What’s a Musician’s Worth?

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Spend a couple hundred dollars and buy an iPod to entertain countless events, as opposed to paying all those musicians each time. These days most people don’t even know how to hire musicians or why they would want to. We live in Santa Cruz, where there’s enough appreciation of live music to be able to jam quite regularly in town. What we’re worth?.. Well, that’s not an easy question to answer…

At Bocci’s, we made $20 from the bar this last time and about $30 in tips. We had 7 people play the gig:

  • Piano – Raj
  • Bass – Yu
  • Drums – David
  • Cello – Daniel
  • Trumpet – Ben
  • T Sax – Sherol
  • A Sax – Matz

That’s 10% of the bar from what was originally 20%. I have to admit even for 10%, $20 seems quite low. Last time we played there, we made $100. Apparently, there’s this idea that we’d be making up for 50% of what we made before through some “voluntary cover.” Which didn’t work, b/c it cost us $30 to have the doorguy and he collected $30.

So, where did the other 10% go? Well, it went to the “promoter.” Now, I’ve never heard of such a position. I thought maybe he was a booking agent or something, but it raises some concern.

First of all, we are all used to living off of a steady income of graduate student funding. We’re used to doing what we love, because we love doing it. It’s definitely been cautioned, however, that we don’t take ‘free’ gigs, since it undercuts professional musicians, and devalues the service we’re providing. It encourages a culture of “musicians don’t need to get paid.”

On the other hand, and by nature of being graduate students, we don’t mind doing things just for the satisfaction of doing them. So anyhow, here were some thoughts on the “promoter.” Even within a band, there are many different philosophies to take on the worth of what we love doing.


“Hmmm. I would really think twice about having a promoter on a permanent basis. I would not want to lose control over gigs and bookings, unless you want to be playing twice a week and touring! Plus they take a big cut for not doing too much. Just my two cents…”


“If I was a musician trying to live off of gigging around and I had a “promoter” taking 50% of my earnings, I’d be pretty upset. Perhaps I’d understand if he brought a large crowd… but at least for our gig, most of the people who showed up were our friends.”


“Affirmative to abolition of the “voluntary cover.” I don’t think we need a doorman. I don’t care much about money and commercialization.

But I do think we should be professional, providing a good time to the audience at the bar, because it is what Bocci’s should have made the deal for and we accepted. If somebody at the sight or some of our friends want to play with us there, it’s totally welcome but the gigs should be something more than a private, completely laid-back jam session. I don’t think this is really meant by a “jam session for ourselves,” but anyway, we still need to rehearse and prepare for the coming gigs. Too much obligation? It then would be time to consider walking away from him (and them).”


“Why would he care – isn’t inviting people his job? We’re getting paid to play, and he’s getting paid to promote. Not that he seems to be doing it. I don’t really want to play another gig that he takes money from.”


“I agree. I think we should be professional to some degree because we want to put on a good show. I don’t think we need a doorman. We could have put a tub out that said “tips” just as easily as he did. To be honest that guy didn’t do anything except look awkward and creepily ask people for money. So I veto him ever coming.

As for the promoter, I could care less about the money that he gets. We are getting a monthly gig, so that’s awesome. We should use this as an opportunity to write and arrange original pieces so we don’t have to play standard sounding autumn leaves, or other songs that don’t give a sense of what our band can do creatively. Also I think we should be inviting everyone to our gigs so they can listen to us. They all want to jump on the terminal bandwagon anyways.”