an inside look at some basic accounting reveals an entirely different picture. We don’t even play for peanuts. We play for YOU!…
Teenagers at their first minimum wage job… no, wait, lower. Pre-teens at their first babysitting job are making good money compared to what we make. Sob story? Whining and complaining? Bitching? No, this is a statement of fact with, believe it or not, no negative connotation intended.
Though looking at the income from the average gig for a musician may make it seem like it’s a decent amount of money for doing what you love – and to be honest, that statement is true – there are several other factors which are not visible to the naked eye of the casual observer. There is much more to putting on a show than simply showing up and playing. In fact, adding up the amount of preparation and support for even a single performance would be depressing to when dividing the number of hours spent into the total income if it weren’t for the fact that money isn’t the only form of pay a musician or any artist or performer receives. And, it is time everyone knew it.
The bottom line, quite literally, remains the same: after you count the cost, we play for you.
While it is true that there is much “underpaying” going on, an undervalue of art in and of itself, even the highest-paying gigs in clubs or at private parties follow this rule largely because of what it takes to put on a show of non-stop music for a period of four hours. It may seem effortless from the audience perspective but there is a ton that goes into making it happen.
To drive this point home, consider these extreme cases. Recently I caught some pieces of 3 documentaries. The first was the Journey documentary entitled “Don’t Stop Believin'” in which the life of the band, post-Steve-Perry, is detailed since picking up tenor sensation Arnel Pineda, told from the perspective of what it took to get things rolling and build a new fan base while retaining the old. This inspirational movie really details well the work it takes behind the scenes to make something great, and the fan reactions prove it. Journey is both a new and old sensation.
Then there was the Katy Perry docu-movie “Katy Perry: Part of Me”, the story itself so big it ran on the big screen, which actually followed her progression from nobody to legend. And, while Katy is in an elite club of the few in number who actually do make millions from their music, this documentary shows how virtually every minute of her every day is dedicated to the act, the show, the performance, to the extreme point of literally having no time for anything else. Clear is why she does it: she loves her fans and the effects she creates on them.
Lastly, involving an artist most influential on me as a performing artist growing up, there is Michael Jackson and his, postmortem movie “This Is It”, a documentary of the final tour he was building just prior to his passing. In this movie you see his undying and relentless pursuit of perfection of performance through lengthy rehearsal schedules, sets, equipment and the like. Above all, however, his focus is clear: the audience, the fans. A true showman.
What’s the point? There is much cost that goes into shows, affecting the bottom line financially. Take First Round for example: If we were to ask any accountant, he would tell us to close up shop. Consider the time spent on our own, at home, learning new tunes for hours, then the hours of practice to get them tight as a band, equipment upkeep, marketing and promotion, creating the setlists and arranging medleys, even considering what you think and what you would like best, all of this far outweighs any potential financial gain. There is no financial profit, yet there is gain. And, that comes from our audience…YOU!
Do you mean to tell me that you dare comapre First Round to the likes of Journey, Katy Perry and Michael Jackson?… You’d better believe it!
Let’s not start off assuming this is an ego trip. This comparison is by no means exclusive to our group or even the five of us as individuals. Search the soul of any musician and trace it back through the years to the first decision to get into performing and you will find something surprising: money never had anything to do with it. Even the hackiest of garage bands is grinding and grunging away. All of us imagined playing in front of crowds.
This comparison involves all performing artists, celebrity or not. It is not a comparison of finance, because if you check the ledger, we all come out about the same in the end. In other words, whether top celeb or weekend warrior, the net profit is fan appreciation. It’s doing something to an audience that changes or betters them.
Look at your most favorite artist, not just in your mind, but go see them or watch them in a video. See how they perform, the angst behind their words, motions and emotions. Do you really believe that is driven by money?
Our bottom line: were it not for you coming to our shows, there would be no point in doing it. Trust me, we could make a ton more money with the time we spend and within our skillsets. In the end, we truly rock for you in every way imaginable and you are our profit!
The point is clear, without you out there rocking to our music, banging your heads and enjoying the performance, without you being lifted up by what we do, there is truly no profit. Without you we would, near literally go insane. You can say that a garage band does it because they love music, that they do it “for themselves.” This is a lie even when stated by these musicians themselves. For they, if even just below their awareness, are imagining an audience they are playing in front of, picturing you there cheering them on and having the time of your life.
Consider this when you decide to join or decline an invite to see a show by any of your artist friends. This is not a guilt trip or a saddle of undue responsibility. It is simply a new look. As goes the old adage about whether or not a tree falling in the woods makes a sound if no one was around to hear it, so it goes with art, music and performance thereof. The answer to the tree making a sound, if you think about it: it doesn’t. The moral of the story is, truly, that YOU make the show and, without you, performance or not, there is no show. It never happened.
We’ll see you at the next show! Check the First Round Show Schedule On Facebook for details. And, if you haven’t, please “like” us while you’re there.