I just returned from Nashville. It was not at all what I expected. I saw live music twice... Once on Friday night at the Gaylord Opryland and once at the Tootsies in the Airport. I felt more bad for those folks than envious or interested. My understanding is that they play for tips. The venues do NOT pay unless you have a name and can draw. Even though people come to Nashville to be immersed in music, and they expect to see people all over playing and that is part of the reason people come to Nashville, the venues don't feel they need to pay the artists. I am sad and mad about that. I think that artists in general and musicians in particular, get taken advantage of all the time, to make money for the owner and crumbs for themselves. I wish I could say that they talk about big tips too, but they don't. A recent entire evening that was talked about socially, only brought in a total of $100 bucks, and that was for 4 bands, at least one of which is known in town. When I questioned it, I was told they were not playing those gigs for money, they played for love.
Yep, we talk that way here, too. But I also expect the venue is going to pay me SOMETHING for my gas to get to the venue, at least. After all, they are likely making money. OR, have a line on the food bill.... total, tip, musician tip, grand total. In both situations that I saw, the artist never mentioned the tip bucket at their feet.
What I really want to talk about, though, is the camaraderie among the musicians. I had thought that Nashville was a dog eat dog place. I am glad to see that at least among some long timers, the people who lived there because that is where they want to be and not just to 'make it', not only get along but help each other. I so thoroughly enjoyed discussing things like creative process, buying gig clothes, forming your 'brand', and seeing how others do it. Wow. I realized that I don't do that here. It has always felt like those are the things that you hid that you even think of, as if it is just not cool. It is cool to BE cool, but not cool to PLAN *HOW* to be cool. It was refreshing to be in a situation where figuring out and presenting you brand is expected as part of how you are going to get gigs and be seen... and something for conversation. A natural part of conversation, even. As if it is recognized that you ARE a performer, and part of your art IS the performance.... and part of the performance is how you dress, what you say, and how you present that to the audience. A role, so to speak. I think we all KNOW this, and maybe it is just me, but around here, it just isn't cool to RECOGNIZE it out loud.
It likely really isn't cool to discuss it with 'outsiders', who you want to dazzle with your performance and not confuse with reality. Because part of the art of performance is being real and authentic and cool and GENUINE! ...and somehow, people suspect that if you have a plan, that disqualifies your authenticity. It does not. When you are on stage, you are PERFORMING, this is a piece of time that does not define you, but it does help your audience have a good time right NOW, which is the only thing that matters, right now.
Nashville made me think of things that I didn't expect. I am so glad that I went and had exactly the time that I had. My education into this world continues.....