Syd’s Rants: Does Your Band Actually Deserve to Get Paid?

The best way to figure out if your band deserves to get paid for that middle slot at one of your local pubs on a Thursday night is to ask yourself this honest question: who cares? That’s not a rhetorical question. Who actually cares about your band? Your drummer? They don’t care, they’re already in three other bands. At this point, they’re just hedging their bets.  Your guitarist? Maybe a little, but they’re really only in it to get laid. Lol, you think they keep cranking their volume to complement the other voices? Nah bro, they’re flexing. (Side note: they should get laid, and so should you. It’s a proven fact that every single person becomes 15% sexier the minute they walk onto a stage. Get yours.) Your singer? Pretty much the same deal as your guitarist, but more neurotic.

Within the band, that leaves you, the bassist. I assume you’re the bassist because everyone knows that bassists are the only members of any band that actually read things. You probably write most of the lyrics too. Good on you.

Now let’s venture outside the band. We’ll start with your friends and family. Do they care? If they do it’s probably only because they love you. They’re basically pity fans. And let’s be real, you’re a musician; at some point, they’ve all hurt you, and all of your songs are about them. Talk about awkward.

Your significant other? Sure, they probably care a lot. But again, you’re a musician. They likely already pay your cell phone bill and half your rent. Are you really going to make them pay more to hear you play songs they’ve already heard you play in your living room while you’re figuring out your way through new riffs, at every band practice you’ve dragged them to, or in the bedroom? (If you’re a musician and you’re not singing your S/O songs you’ve written for them, then I question not only your deservedness to get paid, but also your ability as a lover.)

That leaves between 6 and 24 random people in the crowd who you’re hoping will become your fans. And make no mistake; you are not providing any service by playing for a crowd that has neither heard of you nor has any reason to care about you. If this is a local show, they are doing you a favour just by being there. If your friends and family want to shell out the price of admission to fund your pipe dream (and statistically that’s what it is, a pipe dream) then that’s great, but the simple fact is that most local bands suck, and most people seeing them for the first time would usually much rather be doing something (read: anything) else.

(Another side note: if you are one of those random people who’s already paid to get in, stay for all the bands. Don’t wait around to hear your sister play 30 minutes of Bon Iver covers and then spend the rest of the night outside having a cigarette, dick.)

If you don’t work on your music every day (and I do mean every damn day), then music is not a career for you, it’s a hobby. And hobbies earn what they earn. Stop getting mad at promoters and venues for light turnouts. Stop getting pissy with your friends for not coming to see you every single time you play a show, and stop getting offended when the only way a local watering hole can afford to pay you is with a couple of drink tickets. Make people need to see come and see you. If you’re worth it, they’ll come. And they’ll be happy to pay.

Written by Syd Ghan
*edited by Kate Erickson

About Syd Ghan 211 Articles
Syd Ghan is a Montreal media man, born and bred. After spending his formative years playing music on stages big and small across the city, he transitioned seamlessly into a career as a full-time writer, editor, and content manager. He has reviewed numerous bands both in concert and on record, written for a number of different blogs and online publications, been both a host and featured guest on various local podcasts and radio shows, and has even logged time judging live music competitions. In his spare time, he enjoys engaging in spirited debates over the finer points of pop-rock radio and he’s never met a chicken wing he didn’t like.

1 Comment

  1. I can’t believe I’m actually replying to this, because no one has ever changed anyone’s mind by writing novels in the comment section. However, as a musician, as someone who supports other musicians, I feel I need to throw in my 2 cents. Musicians shouldn’t expect to play to crowded rooms or be showered with money when they’re first starting out. A big part of being recognized for your efforts is learning how to entertain a virtually empty room. It’s about surviving through low points, continuing to play gigs and developing your sound. Those who are in it just to stroke their ego or to make money, without willing to put their own money or time into their craft will be weeded out eventually. Those musicians who stick to a long-term plan will eventually be paid the money and respect they deserve. Because, music is an expensive hobby. First, there’s the cost of having your own gear, having to constantly fix and update it. Then there’s the cost of renting a rehearsal space, and making time to use it as often as possible. When it comes time to play a gig, there’s the transportation cost (it’s especially expensive if none of your members drive or own a vehicle). And sometimes, in order to have time to practice and play, it means asking for time off from work (often from a low-paying job as it is). When you’re not playing, you still have to keep your fans interested by recording and making merch. Either way, it means losing a lot of money before making any back.
    It’s also a lot of emotional labour. You have to deal with the egos of your bandmates. For bands who have been playing for a while, their friends have most likely stopped regularly attending their gigs. Their significant others are probably tired of standing by the stage looking supportive. That’s when making a connection with a total stranger is important, to determine who the real fans are.
    So, yes, don’t expect to get paid just yet. But after putting in blood, sweat and tears into your art, you should be able to demand respect. All the bookers who pocket most of the door, or the so-called friends wanting to get guest-list will be exposed for the frauds they are. Articles like this will only give those people an excuse to withhold money.

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