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Music: Your Day Job

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wysiwyg 08 Jul 02 - 10:50 AM
Genie 08 Jul 02 - 01:34 PM
SlickerBill 08 Jul 02 - 02:33 PM
GUEST,Genie 08 Jul 02 - 04:11 PM
C-flat 08 Jul 02 - 04:30 PM
C-flat 08 Jul 02 - 04:33 PM
GUEST,Lynn 08 Jul 02 - 05:55 PM
Art Thieme 08 Jul 02 - 06:30 PM
Art Thieme 08 Jul 02 - 06:32 PM
Phil Cooper 08 Jul 02 - 06:50 PM
michaelr 08 Jul 02 - 07:06 PM
GUEST,Genie 08 Jul 02 - 07:24 PM
GUEST,Genie 08 Jul 02 - 07:31 PM
michaelr 08 Jul 02 - 07:48 PM
Robin2 08 Jul 02 - 09:56 PM
wysiwyg 08 Jul 02 - 10:55 PM
Mark Clark 09 Jul 02 - 12:16 AM
Bev and Jerry 09 Jul 02 - 12:38 AM
Jacob B 09 Jul 02 - 10:00 AM
greg stephens 09 Jul 02 - 10:44 AM
Bev and Jerry 09 Jul 02 - 02:20 PM
wysiwyg 09 Jul 02 - 04:05 PM
DonD 09 Jul 02 - 09:45 PM
GUEST,Genie 09 Jul 02 - 11:32 PM
musicmick 10 Jul 02 - 01:26 AM
Genie 10 Jul 02 - 02:15 AM
wysiwyg 10 Jul 02 - 09:47 AM
An Pluiméir Ceolmhar 10 Jul 02 - 10:46 AM
wysiwyg 10 Jul 02 - 10:55 AM
An Pluiméir Ceolmhar 10 Jul 02 - 11:30 AM
wysiwyg 10 Jul 02 - 11:36 AM
Genie 10 Jul 02 - 12:24 PM
musicmick 10 Jul 02 - 01:08 PM
Bev and Jerry 10 Jul 02 - 07:58 PM
musicmick 10 Jul 02 - 08:46 PM
Art Thieme 10 Jul 02 - 10:45 PM
Art Thieme 10 Jul 02 - 10:57 PM
Genie 10 Jul 02 - 11:22 PM
Bev and Jerry 10 Jul 02 - 11:33 PM
wysiwyg 10 Jul 02 - 11:37 PM
Genie 11 Jul 02 - 12:12 AM
musicmick 11 Jul 02 - 12:32 AM
wysiwyg 11 Jul 02 - 04:11 PM
Marion 15 Jul 02 - 05:42 PM
wysiwyg 15 Jul 02 - 06:00 PM
Genie 16 Jul 02 - 12:46 AM
musicmick 16 Jul 02 - 01:56 AM
GUEST,pavane 16 Jul 02 - 07:24 AM
GUEST,Lori 16 Jul 02 - 07:41 AM
Genie 17 Jul 02 - 12:24 AM
musicmick 17 Jul 02 - 12:51 AM
Genie 17 Jul 02 - 01:34 AM
Mooh 17 Jul 02 - 06:40 AM
Genie 17 Jul 02 - 01:41 PM
musicmick 17 Jul 02 - 10:14 PM
Genie 17 Jul 02 - 11:09 PM
musicmick 18 Jul 02 - 02:33 AM
Mooh 18 Jul 02 - 11:44 AM
Genie 18 Jul 02 - 02:26 PM
wysiwyg 18 Jul 02 - 03:33 PM
Genie 18 Jul 02 - 06:38 PM
musicmick 19 Jul 02 - 01:08 AM
Marion 19 Jul 02 - 04:26 PM
Mooh 19 Jul 02 - 04:53 PM
Ferrara 24 Jul 02 - 10:10 PM
Stephen L. Rich 24 Jul 02 - 10:39 PM
GUEST,Frogmore 24 Jul 02 - 10:54 PM
musicmick 24 Jul 02 - 11:33 PM
Genie 25 Jul 02 - 01:22 AM
musicmick 25 Jul 02 - 10:14 PM
wysiwyg 25 Jul 02 - 11:14 PM
Genie 26 Jul 02 - 02:16 AM
musicmick 26 Jul 02 - 04:09 AM
musicmick 27 Jul 02 - 12:52 AM
Genie 27 Jul 02 - 02:05 AM
wysiwyg 27 Jul 02 - 09:45 AM
Bobert 27 Jul 02 - 10:05 AM
wysiwyg 27 Jul 02 - 10:14 AM
musicmick 27 Jul 02 - 05:06 PM
Marion 27 Jul 02 - 11:06 PM
musicmick 28 Jul 02 - 01:29 AM
Genie 28 Jul 02 - 04:26 AM
Marion 29 Jul 02 - 02:51 AM
Genie 29 Jul 02 - 03:09 AM
GUEST 15 Feb 03 - 04:32 PM
Frankham 15 Feb 03 - 05:48 PM
wysiwyg 10 Nov 05 - 04:20 PM
GUEST,Texas Guest 11 Nov 05 - 01:21 AM
Kaleea 11 Nov 05 - 02:45 AM
Mooh 11 Nov 05 - 08:45 AM
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Subject: Music: Your Day Job
From: wysiwyg
Date: 08 Jul 02 - 10:50 AM

This one is for all you getting-paid or would-like-to-be-paid musicians. (Or people who freelance in another field.) The premise is, you may have quit a "day job" to do music fulltime, but I bet the music itself is still a small fraction of the work you actually do. I think that even music has its own "day job," which is the promotional and business stuff that lets you get paid for the music.

At a Clarion Folk College workshop on "Getting Gigs," the most actively-gigging participant, who was leading that workshop, said she can esasily spend 20 hours a week communicating with presenters (people who book artists), publicizing upcoming gigs, record-keeping, etc. Her perspective was, "my goal on the business side of my day is to do the tasks I know will lead to gigs.... not to worry that each task must lead to a specific gig, but to reliably do the small things that, over time, will result in gigs." She had a focus and a detachment about it I found fascinating.... In a way, you could say that she was taking a professional agent's approach to her own band-- promoting the band, not her own identity. We also discussed the pro's and con's of leaving promotion to an agent.

So, Mudcatters, tell me about the business side of your music.

How much time do you spend? What do you do? How proactive are you in promoting yourself?

~Susan


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Subject: RE: Music: Your Day Job
From: Genie
Date: 08 Jul 02 - 01:34 PM

Well, Sooz, I've been self-employed full time as an entertainer and music therapist, primarily for senior facilities, since early 1994.

Funny you should mention the "business side" of this type of work.  Some folks seem to think that if you "play" music--especially for senior or non-profit facilities--you should do it gratis or for peanuts. But for every hour I'm actually performing or doing a therapy gig, I spend an average of about 1.5 hours of other work (commuting, equipment set up and breakdown, tax accounting, and phone calls, letters, and faxes for publicity/booking/billing). With some clients, getting paid can be like pulling teeth.  And there are others who book you a year or more ahead of time but who may double book or forget they booked you if you don't remind them every couple of months.  (One problem peculiar to the retirement/assisted living/senior center/nursing home industry is the frequent and unpredictable change of activity directors.  One AD books you and then leaves the facility with no notice to you.  Usually the management and the new AD feel no obligation to honor commitments made by the erstwhile AD--even if you have a signed contract.  If they honor it, it's often just for convenience.  Often when the AD leaves, no one knows what bookings they have made.)

Oh, and I forgot to mention the time I spend doing research and rehearsal to learn songs that the clients want to hear.  And the extra NSAIDS and asthma inhalers I have to buy to get through a day in which I may play and sing for 4 to 7 hours.  (Some days like St. Patrick's, Cinco de Mayo, Christmas Eve, and Valentine's Day I may have 6 bookings (some 90 minutes) that day alone.)  Osteoarthritis, if you are prone to it, is an occupational hazard for folks who play a lot in any given day, and mine developed in my left hand when I began doing music as a regular job.

I've been known to make a 2-hour round trip to get to a 1-hour $25 gig.  To paraphrase your workshop presenter, you do what you know will get <i>and maintain</i> your clients.  If I have four jobs lined up in a suburb 30 miles away and all but one of them cancel, I'm probably not going to cancel the 4th one--especially if it's a regular client.  I'd rather have a regular, frequent gig that pays $25 for an hour than have one that pays $75 but for which I have to spend $3 and 3 hours in phone calls and faxes to get and confirm the booking and then not be able to count on the client not to double book or cancel at the last minute.

I do manage to make a very modest living doing this sort of thing (though I have some other income from investment interest).  I look at my gig slots much the way a store looks at merchandise. You sell what you can at "list price," which for me is $60 for an hour program.  You discount the rest PRN, with the goal being to make the profit you seek for the whole lot, not on a particular item.  This means occasionally some of the time spots will be sold for less than cost.  In other cases, I look at a $25 job a mile and a half from another gig and at a time that's not in high demand as icing on the cake.  An hour between two other gigs is not worth a lot to me unless I'm in a place where I can make productive use of it, and that's usually not the case if I'm not at home.

Lest you think this is a terrible way to try to make a living, let me point out that I've become a better singere, a much better guitarist and a far better entertainer  -- not to mention increasing my performance repertoire by about 50% -- since I started doing this full time.  Also, when I'm actually singing and playing the guitar--whether jogging the memories and stirring the emotions of cognitively impaired residents in a nursing home, doing a sing-along and sharing stories with very sharp senior citizens in an upscale retirement community, or doing a special concert of international music for a party with a mulit-generation audience--it's all worth it.  Very few jobs I've had (including college prof, fitness instructor, and mental health counselor) have had this kind of payoff for me.

Genie

PS, Susan, thanks for starting the thread.  I'm very interested in other folks' music business stories.


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Subject: RE: Music: Your Day Job
From: SlickerBill
Date: 08 Jul 02 - 02:33 PM

I teach High School full time. The time I get in the summer seems like plenty, but I've discovered it's not enough to give me a chance at more gigging.

I had a go at it a few years ago. Got a grant and cut a demo, thought about cd funding, etc. I would like to do much of this still, but time, cash, and most of all energy are real limitations, and with a family and a mortgage and so on, I've had to reexamine how I look at things.

I really admire folks who have/are making a living out of music, but I've realised that my goals need to be more realistic given my constraints. If you ignore those constraints, I've found you can get yourself in considerable trouble, ie burnout.

So what I do is: gig with a few friends when the opportunity arises. Icontinue to write my songs and have developed my solo act a bit more in the last year. What I'm thinking about as well is to produce a real home made recording to sell at gigs. And finally to try to promote some of my tunes to publishers (That's the big one). But I remind myself to keep this really open ended and flexible. It means I do have to push myself to gig more, but to pick and choose, and not feel bound to do so. And, if at the end all I've got is a homemade cd and a few decent gigs to remember, hell, that's alright. Not terribly business like I know, but it turns out I'm not much of a business man. Tough. sb


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Subject: RE: Music: Your Day Job
From: GUEST,Genie
Date: 08 Jul 02 - 04:11 PM

I'm curious as to which of you musical cats are members of Musicians'Unions. I'm wondering if it's worth the dues and possible restrictions (like having to turn down jobs that the union doesn't think pay enough). Also, if you do music in more than one state, do you have to pay union dues in every state where you gig?

I'm told that the union does sometimes have grants to subsidize music for "nursing homes" (however that's defined), but I don't know the extent of such grants and how much paperwork is involved in availing oneself of those funds.

Anyone have any experience here?

Genie


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Subject: RE: Music: Your Day Job
From: C-flat
Date: 08 Jul 02 - 04:30 PM

Some years ago I worked with a band full time but we employed the services of an agent.The main reason is that the person responsible for booking acts at a particular club doesn't want to talk to complete strangers hawking their band. By using an agent to source entertainment they've got some guarantee of the quality of act they'll receive. You could try sending a demo but most of them hit the bin unfortunately because the recipient is all too aware that bands that sound great on a demo don't always live up to expectation.
We got lots of work through our agent, and were happy enough with his 15%, but for him to make money from representing you he wants you out working at least 4 nights a week which gets a bit wearing if there's any distance involved. Not to mention the fact that HE doesn't care how many flights of stairs there is to negotiate at the gig or what the quality of venue/audience is.
Overall it was enjoyable but these days the band still meets regularly, gigs occasionaly and avoids stairs wherever possible!


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Subject: RE: Music: Your Day Job
From: C-flat
Date: 08 Jul 02 - 04:33 PM

In answer to Genies' question, Yes we paid union subscription although I don't ever remember it being of any use to us. In the U.K. it's essential to have a union card to work on T.V. or radio but as we did neither........


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Subject: RE: Music: Your Day Job
From: GUEST,Lynn
Date: 08 Jul 02 - 05:55 PM

Union-wise, I think a lot depends on the area you're in and the type of music you play. I played in a jazz band around Buffalo, NY back in the 70s. We were non-union. We got booked somehow in a club for what might have been a weekly gig. First night went well. Second night there was a union rep in the bar who struck up a conversation with our drummer. Next thing we knew we were on the street. It seems this was a union bar, but nobody in management bothered to ask us if we were union.

Folk-wise, esp regarding trad stuff, I don't think the unions pay us much attention, and couldn't help us much if they wanted to. I think it's more helpful for classical musicians and wedding bands.

But then I may be wrong.


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Subject: RE: Music: Your Day Job
From: Art Thieme
Date: 08 Jul 02 - 06:30 PM

While singing in Chicago clubs etc. I worked in a record store to help with the rent. Went back there after quitting and worked there again a few years later--to pay for baby food. Somehow, the second time around really bummed me out. I should've been way past that stupid job by then. Really got to me 'til I realized it was just day job vu all over again.

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Music: Your Day Job
From: Art Thieme
Date: 08 Jul 02 - 06:32 PM

Second word in my post above ought to be SINGING.

art

Art, typo corrected by JoeClone


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Subject: RE: Music: Your Day Job
From: Phil Cooper
Date: 08 Jul 02 - 06:50 PM

I try to do something every day to promote the band. Whether it's e-mail messages, sending out packets, or calling people. I also have a day job, as do the others in the band, but we manage to arrange to make all the gigs I book. I admire anyone who can do music full-time, because, as Genie stated above, it's a lot of work. You have to deal with people who are not as consciencious as you. Though not malicious, they can space out having booked you, and you're the one stuck at the end of the day.


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Subject: RE: Music: Your Day Job
From: michaelr
Date: 08 Jul 02 - 07:06 PM

I've been promoting/booking my band for the past 12 years, and I'm heartily sick of it! During this time, the number of venues in our area that our music (acoustic Irish/Scots/misc. with full percussion) is appropriate for has shrunk by about 50%, so the bar gigs aren't bringing in much money.

I wish I could find an agent to hook up the better-paying gigs such as weddings, wineries etc. Problem is, we all have day jobs and/or kids, so touring is out of the question, and even driving more than an hour to a gig elicits major grumbling. And though there are literally hundreds of wineries in our area, all they seem to book is jazz and blues. What's a mother to do?

Cheers,
Michael


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Subject: RE: Music: Your Day Job
From: GUEST,Genie
Date: 08 Jul 02 - 07:24 PM

Art, were you singing or sinning in Chicago? ¤;- )


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Subject: RE: Music: Your Day Job
From: GUEST,Genie
Date: 08 Jul 02 - 07:31 PM

I see, Art, that you clarified that you were "singing," but it's a shame to visit Chicago without a little of the other, too, don't you think?

Michael, I'm curious about wedding gigs. I've done solos for friends during the ceremony and even developed a sideline of writing customized wedding songs for couples (they tell me the sentiments and ideas they'd like to express and I turn them into a song). I don't know if there's any market for that 'talent', though. Do folks pretty much hire only pianists, organists, and bands for weddings (the latter mostly for the reception)?


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Subject: RE: Music: Your Day Job
From: michaelr
Date: 08 Jul 02 - 07:48 PM

Well Genie, I've played exactly three weddings, so my experience is very limited! I do know that it's tough doing Celtic songs at weddings because 95% of them deal with Love Gone Wrong - not appropriate for happy nuptials. Harpists and small classical ensembles (flute and guitar or string quartet) seem to be popular for the ceremony, and dance bands for the reception.

Cheers,
Michael


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Subject: RE: Music: Your Day Job
From: Robin2
Date: 08 Jul 02 - 09:56 PM

All of my six band members either do music full time, or have jobs that know the music comes first, so booking is pretty easy as far as availability goes. I always set one full day aside a week (14 hours at least) to do booking and contact info, and accounting info, and promo info, and followup calls, and on, and on, and on...email, fax machines, and the internet have been a godsend, but there is still always more to do.

14 hours of paperwork and phone calls is no where near enough. It just keeps me ahead of current interest. It doesn't give me time to practice, or find new leads. Managers are great, but finding one who will handle celtic/folk/Americana bands is impossible.

The band's been together almost 20 years, and it DOES get tiring....but it beats anything else in town!

I'm normally pro union, but I don't think the musician's union offers much to casual gig bands. We belonged for years, and on at least one occasion they hurt us instead of helping us. I'm sure the union situation can be different in other cities though.

Just my .02

Robin


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Subject: RE: Music: Your Day Job
From: wysiwyg
Date: 08 Jul 02 - 10:55 PM

These are all GREAT posts. Keep 'em coming, folks.

~Susan


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Subject: RE: Music: Your Day Job
From: Mark Clark
Date: 09 Jul 02 - 12:16 AM

I dunno, Art... sinning in Chicago clubs sounded like it might fit too. <g>

But what Art didn't say was that it wasn't just some record store, it was Rose Discount Records (now a Tower Records outlet) downtown on Wabash Ave. Thanks most probably to Art, they kept the largest and most complete stock of folk and traditional recordings anywere in the city. (Probably anywhere in the midwest.) Several floors of records, as I recall, and it was always great to see Art in there because when Art tells you something is good, you can take it to the bank.

The Old Town School kept a respectable selection but just didn't have the capital to compete with Rose and the OTS prices were much higher.

Art, I always admired the fact that you worked there. You kept up on what everyone in the field was recording and didn't have to over-commercialize your own performances. You made your music your way and took care of your family too. I always saw that as a double success, not some sign of failure.

But that's just one guy's view.

      - Mark


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Subject: RE: Music: Your Day Job
From: Bev and Jerry
Date: 09 Jul 02 - 12:38 AM

We've been making a living playing folk music in schools for over twenty years. Neither of us has had any other source of income for more than fifteen years. Before that we played coffee houses, house concerts, festivals, etc. but when we wanted to play music full time, we started doing it in schools because that's where the money is.

We've actually made a good living at it but what Genie said above goes double for schools. We spent a lot more time writing letters, making calls, rehearsing, travelling, researching than we ever did playing music. We started charging more for schools that were a pain in the neck (or any part of the anatomy for that matter) and then we started dropping them from the contact list. Now that we're sliding into retirement, we only play at our favorites - the ones we really enjoy and probably would have done for free.

Bev and Jerry


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Subject: RE: Music: Your Day Job
From: Jacob B
Date: 09 Jul 02 - 10:00 AM

For those considering joining the union, here's a link to a thread where the pros and cons were discussed.


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Subject: RE: Music: Your Day Job
From: greg stephens
Date: 09 Jul 02 - 10:44 AM

The mechanics of running a band, and various other musical jobs I do, is certainly a fulltime job. Dealing with promoters (and would be promoters) takes a lot of time. There's all the selling to do; and even if you're in the fortunate position of only having to process requests, and not actually sell yourself by approaching people, there's still a helluva lot of work to do. There's also hugely time-consuming activities that aren't directly work-generating, but are part of what I do. Researching material, helping other people research material, advising festivals/clubs about other performers fettling equipment/instruments etc.
I spend most days doing this, when I'm not touring. It can be dispiriting and boring (hence it is easy to skive a little and make a cup of coffee and dip into Mudcat discussions!!). I make a point of listening to good music while I'm doing the drudgery work, to remind myself what it's all for. I've got the Watersons on at the moment: just had General Wolfe, now they are fathoming the bowl.Brilliant stuff, unsurpassed on the Brit scene.
But I digress. I realised a simple mathematical fact a good few years ago, and it's frightening. If you want to do 200 gigs a year, that's four gigs a week. Hard work, but possible.But the thing is, to do 4 gigs a week, you've also got to set up 4 gigs a week for the future. Abd keeping moving on that treadmill is the frightener. At the end of every week, you need to ask youself, have "I set up 4 gigs this week?". And the answer is often NO. However, it's only Tuesday, the Watersons are now singingthe "Holmfirth Anthem" so who gives a toss?

(Any club organisers reading this, do send me a PM, I've a schedule to maintain).


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Subject: RE: Music: Your Day Job
From: Bev and Jerry
Date: 09 Jul 02 - 02:20 PM

When asked what he does for a living, a friend of ours responded, "I'm a telemarketer and occasionally I play music."

Bev and Jerry


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Subject: RE: Music: Your Day Job
From: wysiwyg
Date: 09 Jul 02 - 04:05 PM

But do you sell acoustic ice cream? *G*

~S~


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Subject: RE: Music: Your Day Job
From: DonD
Date: 09 Jul 02 - 09:45 PM

I've never gigged but I've been a salesman and it seems that making music for money is basically salesmanship. I believe about everything is salesmanship -- you want to persuade someone to accept what you're offering.

And while some picture a salesman making sales calls, most of the time and effort goes into setting up the appointments, doing the paper work, getting the merchandise into the customers hands, etc. Watch 'Glengarry Glen Ross' and realize that the real estate hucksters could be folkies scratching for a gig.


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Subject: RE: Music: Your Day Job
From: GUEST,Genie
Date: 09 Jul 02 - 11:32 PM

Yeah, Don, but when your business music you have to do double time as a salesman--first to sell the client on the gig and then to sell yourself to your audience. Everyone who sells a product wants a product that will "sell itself," and your product is your music/stage personality, etc. Unfortunately, word of mouth (by way of your music selling itself) is only as good as is the communication among your potential clients. Folks who play mainly for the senior circuit don't develop a "name" the way local club musicians can, since you don't often get written up in the paper or talked about on the radio, and since activity directors often don't communicate that much with each other. I don't know if this is as much a problem when you play for schools, but with retirement and convalescent facitlities, you pretty much have to go back to square one a lot of the time when the person who was booking you leaves that job.

My problem is that I basically hate having to care whether people want to buy what I'm selling or not. I'd much FIND the market for something I already like and believe in--or (as in the case of most senior facilities), find out what the market wants and then provide it. If you enjoy trying to win people over, I think you have a leg up in any "sales" business, especially music.

I've thought about supplementing what is essentially a day music job by trying to do some coffee house and bar gigs, but I understand that the problems with double bookings, clients being evasive and playing hard-to-get, and getting stiffed on payment are as bad in that kind of venue as in the senior services businesses. Am I right?

Genie


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Subject: RE: Music: Your Day Job
From: musicmick
Date: 10 Jul 02 - 01:26 AM

I am so pleased that Susan started this thread. It illustrates the difference in attitude between the professional folksinger and the dedicated hobbyist. Folksinging is a job, a service if you will. There are scads of venues where a folksinger can find employment. I have been gainfully employed in the field for over forty years and I am not the only one in the Philadelphia area who can make that claim. Let me offer a few suggestions for markets. Teaching is a great steady income. I teach folk instruments at my home, two days a week, and I earn enough in those two days to cover my living expenses. If you would like to get students, you might start, as I did, at a music store. When you have a reputation and a following, you can establish your own schedule. My guitar, mandolin and banjo students are very understanding about my playing out, but the teaching income (and my sense of responsibility toward my students) is such that I avoid jobs on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Senior facilities, retirement homes, travel clubs and the like are steady but dont pay enough to justify the amount of time it would take to do my own booking. Fortunately, there are agents who specialize in seniors jobs and I get calls at least once or twice a week for jobs in the $85 to $150 range, which I can do because I am available on those five days I'm not teaching. Ethnic markets are rich sources of work. I offer a program of Jewish songs which I perform at a myriad a Jewish men's clubs, sisterhoods, Hebrew schools, apartment associations, camps and lots more. (There are agents who work in this very specialized market.) I, have an Irish program that is very popular in March and I have a program of patriotic music that my agents sell in July. I do a lot of strolling in the spring and summer (civic events, town fairs, shopping malls). I do Christmas parties, commercial and private. I know all the verses. I have a number of friends who have developed their own markets as folk performers, mostly in the field of children's music. (The pre-school scene is a goldmine just waiting to be tapped). Well, I'm getting a little tired. I'll be more specific if anyone has questions.

Mike Miller


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Subject: RE: Music: Your Day Job
From: Genie
Date: 10 Jul 02 - 02:15 AM

musicmic, where are you located? I have yet to find a retirement home that pays over $100 unless it's for a group or a really good concert pianist. (One place told me they saved up their money and hired one of those --once a year only-- for $300.) In Portland, Oregon, $50 is pretty close the top for a one-hour solo act for most facilities, and many can't go over $40. In Seattle, $50 to $60 is more common than in Portland, and a few occasionally pay $75. San Diego is kind of in-between, but when you get to the smaller cities like Salem, OR, activites budgets get smaller, too. I'm told that schools may pay several hundred dollars for a gig, but the probably won't hire you more than once a year, if that often.

Bev and Jerry, what's your experience with the payscale for schools, and where are you folks located?

I agree about the specialty programs. Jewish retirement homes and other Jewish private parties and organizations' luncheons are one of my specialties, as are programs for Cinco de Mayo and St. Pat's. How do you go about finding the private parties that want entertainment? All of mine have been booked by someone hearing me at a retirement home and asking if I do private parties. I've never sought them out, but I would if I knew how.

I'm also curious as to whether any of you folks supplement your income to any great extent by busking. Any of you New York catters play in the subways?


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Subject: RE: Music: Your Day Job
From: wysiwyg
Date: 10 Jul 02 - 09:47 AM

Genie, musicmic is in the Philly area, and he also writes indie CD reviews for the Philly Folksong Society, so I bet he gets to see a lot of press kits and how people present themselves.

~S~


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Subject: RE: Music: Your Day Job
From: An Pluiméir Ceolmhar
Date: 10 Jul 02 - 10:46 AM

Sounds as if you've got things fairly well sorted out, Mike. I'm a mere amateur, though when asked to perform by organisations which can afford it, I do ask for a modest fee to avoid undercutting the people for whom performing provides part of their income.

A few years ago, through a project in which I was involved at work, I came across a further education college in Dublin which takes a serious approach to the business of professional musicianship and which (unlike more prestigious academies) systematically includes a module on the business side of the music business in its courses. It's not starry-eyed banjo-and-bedroll folkie stuff, but I wonder if this commonsense approach to making a decent living out of music is widespread in places where they teach music?

Information here under "music"


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Subject: RE: Music: Your Day Job
From: wysiwyg
Date: 10 Jul 02 - 10:55 AM

APC, I got to http://www.regsa.org/links.html, but I did not find "music." Is there another URL you can give that gets to the target, and then we can worry about making it a clicky?

~Susan


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Subject: RE: Music: Your Day Job
From: An Pluiméir Ceolmhar
Date: 10 Jul 02 - 11:30 AM

Silly me, it's Ballyfermot College of further Ed., for which the second entry on the above page works.

So let's just try that blueclicquification one more time, complete with quotation marks, though I still haven't figured out what I was doing wrong last time (apart from inserting the wrong URL, that is!):

Ballyfermot College of Further Education under "Music".


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Subject: RE: Music: Your Day Job
From: wysiwyg
Date: 10 Jul 02 - 11:36 AM

Oh! It looks GREAT! Here's your link right to the music page:

Ballyfermot College of Further Education, MUSIC

And a brochure to download:
Music Performance / Production & Management - PDF Format

~Susan


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Subject: RE: Music: Your Day Job
From: Genie
Date: 10 Jul 02 - 12:24 PM

APC, as one whose business is providing musical activities for, among others, some low-budget and non-profit facilities, I appreciate your approach of asking at least for a "modest fee." There is, at least in the US, another reason for doing that, as well.

Under IRS rules, if an activity is "business," you can fully write off any and all expenses involved in that activity (including about $.035 per mile for travel). Theses are business expenses (Schedule C) that you can count against your income even if you don't itemize deductions. If it's "charitable contributiobn" (if the facility has the right tax-exempt status), you can deduct only about $.12 per mile plus any actual expenses --if you itemize deductions. If it's a "hobby'--which it would be considered if, say, you performed gratis at a place that's not counted as a charitable organization--you wouldn't be able to write off any of your expenses.

If you are a professional (paid) musician, you may be able to write off some free performances as advertising/publicity/promo, but I believe that amateur musicians--no matter how good they are--usually can salvage very little of their actual costs of providing music to nursing homes and the like, because the IRS considers it a "hobby" or because they take the standard deduction instead of itemizing.

Genie


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Subject: RE: Music: Your Day Job
From: musicmick
Date: 10 Jul 02 - 01:08 PM

As Susan said, I live in Philadelphia and I work in the Tri State area. I use agents for almost all my bookings. I also hand out business cards whenever I perform. (A colleague once told me that a job is successful if it produces another job) I find that I have a lot of repeat business. I have learned that customers, as a rule, are mostly concerned with reliability, appearence and audience response (in that order). The longer one stays in an area, the more his reputation feeds him. At this stage of my career, I can live quite well on jobs that come to me without my seeking them, but when I write a new show or start a new act (I offer a duet with an accordianist), I get back into a marketing mode and develope a market using my contacts and experience to my advantage. Susan and I are discussing a series of articles breaking down my ideas and methods, some of which may be of use to you guys. I lived in Dublin for two years, back in the late 60s, and although it took some time, I was able to establish an almost decent income just from folk clubs like Slattery's and Toner's. I wasn't there long enough to build a teaching practice but I could have if I'd had more time. I spent about nine months in Los Angeles in the early 80s and developed a small cadre of students and a wonderful contact for the Jewish market. In Israel, I overcame the language problem, working with a traveling show that featured music from the British Isles. What I am saying is there is always work for qualified musicians who seek work in a professional manner. There is a serious dearth of opportunity for those seeking stardom. If you'd like to contact me directly, I'll be glad to share what I've learned.

Mike


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Subject: RE: Music: Your Day Job
From: Bev and Jerry
Date: 10 Jul 02 - 07:58 PM

Genie:

When you play in schools, there's a lot of competition not just from other musicians but from animal acts, magicians, laser light shows, impersonators and a million other kinds of acts. Musicians usually get $200-$300 for an assembly, and a little less for successive assemblies on the same day. Total compensation for a day can be $200 to as much as $700.

We have been very successful by charging a fixed price for the entire day. We let the school schedule the day (within limits) and they can have as much as they want. We offer assembly programs, classroom programs, hands-on programs and family concerts. We charge anywhere from $435 to as much as $640 for a day, depending on how much crap we have to go through to get the gig and to get paid. We used to do 80 to 100 schools a year. You do the math. We hit the road for two or three weeks and then we're home for one to two weeks.

On the subject of income tax, the IRS allows us to get away with murder. For example, we travel in a motorhome and get to deduct per diem of about $40 per day that we sleep in it. Almost everything we do is deductible including the cost of the new computer on which we are posting this message. We can deduct mileage, repairs to our RV, phone and postage, office expenses, laundry, new equipment and maintenance, performing clothes, CDs, admission to music camps and festivals and countless other things. We even wrote off a trip to Ireland and one to England on the grounds that we spent a lot of time in pubs listening to music. These are commonly referred to as research trips and can be to nearly anywhere. As a result, we payed very little in income taxes even including the fact that, as self-employed, we had to pay twice the Social Security tax of someone who works for a company.

You're right about only playing the school once a year. But, since we were in it for the long haul, we kept very good records and knew when to contact each school. Some had us every year (and still do), some every two years, some every three years and some only one time. Like we said, it's a lot of work but the performing is usually very rewarding. And we're creating future mudcatters.

Bev and Jerry


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Subject: RE: Music: Your Day Job
From: musicmick
Date: 10 Jul 02 - 08:46 PM

Good job, Bev and Jerry. Of course, it is the booking that is difficult, especially at the beginning of a career. Like any business, experience and reputation are major selling points. Those who have not yet established themselves in the school assembly market might want to invest some time doing a tour for one of the many agencies that book geographic areas, hiring performers on a salary and sending them out for weeks and months at a time. The pay is not substancial(they dont provide for expenses) but it is a good way to get your feet wet and to develope a following and a name in the business. I have not done these tours, myself(my schedule couldn't afford the time commitment) but I did have the opportunity and I have friends who have taken tours in Kansas, in Iowa and in Maryland. Their experience s were both positive and not.


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Subject: RE: Music: Your Day Job
From: Art Thieme
Date: 10 Jul 02 - 10:45 PM

Mark Clark, Thanks for saying that.

I was amazed I made it work back then 'cause I hated hustling the work. Never really did it---to the consternation of good friends like Cathy Fink who were top-notch go-getters of gigs etc. My "career"--if there is such a thing in the trad side of folkiedom, was accidental---I was in the right place at the right time. After walking out of that record store and tossing my keys in the boss's face in October of '72 Carol tells me, I walked home along Lake Michigan and announced to Carol that she was, from that moment on, not married to a folksinger who also had a day job. I told her that the music was all we were going to live on. After that, one thing just led to another. A week after that, the amazing Richard Harding called me to open for Sonny Terry and Brownie. Then For Robbie Basho. Then for Odetta, Tom Paxton, Martin Mull, Biff Rose, Martin-Bogan and Armstrong and many others over that year. I got use to paying the rent on time and when I couldn't put that together, I'd sell an instrument or two. Music was my day job---and my night job---and my wee-small-hours-of-the-morning job. It was my life--along with the family---who went along for the ride. Kicking Mule and Folk Legacy had me do two albums each for them long before we were expected to fund our own records. It made me feel like Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe---the companies came to us and asked us to record. Things are different now but I was a real lucky guy to have things work out the way they did. Then an agency asked to book all my school gigs for 22 years. Those jobs dovetailed beautifully with the 5 summer months each year for ten years I did music on steamboats---(and NOT on gambling boats 'cause I didn't want to hassle with that can of vipers.) Weekends I'd do clubs and festivals and concerts when not working other places. I could quote higher when I was already working a ton because I could. Often I didn't want to do one gig or another and then I could quote real high. Those jobs allowed me to keep on doing school shows for low prices in the center of big cities because it wasn't right to charge a ton of cash there I didn't think.

What I'm saying I guess is that when music became my day job 30 years ago, I just did anything I really wanted to do---. I waited for folks to call me and rarely hustled work. I always knew, that way, that they were interested in hearing and hiring MY music particularly. If folks offered too little money I figured they needed the cash more than I did-------so I'd offer to do a benefit show at no charge. That helped them--and it had a way of helping me too. It kept me showing folks the songs I had found on my trasure hunt---because making music, somehow, any-old-how, was the name o' the game. I was a sort of alchemist; I could sing into thin air------and come home with the rent. Pure magic. (Hope that don't offend religious folk ;-) **BIG SMILE**

Now, as Buck White and daughters once told me driving me back to Chicago after a gig at Charlotte's Web---"I ain't never had less or enjoyed it more." Then they drove back to Nashville and joined the Grand Ol' Opry.------------------ This old 50s beatnik never did need much. A few favorite books to re-read and records to play and we are all set.
Hey, Phil Cooper & Margaret Nelson & Katey Early--THANKS FOR YOUR NEW CD. It came today. Great bithday present. AN UNABASED PLUG !!!

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Music: Your Day Job
From: Art Thieme
Date: 10 Jul 02 - 10:57 PM

People, I just saw this thread doesn't want to know about when music is actually your day job. It wants to know about music--as opposed to your day job.

Guess I was off the mark above.

Well, as Gilda used to say, "Never mind."

Art


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Subject: RE: Music: Your Day Job
From: Genie
Date: 10 Jul 02 - 11:22 PM

musicmic, thanks so much for the info.  I'd be interested in the project you and Susan are working on.  One "senior market" I have not even begun to tap, really, is the adult foster home market.  One proprietor called me, unsolicited, recently, and hired me to do a 90 min. program twice a week on an ongoing basis.  Not all of them hire at all, and some pay less than she does, but a few more like that one and I could forget about the facilities that play hard to get.

Bev and Jerry, thanks for the school info.  Re taxes, though, how do you get by with writing off clothing/costumes.  The IRS rule is that if it can be worn on the street it's not a legitimate business expense, even if you allegedly bought it for your performances.  The story is told that Liberace had a tussle with the IRS over HIS costumes--until his accountant asked the IRS agent, "Come, now, would YOU wear a costume like that on the street?"  I can write off my sombrero and I could write off a silly plastic green hat for St. Pat's, but I can't write off the peasant type blouse or Mexican-style skirt or the green outfits I use for St. Pat's or a red jacket I buy for Christmas gigs.  But you're right that as a "full time musician," you can deduct (i.e., count as a Schedule C business expense) just about any goods, services, and transportation expenses that have to do with research, skill development, promotion, performance enhancement, business management, etc.  (If you buy a computer and use it partly for personal use, though, you may have to prorate the part that's used for business.)  If I buy CDs that are of the types of music I do in my work (pretty much anything but classical, rap, and hard rock), they can legitimately be called research or program development; if I buy a CD of LL Cool J or of Beethoven's Ninth, that would be a harder case to make, and I wouldn't even try.

And, Mark Cohen, if you ever do host a Mudcat gathering in Hawaii, I will make it a business trip.  I need to learn some more Hawaiian songs, learn more of the language, and learn the Hula, since I do Hawaiian theme programs at quite a few facilities.

Great story, Art!  Being realistic, I'm not a good enough guitarist or singer to be asked to open solo for the kinds of folks you have done for, though duos and trios are a different matter.  (I realize that a lot of "solo" acts use studio musician and back-up singer types for their gigs, of course.)   And my professional recordings, with overdubbing, etc., are fine, I think.  But some programs are booked mainly for the kinds of music one presents and the background info one gives on the songs, as well as rapport with the audience, and not for one's instrumental virtuosity or Carnegie-Hall calibre voice, and that's attainable.  There really is a wide range of opportunities for paid gigs for singers/instrumentalists/storytellers/songwriters at a range of skill levels.

BTW, Art, was that an "unabased" plug or an "unabashed" one?  *G*

Genie

PS, Art, Happy (belated) birthday!


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Subject: RE: Music: Your Day Job
From: Bev and Jerry
Date: 10 Jul 02 - 11:33 PM

We had good advice from our former tax preparer once. He said that if it's at all reasonable, take the deduction. If your audited, which is highly unlikely, they may disallow it but you won't go to prison. So, that's what we've done.

Bev and Jerry


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Subject: RE: Music: Your Day Job
From: wysiwyg
Date: 10 Jul 02 - 11:37 PM

No Art, you had it right to begin with. It's about the biz side of music, the "day job" that goes with the "night job" of singing.

~S~


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Subject: RE: Music: Your Day Job
From: Genie
Date: 11 Jul 02 - 12:12 AM

I'm told, though, B and J, that small-potato self-employed folks are, ironically, much more likely to be audited than salaried folks or big shot business people are (partly because we can't keep high priced lawyers on retainer). It's more likely if you music business is a sideline than if it's your primary job, though.

If you are audited and they determine that you owe much money, you can have to pay some pretty stiff penalties and interest, plus you're more likely to be audited again if that happens. For me, it's not worth the risk to write off much clothing besides my sombrero and my Halloween costume, but you're right that there's a TON of things that are business expenses for the professional performer that would not be if you were an amateur.

Genie


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Subject: RE: Music: Your Day Job
From: musicmick
Date: 11 Jul 02 - 12:32 AM

I think it might be important, at this point, to talk turkey about income. I know that concerts and festivals and recordings pay more than schools, hospitals and birthday parties. I also know that concerts and clubs and festivals are more prestigeous than nursing homes and day camps. I am also aware that none of us got into the entertainment biz with the dream of becoming steadily employed at senior centers. Still, these bread and butter jobs have a lot to offer. They are easier to get. There are a lot more of them. They can be done without travel time and travel expense. They can be doubled and rebooked. They are more likely to lead to other jobs. They are available daytimes and evenings, weekdays and weekends. The income is more predictable. The audiences are attentive and grateful. And, drum roll please, at the end of the year THEY PAY BETTER! Yes, it's true. I was kind of surprised, myself. I have a number of friends on the curcuit (I wont use their names but I'm sure you are aquainted with their work) and we have compared annual net incomes. In almost every case, I make as much staying home as they make on the road doing concerts, clubs and festivals. On top of which, my life is a lot easier if less glamorous. Sometimes we joke about who has the better deal. I envy the adventure and they envy the security and then we all decide that it works out fine either way. So, my advise is to stay ay home and build your career where you live, where you are available to take last minute jobs (I frequently get calls to replace performers who cancel), where you can take advantage of contacts and recomendations.


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Subject: RE: Music: Your Day Job
From: wysiwyg
Date: 11 Jul 02 - 04:11 PM

So...... how much should an artist pay for help writing/designing a press kit? and a website?

~Susan


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Subject: RE: Music: Your Day Job
From: Marion
Date: 15 Jul 02 - 05:42 PM

Related question: so what do you do if after a gig, they ask you to leave an invoice and they'll send you a cheque, and then a month later, no cheque has appeared?

How long would you wait before pursuing it? And would you call them, mail them another invoice, or what?

The specifics: it was for a gig at a nursing home party, we had a gentlewoman's agreement rather than a contract, and I made up a handwritten invoice there (not on an official invoice form or anything). One possibly complicating factor is that they originally told me that the party would be 1.5 to 2 hours long, and didn't mention booking any other entertainers, so I made up a price based on that. As it turned out, the party was less than an hour and there were other acts there so I only ended up playing about 20 minutes. But in my mind, since I showed up prepared to play for 2 hours as we had agreed, my price didn't go down.

Thanks, Marion


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Subject: RE: Music: Your Day Job
From: wysiwyg
Date: 15 Jul 02 - 06:00 PM

Marion, I would agree. I would send a computer-made invoice to the attention of the person you gave the hand-written version to, asking he/him to be sure to convey it to the bookkeeping department.

~S~


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Subject: RE: Music: Your Day Job
From: Genie
Date: 16 Jul 02 - 12:46 AM

Musicmic, I concur with what you said.  I would add two points:

- Playing at nursing and retirement homes is not just "entertainment."   In hospitals, nursing, and convalescent homes, as well as some adult foster homes and adult day care centers, the need is more for music therapy than just for entertainment.  See the "Music Therapy" threads for discussion of what this field is about.

- I think the best option for a performer who can is to explore it all--music therapy, music education, and "entertainment."   You can do the coffee houses, pubs, house concerts, and festivals when they are available, and it you can sell CDs, great.  You can supplement your income during the daytime and early evening with schools, some churches and community centers, hospitals, and the whole gamut of senior facilities.

If music is your love, I think you can find a way to make it your life. [Just don't expect to get rich -- at least, not right away.  ;-)  ]

Genie

PS,

Marion, here's a do-as-I-say,-not-as- I-do. Treat it the way your dentist would -- send one invoice each month, with a late fee specified after, say, the first three months. And keep records. If there's no response after about 2 weeks, call the administrator or bookkeeper to follow up, to make sure they got the invoice. I've gotten stiffed on a few partly because I let too much time slip between invoices.


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Subject: RE: Music: Your Day Job
From: musicmick
Date: 16 Jul 02 - 01:56 AM

Well actually Genie, they're not quite the same. Being a Music Therapist reqires schooling, licencing and certification. There are ways around that, though. I worked at the Children's Heart Hospital and the Shriners Hospital, doing music therapy on a long term grant from the Philadelpjia Folk Festival. I was not a certified music therapist, I was more a folksinger in residense. I was able to do this job because of the nature of the grant. Generally, healthcare facilities require a certified music therapist. When I was in school (Coombs College of Music) back in the Jurassic Period, music therepy was one of the majors that was available. It is, probably, a good job skill for a music major to have. I skipped it. Folksingers are not noted for their foresight. I will say that my twelve years in the two hospitals was rewarding and uplifting. I also appreciated the steady income. I think that using one's music for healing is the most fulfilling outlet I have found. I also reccomend teaching, in schools or privately. I teach two days a week and perform another two or three. I'm not sure which endeavor gives me more joy. It's pretty close. I like you spirit and attitude, Genie. I assume you know whereof you speak.

Mike


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Subject: RE: Music: Your Day Job
From: GUEST,pavane
Date: 16 Jul 02 - 07:24 AM

My wife does a lot of Retirement homes here in Wales, and usually asks UKP30, or 35 if it is more than say 20 miles away. At the current exchange rate, that's about $45 to 55.

But that's for Pop, not folk. Stuff from the 1940's to the 1960's goes best in the homes, although she also does Danny Boy (unaccompanied).


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Subject: RE: Music: Your Day Job
From: GUEST,Lori
Date: 16 Jul 02 - 07:41 AM

I was never any good at the business aspects of music, so I went to a workshop a couple of years ago called "The Business Aspects of Folk Music." It was given by Harold Leventhal. For those who don't know, Leventhal was the agent/manager for the Weavers, and he still represents Pete Seeger, Arlo Guthrie, and Judy Collins. And this was his advice: "Forget it, kid. It doesn't matter how much talent you have. You'll never make a living in folk music. Not these days. Get yourself a steady job with a real income, health benefits, and a retiremennt plan, and play your music for enjoyment, and just maybe you can pick up a few bucks playing gigs here and there and selling your CDs." That was the best advice I ever heard. I took it and became a high school music teacher.


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Subject: RE: Music: Your Day Job
From: Genie
Date: 17 Jul 02 - 12:24 AM

Musicmic, you're right that "being a [certified] music therapist requires getting the official credentials. However, many music therapy programs and activities are done by folks who are not certified. Your experience with the grant is an example. (It's not comparable to practicing medicine without a license.)

I am hired by the Recreation Therapy Director in many nursing homes, for example, and the programs I do "count" as group or one-to-one therapy, for charting purposes, even if the activity consists primarily of a sing-along or of my playing and singing in someone's room. To me, the difference between these activities and what I do when I "entertain" in a senior center or independent living facility is largely in what my goals are. In the former, I focus on stimulating memory and doing things to counter the withdrawal and depression that are so common in institutions. Getting the residents actively involved is key--whether by having them sing, use rhythm instruments, or move to the music. It generally matters very little whether I trip on my tongue, miss a chord, or even sing a flat note. (Sometimes the mistakes enhance the effectiveness of the program.) I seldom do Child Ballads or songs I've written when I'm in the music therapy mode. Stephen Foster, children's songs like "Jesus Loves Me," and early 20th C. popular songs ("Let Me Call You Sweetheart," etc.) are much more likely to evoke tears, laughter, hand-clapping, and singing on the part of 80+-year-old folks with cognitive impairment or depression. (If it's kids, there's always "Little Bunny Foo Foo," and "Doggie In The Window"--as a bark-along song--is a hit with the kids and their great grandparents alike.)

In the latter, I'm mainly trying to present quality music --even if I'm really going to be background music for a dinner --and be entertaining. My audience can be quite discriminating and can be very critical if you do anything that seems amateurish (though I think they do care more about my stage presence and rapport with them than about technical perfection).

I have thought about getting a music therapy certificate, and I may yet (though sometimes I think I've already had more formal education than ought to be legal and it hasn't served me well employment-wise). But some licensed music therapists have told me they don't make any more money than I do without that license. If I could get the license by demonstrating knowledge and proficiency, without having to spend many thousands of dollars and hundreds of class hours, I'd go for it. If you're a lot younger than I (which may include most of you), I might say, "Go for it."


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Subject: RE: Music: Your Day Job
From: musicmick
Date: 17 Jul 02 - 12:51 AM

Thanks for the thought. I am a lot younger than no.one except Bob Hope. Your friends are quite correct, music therepists do not make much money, especially in geriatrics. I love your attitude toward your senior jobs. I do a lot of nursing homes and, once you get used to the lack of audible response, it is both rewarding and meritotious. I do have some strange stories from these jobs. The first time I played a halfway house, I did my entire set without audience reaction, not a laugh, not a singalonger, not even the sound of one hand clapping. I was devestated. When the activities director told me how much the crowd liked the set, I asked her what the hell they did if they were diapleased. She explained that the entire audience was medicated with Thorazine and she knew they liked me bacause they hadn't fallen asleep. Keep in touch. Ours is a fragile and beatiful profession and we should be supporting one another.

Mike


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Subject: RE: Music: Your Day Job
From: Genie
Date: 17 Jul 02 - 01:34 AM

Yeah, Mike, I've sung for groups like that, too. Even at some assisted living facilities, where folks tend to function at a pretty high level, I've more than once had the following experience:

I play and sing my heart out, with some folks singing along, a few folks clapping, some song requests, and some folks smiling and laughing. But there's one woman in the front row just glaring at me through the whole program, never clapping or singing. I'm sure she's gonna blackball me with the activity director at the next resident council. Then, when I finish the program, that same woman comes up to me spontaneously to tell me how wonderful my program was and how much it meant to her! (Heck, I've even had that kind of experience in bars!)

Then there was the semi-comatose woman in a nursing home who seemed to be within weeks of her hour of departure from this world. As her soulful, imploring eyes gazed into mine, I sang her a tender, reassuring hymn standing by her bed. When I finished, the intensity of her gaze seemed to intensify, and I felt she was bidding me come closer. I inched ever so slightly closer to her face and...


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Subject: RE: Music: Your Day Job
From: Mooh
Date: 17 Jul 02 - 06:40 AM

I do about 20 to 25 hours of lessons every week, with students ranging in age from 9 to retirement, and at all levels of skill/ability. I probably spend another 10 hours or so scheduling, preparing lessons, photocopying, writing, researching, and whatever else I have to do to keep the business running. I give myself two months off for summer holidays during which I play more, and search for and develop new lesson materials.

Promotion for the lesson business consists of a single sign in one (the only) local music store. I used to donate lessons to silent auctions, send out letters to organizations, advertise in schools and so on, but since word of mouth (referrals) keeps me very busy I don't bother with that stuff anymore. However, the waiting list demands alot of telephone time, none of which is paid of course, and few people from the list become students since I've had very little attrition these last two years.

I could go full-time I suppose, but my other day job gives me pension and benefit plans, absolutely no stress, and demands only 20 hours per week.

I do very little booking/organizing for my performing groups (2 duos and a larger band) so other than practices there's no significant time spent there.

Being a visible performing musician helps my teaching business as much as anything. A few business cards pay for themselves instantly.

Peace, Mooh.


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Subject: RE: Music: Your Day Job
From: Genie
Date: 17 Jul 02 - 01:41 PM

...her eyes opened wide and she yelled
"GET THE HELL OUTTA HERE!"


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Subject: RE: Music: Your Day Job
From: musicmick
Date: 17 Jul 02 - 10:14 PM

Hey, Genie, how about when a patient comes on to you? I used to be flattered until I figyred out that it had nothing to do with my many charms. Sometimes a patient will walk over to the micraphone while I'm singing and sometimes a patient will start yelling at the nurses or at another patient. It makes for an uneven set and I had to learn to just keep going. But I wouldn't stop doing these jobs. I know how important they are to the residents. Mooh, your ideas for getting started in the teaching field are sound. You have discovered that the best source for students is the students you already have. I have been able to build my teaching practice on referals. It is muchmore reliable than advertising. Do you realy teach twenty hours a week. That sounds like full time to me.

Mike


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Subject: RE: Music: Your Day Job
From: Genie
Date: 17 Jul 02 - 11:09 PM

I know what you mean, Mike. In dementia units, I've encountered 95-year-old stippers (usually males), hair pullers, folks who sing another tune in a different language at the top of their lungs, a very strong & tall woman who seemed to take me for her toddler and grabbed my arm and swatted me on the butt, and a woman who lunged at my amplifier as though it were some diabolic invention that needed to be dispensed with.

There are, of course, the Bob Packwood type males who cop feels when they are young and don't quit just because they get old. One man in an assisted living facility used to come on to me verbally but very strongly, whispering to me while his wife was a few yards away just. Another guy who is pretty well off financially proposes to me every month and tells me what a great lover he is. As you said, it has nothing to do with your charms or mine. And, for the most part, incidents like this are harmlesss or even funny.

Lest I give a false impression, though, let me point out that a lot of folks in nursing homes suffer mainly from memory impairment and/or physical frailty (which can be temporary or permanent), and it is a great disservice to them to underestimate their lucidity, music appreciation, etc.

One thing that is a great source of satisfaction to me is to sing a funny song or tell a funny story and get appropriate laughter from folks who suffer from Alzheimer's. Even if only a percentage of them "get" the joke, I feel I've succeeded. I don't want to gear all the music and talk to the lowest common denominator.

Mooh, your situation with a part-time job that gives benefits and stability is ideal. Actually, I would love to find some additional kind of part-time work that I could do which would let me work around my music schedule. If you don't travel, a morning job in an office could be ideal. Teaching/tutoring in your own home is also a good fit.

Genie


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Subject: RE: Music: Your Day Job
From: musicmick
Date: 18 Jul 02 - 02:33 AM

I know just what you mean, Genie. Very often an elderly patient will remember songs more easily than names or events. There's something about music that hits us at the most basic level. Music is healing and calming and the good work we all do in these circumstances is valued and appreciated. I found, in working with very young patients, that music so often was useful for pain management and socialization. Some of the things I did at Shriners seem almost fantastic, now. I taught a nine year old to play the guitar. Oh, did I forget to mention that he had been born without arms? I have a videotape of one of his lessons. I play it every time I think that I haven't accomplished much in my life. I wish that other folksingers could get into this rewarding field. It gives one a special audience and a new perspective.

Mike


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Subject: RE: Music: Your Day Job
From: Mooh
Date: 18 Jul 02 - 11:44 AM

Mike/Genie. Uh huh, I've got at least 20 hours every week if everyone shows up, and sometimes it's more like 25. It works out very well since the day job boss is quite flexible regarding my work schedule there. With the waiting list there's some security and I could expand by about 50% if I had the jam, but honestly, 20 hours is alot for my disposition. But to answer the question, 20 hours would be all I'd do (and give up the day job) if the market would accept a doubling of my hourly instruction rates. I teach at home, so I get all the likely tax deductions, and the day job is a 5 minute bike ride away.

Peace, Mooh.


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Subject: RE: Music: Your Day Job
From: Genie
Date: 18 Jul 02 - 02:26 PM

Mike, that's the kind of music story I love to hear. Sure beats singing in a rowdy bar with chicken wire to protect you from the audience, eh?

Mooh, I've wondered if I should explore offering guitar or singing lessons. I get approached for such by folks who hear me play and sing, but I've never followed up. I'm no virtuoso on guitar and, as for voice, I'd like to have a regular coach, myself. I am, however, quite capable of teaching beginning folk guitarists. (I've been playing for about 40 years and use a variety of styles.) They'd just need to switch to another teacher if they wanted lesson on a style I don't do (e.g., blues or classical).

The way I'd be OK with charging for lessons would be to undercut the market. (If you can afford the high-priced, virtuoso teachers, why would you pay the same for someone with less experience and ability?) I usually suggest, to folks who ask, that if they want to learn really basic guitar stuff they should get an interactive CD ROM or an instructional video; if they get through what they can learn that way and want to progress, they should consider one of the teachers whose business card is at the local music store. But not all lawyers, hairdressers, etc. are equal in skill or fee, so sometimes I think maybe I should take on a pupil or two to see if I'm any good at teaching what I know. Every teacher's gotta have a first student sometime. Whaddya think?


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Subject: RE: Music: Your Day Job
From: wysiwyg
Date: 18 Jul 02 - 03:33 PM

Genie,

It isn't that you "can only teach beginners," it's that you "specialize in getting people started right."

We are thinking about lessons too. My theory is, charge the going rate for your area, period. The value you give is the same as the value someone "better" gives-- 1/2 hour or whatever of focused, caring attention. You can either move someone forward in their skills or you can't, and that's the actual job, not being a virtuoso yourself. YES, send them onto someone else once they have learned all you can teach, but when they get there, they will still be paying the "going" rate, and they will be replaced in your schedule by new students who heard how much fun their friends were having, and who will be eager to pay whatever you charge.

If you wait till you build up a clientele to raise your rates (when you see how much work it is to teach, and how good you are at it), you will not be able to raise the ones you have already started, and you will not be able to charge more to their friends who they refer to you without a lot of weird feelings.

Discounts for prepaid schedule-filling packages, now, or for referring people who will prepay packages, that's another story.

BTW, would your nursing hime clients let you teach at their place so you could have students everywhere you go and get more out of your driving?

~Susan


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Subject: RE: Music: Your Day Job
From: Genie
Date: 18 Jul 02 - 06:38 PM

Interesting idea, that last one, Susan. Most places I know of don't have much spare room for activities that don't involve the residents as a group, and if it's staff members who want lessons, they're usually on duty at the times I'd be there.

I would say, though, that pianists, barbershop quartets, folk groups, etc., sometimes rehearse in the living or dining rooms of senior facilities, without charging a fee. The performer(s) get(s) rehearsal space and the facility gets free entertainment. This can be a win-win. It can also serve as publicity for the performer(s).

Genie


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Subject: RE: Music: Your Day Job
From: musicmick
Date: 19 Jul 02 - 01:08 AM

Good thinking, Susan, Mooh and Genie. Absolutely, charge the going rate in your area. Here in Philadelphia, I charge $35 an hour and I am quite reasonable. Your value, as a teacher, is not based on how well you play, it's how well you teach and if your students enjoy their lessons. That's one area that is ignored by many teachers. Your students want to learn, of course, but, mostly, they want to enjoy the experience. In addition to the weekly lessons, I have a student sing about every six weeks, on a Sunday afternoon. I think it's important for new musicians to play with other musicians as a learning tool and as a way to just have fun with what they've learned. I started having the sings at my house but I dont have enough room for ten to twenty guitarists, mandolinists and banjo pluckers to play without a lot of bumping into one another. Now, the students with large homes take turns hosting the sings, which have gotten so damned popular that we're getting crowded again. We have come up with some really good ideas for the sing which I would tell you about but I have a typing limit and I have reached it. Laila tov (Good night)

Mike


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Subject: RE: Music: Your Day Job
From: Marion
Date: 19 Jul 02 - 04:26 PM

Thanks Susan and Genie for responding to my question above. Actually I got the cheque since then; turns out the culprit was my landladies' catsitter who was inadvertently stealing my mail.

Great thread.

Marion


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Subject: RE: Music: Your Day Job
From: Mooh
Date: 19 Jul 02 - 04:53 PM

A couple of observations...

An instructor of fretted instruments needs to have significantly more experience and ability than the level of skill they instruct. This to recognize tuning, technique(!), ear, and other concerns as they occur.

Those who teach for free, and I've encountered one as provided by a fundamentalist church for its flock, are usually worth what they charge, and students know it. To a much lesser extent, undercutting the marketplace will indicate a possible undercutting of the learning process. So, though it's okay to charge less, stay in the ballpark, offer "introductory" lessons, and play (teach) to your strengths.

When in doubt get professional help. ie, if you don't know squat about technique, as is common in guitarland, consult a pro so that you don't contribute to the proliferation of ineffecient technique. "Professional development" (I hate that expression for some reason) should be part of the plan anyway.

The only fee structure that has ever worked for me is to charge by the hour (sometimes, but rarely 1/2 hour). Charging by the level/ability/degree of difficulty is bogus. My time has the same value whether it's for a rank beginner, advanced player, or learning disabled. Raise your rates all at once at one time of the year. I only raise mine at September 1. Besides, it makes book-keeping so much easier.

Peace, Mooh.


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Subject: RE: Music: Your Day Job
From: Ferrara
Date: 24 Jul 02 - 10:10 PM

Thanks all, this thread is a gold mine of ideas and inspiration. Haven't felt so optimistic in a long time.

There have been two themes in this thread that really ring a bell for me. The first is performing for nursing homes and/or retirement communities, which has always seemed like a natural thing for me to pursue because I have a big repertoire of pre-1960 pop and parlor songs. And I have played (for free) for geriatric patients with some dementia, and was able to get them involved with the music. But I didn't think that kind of institution ever paid for entertainment.

The second, is working in the schools. I used to play (zither and zither-harp) for my son's elementary school classes. They adored it! I'll never forget the beaming smiles on their faces. The first time I played a song on the zither, they wanted me to play the same song again immediately!

And I have learned, that the zither-harp (Macarthur harp, actually) is great for French folk songs. I have had a secret desire (my fantasies are pretty innocent, I guess....) to teach some of the best-known French folk songs to middle and high school French classes. When I was that age, teachers tended to teach us songs. Nowadays I think they're too busy getting kids ready for their standardized tests.... Maybe not. Still I would love to do this.

I'm not expecting to get into either field instantly, but at least I see that there are a lot of concrete things I can do, both to investigate whether either of these ideas is feasible, and to make necessary preparations.

I don't have the energy/stamina to do a full day's music, I don't think. But boy, would I love to see what I can do.

Many thanks to Genie BTW for sending me more specifics when I contacted her. This thread and its offshoot about nursing homes are just incredibly useful to me right now.

Rita


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Subject: RE: Music: Your Day Job
From: Stephen L. Rich
Date: 24 Jul 02 - 10:39 PM

The "down" side of this line of work is that one tends to spend every waking moment doing something wich relates to the whole. I find myself having schedule leisure time because this is, by its nature, a labor intensive buisness. Whether booking, bookkeeping, repetoire maintenance, equipment maintenance, or any one of a couple dozen other jobs, there is ALWAYS something that needs doing.


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Subject: RE: Music: Your Day Job
From: GUEST,Frogmore
Date: 24 Jul 02 - 10:54 PM

I'm too busy to read all of this thread now.....but I caught Art's new pun: "day job vu". Yeah. I play out - mostly solo nowadays - but am currently a videographer, columnist, Realtor, and wheeler-dealer of lots of stuff I can't help collecting. In the past I've owned a used record shop, been a crabber, shrimper, scalloper, and oyster-dealer, done house-painting, hod carrying, and carpentry, laid pipe, been a public school teacher, a salesman, a toy domonstrator, a night-watchman, world traveler ... and a father. That's what I'm proudest of. My first love will always be performing -with pals or alone. And I've been at that over 30 years. At least I'm in no danger of running out of topics to write about. To tell the truth, I don't draw a distinction between "work" and "play". I divide my life into two things I label "sleeping" and "being awake". I'm about to do the first one right now.


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Subject: RE: Music: Your Day Job
From: musicmick
Date: 24 Jul 02 - 11:33 PM

If you are interested in doing nursing homes or retirement communities, you will be happier and less harried if you use the services of an agent. The commisions that you will pay are more than worth the work you will avoid. I work for two different agents who specialize in senior citizen facilities. One agent charges the facility a flat fee and pays me directly. The other charges me a percentage of my fee. I never try to screw an agent by passing out my own business card at a agency job and, if a facility that I have played through an agent tries to hire me directly, I refuse, politely. I understand that these jobs are not as high paying as other jobs and I know that when I pay a commision, I am recieving even less than I might but, I can assure you that I wind up with more money at the end of the year and my life is much easier than it would be if I had to do my own booking. Here's a hint. You will need a small sound system that is sufficient and portable. You will have to dress appropriately (not like a folksinger), recreators care about things like that. You will have to be super dependable, many activity directors consider reliability the numero uno trait. Good luck.

Mike Miller


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Subject: RE: Music: Your Day Job
From: Genie
Date: 25 Jul 02 - 01:22 AM

Mike, You've hit a couple of nails on the head. I would gladly use an agent if their cut was reasonable, since the booking and confirmation is a major time expenditure (and sometimes a major headache.) I'm not sure there are such folks in the Portland and Seattle areas, though. I've never had an activity director acknowledge booking through an agent. (Some folks do work through the community colleges' music therapy programs, but the little experience I have with them suggests that they tend to set up untenable schedules-- like having you in one location every Wed. at 10 AM and in another location 30 miles away at 2 PM. When I set up my own schedules, I usually do a better job of grouping them by location.)

You're right about the dependability thing-- which is something that makes this type of job pay even less per hour than one might think. To be sure of getting to each of these short (usually 1-hour) gigs on time, you almost need to plan on arriving 30 minutes ahead of time for each. (A lot of facilities do music only on Fridays at mid-afternoon -- the absolute worst of the rush hour traffic, for instance.) That can mean adding an extra 90 minutes or more to your work day. You can cut it less slack, but if you are late, you may lose a client permanently.

This is, BTW, one reason a lot of facilities prefer to hire musicians instead of using volunteers. Volunteers, I'm told by activity directors, have a bad habit of pulling no-shows or showing up whenever they're good and ready.


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Subject: RE: Music: Your Day Job
From: musicmick
Date: 25 Jul 02 - 10:14 PM

I dont know about the market in your area, Genie. Here in Philadelphia there are at least two full time agents who specialize in the senior facility market. There are also a number of performers who farm out the jobs that they cant handle. Most of those performers work in clubs and restaurants doing what are called power solos. Are you registered with the regular booking agents in your town? When I lived in Los Angeles, I hooked up with an agent who worked in the Jewish market and another who did part time agenting inthe seniors market. Here, at home, I have,also, gotten work from an agent who seems to specialize in Atlantic City casinos, an agent who works, exclusively, with large, industrial and civic events and an agency that occasionally gets me country club dates. There are all kinds of agents. I use them all and I treasure them all. I dont care if they are making more money than they should on my jobs. Hell, I hope they're making a bundle.

Mike


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Subject: RE: Music: Your Day Job
From: wysiwyg
Date: 25 Jul 02 - 11:14 PM

So you can have more than one agent????? It isn't that you go with one who represents you totally? They have niche markets?

More like... booking brokers?

~Learning Fast, Keep It Coming Babee!


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Subject: RE: Music: Your Day Job
From: Genie
Date: 26 Jul 02 - 02:16 AM

Mike, I know there are agents that do this sort of thing for areas like Palm Springs, LA, and probably Sun City and other ares that have a lot of high-priced retirement communities, but I'm not aware of any in the Portland area. The high-priced acts -- some concert pianists, bands, etc.--probably are booked by agents, but as I said, I've been told that most facilities hire only one or two such acts per year, if at all.

It's different for people who are primarily instrumentalists, I think. Hotels, country clubs, and even some malls and department stores hire harpists, pianists, classical guitarists, saxophone players, etc., as mainly background music for their patrons. (I have a friend who is a jazz pianist but who can also do classical. Most of her JOBS are at retirement homes, for about $60 per hour, but she gets $300 or more for an evening at a country club (probably 3 or 4 hours, with breaks between sets. Now that she's moved to Chicago, she probably gets higher pay.)

Question is: how do you find out whether there are agents in a given area, what their specialties are, etc.? And do most agents have a waiting list for new clients?

BTW, what is a "power solo" exactly?

One type of performer I'm increasingly in competition with is the technologically-enhanced performer -- a sort of high-tech one-man band. These folks use sampling keyboards, rhythm machines, and gadgets that add harmonies to their voices, etc. Problem is, aside from the initial cost of such equipment, learning to USE it is almost like learning a new instrument!

I'm also curious as to how folks go about getting private party gigs. I've done a couple from word-of-mouth referrals, and I have a friend who advertises in the Yellow Pages and gets gigs, but that's pretty expensive. Any other info or ideas?

As Susan said, "learning fast. Keep it coming!"

Genie


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Subject: RE: Music: Your Day Job
From: musicmick
Date: 26 Jul 02 - 04:09 AM

OK, questions will be answered in order. Susan, booking agents are not, generally exclusive representatives of a particular artist, at least they aren't at my level. The agents who handle senior facilities, for example, advertise their service to the facilities and use the performers as their "product". They may charge a straight fee or, as is more common, a percentage of the performer's fee. They provide jobs for the performers and some protection against non-payments and late payments. They provide, for the facility, pre-tested performers, replacements if needed and relief from the tedium of looking and booking acts. Agents, if they are wise, concentrate on a few markets, building a reputation for reliability and taste. Clients are creatures of habit. If they are satisfied with an agents acts, they will continue to use that agent. Word of mouth, in the industry, can make or break an agent (it can do the same for a performer). Genie, a power solo is just what you described, a keyboard player who has enhanced his sound with various electronic goodies which I neither understand or appreciate. These folks play clubs, restaurants, parties and the like. They also do nursing homes because nursing home gigs are usually scheduled mornings or afternoons, times when their other jobs are not. But dont think that they have an advantage over you because they have all that expensive eqiptment. I work with a guitar and a banjo and I do lots of these jobs. If you have a good act, and you dress properly, and you're dependable, the facilities will want you back. Plus, when they ask for you specificly, you can get more money. It's all supply and demand. When I'm wider awake, I'll cover how to find agents. It aint real dificult. Booking agents, especially in the seniors field, are always looking for new acts to sell.

Mike


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Subject: RE: Music: Your Day Job
From: musicmick
Date: 27 Jul 02 - 12:52 AM

Full time agents are listed in the phone directory. They are liscenced and they pay a business privaledge tax. If you cant find them (check under "Entertainment" and "Theatrical Agencies") in the Yellow Pages, they will be listed with the local chapter of the musicians union. The more legitimate the agent, the more the jobs pay. Advertising is expensive and, usually, not cost effective. You would do better just contacting facilities directly. I know quite a few performers who have established a good client base by simply calling nursing homes and talking to the activity directors. I am too damn lazy to go that route so I just hung in there long enough to get a reputation in the industry and among the agents. Talk to the performers who do power solos in nursing homes. You can make headway by starting out as a "disappointment act", that is a replacement for acts who have to cancel at the last minute. Once you are in a position to, actually, do your act in front of an audience for real money, dont forget to follow up a successful performance with a suggestion that you be re-hired and some leads for other facilities. Nothing is better advertising than the reccomendation of a satisfied customer. I used to live with a juggler who built a terrific business for his troup. He told me that the definition of a successful job is that it generates another job.

By the way, what kind of act do you do? Do you do specialties like children's shows. ethnic programs, patriotic themes? When you promote yourself, it helps to have a name or theme that is easily understood by the potential customer. It isn't enough to say Genie, the Folksinger. That is too general for most clients.

Mike


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Subject: RE: Music: Your Day Job
From: Genie
Date: 27 Jul 02 - 02:05 AM

Mike, if your advice/questions were addressed to me, let me say that I began actively soliciting gigs at senior facilities about 8 years ago, using mainly the Yellow Pages and sending out flyers (initially one typed on a typewriter with a hand-drawn cartoon and then xeroxed).  My business grew with amazing speed.  All my calendars and bookkeeping were done by hand.

Since then I've gone cyber and I now fax most of my flyers (computer generated, with a scanned photo) and playlists.  (My flyer has a section for how to contact me; a list of my musical styles; a list of some sample theme programs available; a list of some kinds of programs I do [e.g., 1-to-1 music therapy;  group music therapy; dinner and party music; sing-alongs; concerts]; and a brief note about my sliding scale fee structure.  One neat thing about a computer generated flyer is that I can customize it easily to fit the client in quetion.) My calendar, data base, and all business records are also done on the computer -- but backed up frequently with hard copies.

Contacting activity directors directly is not really hard--it just takes a lot of time.  And, since activity directors tend to be reachable during the hours when I'm usually doing my programs, there's a kind of catch 22:  the more successful I am at booking programs, the harder it is to book more programs!

One bit of advice I'd give that's particularly pertinent to senior facilities is to follow up on a successful engagement ASAP!  All audiences have limited memory spans.  (What was the name of that soloist you heard in church last Sunday?)  It's even more so when you're dealing with folks over the age of 75.  They can rave about you during and right after a program and, when you call back 6 months later, the activity director will say "We just had resident council and you weren't one of the people they asked me to book again."  This is not surprising, given the 6 month lag between their exposure to you and the council meeting in question.

Residents will often come up to ME after a program and tell me that they want me to come back.  I've learned to tell them--and emphasize-- that I'd love to, but it's not up to me.  I'll say, "I'd love to come back.  So-and-so (the activity director) listens to what you folks tell her you want.  S/he will invite me back if you tell her you'd like me back."

I would gladly pay 10% to 20% to a good agent, though, if it would take the booking burden off my back and leave me free to develop my programs (and maybe have a life, too).  Question is, would anyone do all this work for such a small amount?  My schedule is quite complicated, given that I cover a relatively wide geographic area and need to consolidate gigs within close proximity to each other as much as possible.  (E.g., on the Friday before St. Patrick's Day, I may do 6 1-hour programs, and having them distributed properly by time and location is crucial.)

Another reason for using an agent:  I HATE sales!  I especially hate tyring to promote myself.  And getting straight, honest feedback from people can be hard.  I think an agent is more likely to be given such honest feedback (e.g., "We don't think we'll hire X again, because...") than the performer is, and the agent is also in a better position to tout your strengths than you are.  (People who are averse to giving negative feedback can waste a lot of their time and yours by being evasive about rebooking when they have no intention of ever doing so.  And being rebooked is not a simple matter of how good you are; it can have to do with your not doing the styles they were looking for or having your amp too loud, etc.  Or it can simply be because they've decided to go with another performer as a regular.)

Personally, I'd like to find an agent or agents who could not only handle the PR and booking tedium for my retirement home clients but also get me gigs later in the evening--at coffee houses, bars, etc. , to fill out my calendar, as it were.

I do appreciate your info, Mike.  I'll check to see what agents there are in the Portland area and how they operate.

Genie


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Subject: RE: Music: Your Day Job
From: wysiwyg
Date: 27 Jul 02 - 09:45 AM

On the "what kinda folk performer are ya?" angle--

Our flyers and PR now include this phrase in smaller type, under our band name:

~ Your Old-Fashioned Sing-Along Band ~

It's cleared up a lot of confusion and short-cutted a lot of explaining.

It has also pointed us to our most potentially-productive niche market-- no one else here is doing anything for children and their desperate-for-activities parents. To that end, our spring Event will be a house concert on the lawn.... a children's singalong.

Another thing-- our band has this reality to face: Our music is not the product. OUR producet is, in fact, not really music at all. OUR product is THE OPPORUTNITY TO HAVE A GOOD TIME. That means, now that I am moving into the entrepreneur part of my mind as far as our music is concerned, that the WHOLE event is the medium for the delivery of the product.... it means I have to think less like an autoharp player, and more like a producer... I have to stage us within the right events, and plan them myself if they are not out there to be hired for. (Luckily for me, they are NOT out there, in this area.)

And that gives me ALL the percentage cuts-- I am the performer, the organizer, the venue owner, the agent, etc. (Except for the money I pay band mates.)

Example: That means that our lawn event will include a food concession (give me my cut), games (give me my cut), children's music tapes and songbooks (at my markup), and so forth.... and that we will not do it at 1 PM, we will do it at FOUR o'clock, because then we can sell hot dogs!

The biggest block in my thinking, it turns out, had been not seeing that our home is the venue-- I had been trying to build things up to where our church would be the venue. The church is available LATER if we need something that big, but until I develop a following for ALL the folk activities I am starting from our house (jams, lessons, house concerts, doing press kits, etc.), people will NOT come to them at the church... Here, people do not go to things at a church they don't belong to, until it seems normal to them to go there.... they have to know US first.

If you can imagine a home being in somewhat permanent Mudcat-gathering mode, that's how it seems... only people PAY for their good time.

~Susan


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Subject: RE: Music: Your Day Job
From: Bobert
Date: 27 Jul 02 - 10:05 AM

Cool concept, Susan. Now, how can you best take it on the road? Reminds me, in a way, of the old time medicine shows, where the folks would bring the entire package into a small town and get everyone involved.

Do you have a lot of unpitched percussion instuments for you audience (kids and adults) to play? There are also a lot of Orff type instruments that are played with just a little instruction, such as metalaphones, glockenspiels, zylaphones, etc. where bars can be removed to heep the folks in the right key. Get a few of those things going with what you allready are doing and, band, instant (or close to it) audience participation... Even lap dulcimers are relatively easy to play basic stuff.

Just ideas.

Bobert


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Subject: RE: Music: Your Day Job
From: wysiwyg
Date: 27 Jul 02 - 10:14 AM

Got 'em.

No need to go on the road for now... but we have been talking for several years now about 2009. Hardi retires then from fulltime clergywork. Would you like a workshop on strategic planning? We'll be there next month. Would you also like some music? What kind?

But to answer your question on HOW....? Winnebago.

~S~


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Subject: RE: Music: Your Day Job
From: musicmick
Date: 27 Jul 02 - 05:06 PM

Good ideas, Susan. I do not envy you your responsibilties but I am in awe of your energy. Genie, you seem to have some really good ideas and a good, professional outlook. May I suggest that you look for jobs in the next step up (moneywise) the gig ladder, retirement communities, condominiums, travel clubs and the like. They tend to pay more for entertainment because, unlike nursing homes, the audience is the customer. If I knew what your act was, I could offer more specific suggestions.

Mike


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Subject: RE: Music: Your Day Job
From: Marion
Date: 27 Jul 02 - 11:06 PM

Genie said to "follow up on a successful engagement ASAP." What exactly does it mean to "follow up"?

Musicmic suggested looking for work at condominiums and travel clubs. What are travel clubs? And I thought condominiums were basically apartments that you buy instead of rent - do they hire entertainment for the common areas?

Thanks, Marion


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Subject: RE: Music: Your Day Job
From: musicmick
Date: 28 Jul 02 - 01:29 AM

Hi, Marion, Condos are what you think they are. Many condo buildings have common rooms that are used for communal activities like meetings, card games and such. Lots of these condos have special events (especially when the residents are retirees) and they hire entertainment for their meetings and for special events. I like condo jobs. They pay more than nursing homes and the audience is higher functioning and more responsive. Travel clubs are small orginizations of seniors who plan social events often involving travel to theaters, restaurants, casinos, etc. They meet weekly at places like community centers, library halls, municipal facilities. At their meetings, they usually have an entertainer. They have names like the Wednesday Travel Club or the Good Times Monday Travel Club, well you get the idea. They like a variety of acts so I cant work at the same travel club more than once a year but there are enough of them that I still do, at least, one every month, sometimes two or three. There are an awful lot of senior venues in any large community and they all hire performers.

Mike


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Subject: RE: Music: Your Day Job
From: Genie
Date: 28 Jul 02 - 04:26 AM

Susan, Hear, hear!!!  People (facilities) pay for entertainment (and/or, in the case of things in the music therapy vein, getting the residents involved)--not for the music per se.  I'll be the first to admit that there are others out there who sing better than I, those who play their instruments more expertly, some who do both better, and a lot who are younger and better looking.  What I do is involve the audience--which is especially important when doing programs for folks with low-level depression, dementia, memory loss, etc.  And, of course, it's especially true with children.  If I can make them laugh, it's far more important than technical perfection.   Sometimes making them cry is just as good.

Mike, I already do a good deal of music for upscale retirement communities, as opposed to just nursing homes.  E.g., last Thursday I did a "Full Moon Concert" for The Gardens At Town Square in Bellevue, WA -- an outdoor concert and fancy hors d'oeuvres kind of party, with an audience of about 60 to 75 people (ages 30s to 80s, I'd say, since a lot of family members were there).  These bookings do pay more than the rehab. centers and nursing homes do, but they tend to book programs far less frequently.  I am most definitely interested, though, in expanding these and in adding more condominium, private party, travel club (whatever they are), "critter club," and coffee house/bar gigs.  I'll PM you more detail.  If you have a fax #, I'll fax you one of my flyers and some sample playlists.

Marion, what I meant by "follow up ASAP" is that if I finish a gig and folks are clamoring for me to return, I should call the activity director the next day and begin negotiations for the next booking, while folks are "still under the ether," as they say in the sales profession.  If that's not feasible, at least  it's a good idea to write, fax, or call to inquire about future bookings within the week after the gig.  In the music business, as in love, there definitely is the "out-of-sight-out-of-mind" phenomenon.  Plus, (I hate to say it) in the retirement home business, if you try to contact in December the audience that loved you in May, half of them may have died, or at least moved to a different facility, and the activity director along with them.  You really can have to keep 'reinventing the wheel' if you don't act in a very timely manner to build upon your successes.


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Subject: RE: Music: Your Day Job
From: Marion
Date: 29 Jul 02 - 02:51 AM

Thanks for the description of travel clubs, Mike, I hadn't heard that expression before.

Genie, so what do you say when you call the next day? It seems to me that the director's reaction might be "why are you calling so soon? You were just here!" but what do I know?

Marion


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Subject: RE: Music: Your Day Job
From: Genie
Date: 29 Jul 02 - 03:09 AM

Marion, often I don't call--I fax them a list of my available times/dates for the next few months and a note asking them to call me when they are booking future months.

Whether by phone or in a fax, I'll say that I really enjoyed doing music with the residents and I'd love to return when they have a spot open for me in their calendar. If the A. D. says "I'm full for August and haven't started on September yet," I say something like "I'd really like to be considered for September or October, but I don't want to take up your time, since I know how busy you are. When should I contact you about booking for another month?"

(If it's May and they say they're already booked through August but won't start on September until July 31, I'll probably contact them again late June.)

Genie


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Subject: RE: Music: Your Day Job
From: GUEST
Date: 15 Feb 03 - 04:32 PM

I performed professionally for 12 years but that ended 20 years ago when I got married, had kids, real job, etc. Last year I bought a small PA with plans to play out again just a few times a month. First time out playing one song at my cousins wedding last night. I had in mind playing in nursing homes once or twice a month to help me get back in shape and to "give back" a little. Never considered charging but after reading posts here I may reconsider! Found this site today and was also interested in the few posts regarding teaching guitar. My question: "Are any of you teaching guitar without reading music?". I've been asked many times to teach, but I've always declined because I don't read. Any thoughts appreciated...Rick in Atlanta


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Subject: RE: Music: Your Day Job
From: Frankham
Date: 15 Feb 03 - 05:48 PM

Genie,

This is an informative and important thread. Those of you who do senior assisted living and nursing homes are probably aware of the good that you do. Someone invariably asks my wife and I where we are playing. So we say, "Well if you don't mind getting up at 6 or 7 in the morning you can see us at X elementary school." It's difficult to invite them to a senior assisted living or nursing home. In short, the public doesn't know what we do.

Harold Leventhal, bless his heart, is a wonderful guy and great impresario. But yes you can make a living at singing folk music as long as you broaden your definition. It isn't all concert halls and coffee houses as you have stated.
My definition of folk music is that it's "accessible". That's why it survives and people always like it pretty much when they hear it unless they have an agenda.

One of the most important things is that you are having fun with it. The other thing about playing assisted living, schools, nursing homes etc. is that you'll be better off if you care about the people you're playing for. It's not just another gig.

From what I've been able to gather, the music scene is different from one place to the next. As to pricing, first ask yourself what you need. Then stick to it. Eventually you'll get hired. Unfortunately, the denegrating view of the arts in society has to do with how much you think you are worth. I say this because how can you put a real value on art? But you are forced to do it. Don't sell yourself short but don't price yourself out of the market. It really comes down to how much you do is worth it to you.

Perhaps, no one is going to get rich doing this but sometimes you'll do OK.
See Harold is talking to young people who used to take off and travel because Pete Seeger said that this is the way to see the world. This is what Pete did. That worked in the forties and early fifties but times have changed.
You can't hitch hike any more or hop freight cars to get around. Far too dangerous. RV's eat up a lot of gas. Airlines break instruments. But someone always wants to hear and participate in music. You have to find your own market and what works for one person doesn't necessarilly work for another.

Nevertheless, all these ideas are good. Mike, we prefer to stay away from agents. Bad experiences. Personal contact is always the most effective way, I think. Genie, it sounds as though you are doing just fine. When you get enough gigs, just notch your price up a little. You've earned it. Use some of your money to kick back into your business. Learn some more guitar, or singing lessons, or research material. Upgrade your business.

Regarding teaching, this has been covered but I like teaching classes the best. I have them in my home. I like a lot of people playing and singing together and that's why I went back into teaching after having been burnt out with it. I'll probably never teach a student one-on-one again. People really need to learn how to play and sing and make music together.

Finally, I have found so many fine musicians who have day jobs. This certainly is true for the community of amateur performers known as "folk singers".

Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: Music: Your Day Job
From: wysiwyg
Date: 10 Nov 05 - 04:20 PM

Refresh-- posts are out of order but you can open them one at a time IN ORDER in a new window by right-clicking the links to each post as you discern their proper order, in the post list at the top of the page.

~Susan


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Subject: RE: Music: Your Day Job
From: GUEST,Texas Guest
Date: 11 Nov 05 - 01:21 AM

What a wonderful thread. I am a full-time folksinger based in Fort Worth, Texas and I, too, have a day job - performing at retirement
centers, nursing homes and such; and frankly, without them I'd be economically dead in the water.

It is really nice to know that there are folks out there who encounter the same problems that I do - late checks, A/D changes, double-bookings and all the other stuff. I also perform at coffeehouses, pubs and Irish festivals; however, the Irish frenzy has died down and so has the number of pubs; I perform very little of my own material, so the coffeehouses are not interested in my show and I only do about eight to ten festivals a year and that's not enough to keep 'er afloat, so retirement homes it is.

Down here the residential corporations put you in the category of "vendor" so you get paid usually three to four weeks out from the show; but, I had one place that didn't pay after a six week period and when I called the A/P department of the corporation I was advised that they could not guarantee when I would get paid - I then went directly to the CEO and was paid within a week. I always send my invoices out in the middle of the month preceeding the performance month and, as a result, sometimes I'm paid several weeks in advance.
Hell, I even showed up for a gig in September only find someone else
playing and the activity director (A/D) unlike most, insisted on paying me because the double-booking was her fault; however, I still haven't seen the check.

Activity directors are a real trip. They are always in meetings when you call; tell you they will call you and don't; quit without taking care that your invoices get submitted so your're paid on time - it is really a big pain in the neck to deal with these folks on a regular basis. Having said that, there are many of them who treat the entertainment very well and go out of their way to insure that you're taken care of - the rest are, well, kinda like bad club owners.

Even with all the above - I really enjoy playing these facilities.
The folks who are in the "independent" units can come and go as they wish and they will let you know if they like what you do. They will also listen to every word and note of every song or story you do and they'll applaud, too - unlike a lot of the pubs. For the folks in the assisted living and/or dementia units, well, you just leave your ego at the door (as you should on every gig) go in and play, and get
immeasureable satisfaction for doing it - it's just a joy to be able to bring out even a little response from some of the old folk who are not as well off as they used to be. It always breaks my heart, too, that the damed corporations pay less for these units. I feel it's because of the residents poorer condition - and they get away with it. It's a shame, because the residents may not be as functional as they used to be, but they have hearts and ears and smiles and tears,...and they deserve better.

As for the union, I am a union member but Texas is a "right to work"
state so the union has little or no authority. You need to be a member to do some gigs in Fort Worth but not very many. I have been fortunate to get booked into a large "union" festival here every year since joining and that one gig more than pays my dues.

My bank's not overflowing from me down here, but I'm gettin' by. I charge basically $100 an hour and do negotiating down from there when necessary - some facilities do pay much more, though. As for the cheaper units, for 2006 I am still going in at $100 but will offer to come in for a half-hour show at $50 if their budget is small.

Hang in there Genie (you are right on the money with what you wrote) and we'll see you somewhere along the path...............mwh


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Subject: RE: Music: Your Day Job
From: Kaleea
Date: 11 Nov 05 - 02:45 AM

Nursing homes are more & more being bought up by huge corporations which give the Activities Directors very little money to run their activities department. Having been in the job before, I can tell you that one place I worked gave me $100 per month for all the activities. I always asked my performers if a check was ok or if they wanted cash. Try to imagine dividing $20 between a dozen people in your band. The residents of nursing homes have little or no cash money they can spend. The residents of Senior apartments usually have money of their own to spend if Musicians are selling recordings. Many of them prefer tapes to CDs.
    The Senior apartment residences are the places which have the most money for entertainers, but singing for seniors won't make much money, most people do it as more of a "labor of love."
   For what it's worth, there is very little time for the Activities Director to be at her desk. I rarely had more than 1/2 an hour a day-if that, which was usually my lunchtime. Most of the time I called my volunteers & entertainers before they could call me. I gave them all my home number. The rest of the time was spent in my duties which entailed much more than the daily activities on the calendar. One on one visits with residents who were bedfast, of which there are always many are required, as they should be. Endless charting which is the law--as part of the duties, monthly charting must be done on the medical chart of every resident to document their ability to participate, how much they participate, what is being done to improve their socialization, etc., etc. If I did 10 a day, I might be able to get them all done each month before it was time to begin charting for the next month. If the Social Services director was ill or the position vacant, I did their job, too. When I did both jobs, I never sat down! Some nursing homes where I worked, I was expected to assist with feeding residents at mealtimes & getting them to & from the dining hall. If the entertainer did not show up, & pushed a piano into a lounge or grabbed my guitar & sang. If a minister couldn't make it, I led services.
   When I left that line of work, & taught lessons at home, it took over 6 months for my swollen feet to go back down 2 sizes to their normal size. It's not the easiest job, & the pay ain't great, but I always enjoyed the seniors.


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Subject: RE: Music: Your Day Job
From: Mooh
Date: 11 Nov 05 - 08:45 AM

I play for seniors twice a month at a municipal (county) home. These aren't well-to-do folks at all, and many are too infirm for the outside activities the more active get. My duo mate, a fiddler, actually works at the home in the activities department so she's paid anyway, but these gigs act as practices for us as well as entertainment. I'm not paid monetarily, but I know how the residents appreciate us. (Besides, what the home has to offer in money is chicken-shit, and it's worth my time to use the gig as practice time.) We play right before lunch and from what I hear it helps the residents get alert and ready to eat. I find them much easier to entertain at that hour as they're often too sleepy in the evening.

I'm doing okay financially this year and last teaching private guitar, bass, and mandolin lessons full time, after a few years doing it part time. The future looks good too, so I think I'll stay at it...best job I ever had. It feels weird (though somehow just) to be basically a folk musician earning a full time living at this in rural Ontario.

Peace, Mooh.


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