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Town Hall on Madison Music Budget Recommendations is Tonight

Who's making noise in and around Madison? What's new in the business of making music around town? Review shows and CDs here. Please keep all hype in Hype Exchange.

Re: Town Hall on Madison Music Budget Recommendations is Ton

Postby RockOfTheArts » Fri Nov 09, 2012 8:00 pm

So, you wouldn’t want to look at how Austin managed to turn a regional festival into the world’s most famous music event? Somehow, we might become tainted because the idea didn’t originate in Madison? That works if you want to be a nameless Midwestern city. It’s also a recipe for disaster.

Isolationism breeds stagnation which is the kiss of death for any creative endeavor. Innovation comes out of the cross-pollination of ideas. Seeing how other music cities have succeeded and failed will help speed up the development of Madison and Wisconsin’s music scenes. Austin, Seattle, Portland, Minneapolis and Chicago can help us move forward. I know this is all pretty much boiler-plate startup dogma. I’m kind of surprised at Isthmus. You need to hang out more with the downtown tech companies.
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Re: Town Hall on Madison Music Budget Recommendations is Ton

Postby WestSideYuppie » Sun Nov 11, 2012 11:55 pm

In my view, there are a couple of interesting islands of loyal support for local music in Madison. One is classical music, and the other is music education. Folks won't pay a $5 cover, but we'll drop $100+ on symphony tickets, or $1000's on instruments and music lessons for our kids. I never saw anything like that in any other place that I've lived. And based on my observation, huge numbers of folks in Madison and in fact throughout Wisconsin play music at various levels.

Of course I know that classical isn't everybody's cup of tea. But I'm wondering if the city could draw on that base of support to expand our local music scene even further.
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Re: Town Hall on Madison Music Budget Recommendations is Ton

Postby Mandoliniment » Mon Nov 12, 2012 3:59 pm

RockOfTheArts wrote:So, you wouldn’t want to look at how Austin managed to turn a regional festival into the world’s most famous music event? Somehow, we might become tainted because the idea didn’t originate in Madison? That works if you want to be a nameless Midwestern city. It’s also a recipe for disaster.

Isolationism breeds stagnation which is the kiss of death for any creative endeavor. Innovation comes out of the cross-pollination of ideas. Seeing how other music cities have succeeded and failed will help speed up the development of Madison and Wisconsin’s music scenes. Austin, Seattle, Portland, Minneapolis and Chicago can help us move forward. I know this is all pretty much boiler-plate startup dogma. I’m kind of surprised at Isthmus. You need to hang out more with the downtown tech companies.


Actually that's almost the opposite of what I think.

Austin actively built and supported its music scene. There are organizations that help musicians with health insurance. There's a specific office of the Austin Convention & Visitors Bureau, the Austin Music Office, which promotes and supports local music. The city has a music department.

The story of SXSW is not "town with a struggling music scene starts city-sponsored festival, everything else falls in line!" it is "town with amazing music infrastructure, an engaged audience, and a deep talent bench has a festival started by a private organization".

The other thing that's a recipe for disaster is singling out one part of a success story and conflating it with the whole thing. You gotta start with the foundation, and the foundation is building audience.
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Re: Town Hall on Madison Music Budget Recommendations is Ton

Postby Kyle Motor » Thu Nov 22, 2012 4:08 am

Here's some anecdotal evidence that might add some perspective to this whole thing.

I've lived in Madison for a decade, and I've been a gigging musician in town the entire time. In that time I've been a guitarist in rock bands, a bassist in a power-pop band, a drummer in honky-tonk and garage bands, done fill-in gigs on multiple instruments in various genres; I've played basement & attic parties for drunk college kids, bars, standard venues, weddings, the UW Union & Terrace; all originals, some covers and tribute shows.....I've run the gamut locally and I am not an unestablished greenhorn. I've also worked as a recording and occasional live sound engineer. I consider myself a jack-of-all-trades musically (and admitted master of none).

Tonight I played drums for 3 hours with 2 different bands. One set was with a band I've been playing with for years and most of our songs are second nature to me. The other 2 sets was filling in with a band I'd sat in with a couple times before, but the gig still required a rehearsal.

I had a $13 payday. Wisconsin minimum wage is $7.25/hr; and minimum tipped wage is $2.33/hr. $13 at 3 hours of playing time is $4.33/hr. This gig was paid on tips ONLY. Factor in one 3-hour rehearsal with the band I sat in with, and it's $2.17/hr ($13 over 6 hours). This is not counting drumsticks, heads, gas and car wear to haul my stuff to and fro, etc.

Take that all as you will. This was one gig, while not typical, it also was not far off.....and more often than not the atypical gig veers towards the red.

Caveat emptor: I am (very thankfully) gainfully employed outside of being a musician. I live to play music.....but I don't break even on gear maintenance from playing (sticks/strings/other misc. disposables). I do have a lot of gear to facilitate being a multi-instrumentalist, but I NEVER spend extravagantly. I'm in a position where playing music is a habit I can support and I don't have to play a ton of garbage I don't want to in order to get by, and that is awesome. However, call me greedy if you will, but there is something dissatisfying about playing all night to a solid crowd and leaving with $13 in my pocket.

No amount of promotional videos or seasonal festivals are going to do a damn thing to positively affect the local music scene. There needs to be change at a very base cultural level, and I don't even know if that's possible. Garbage TV and video games beat live local music with many demographics. And a major percentage of live music patrons in town are the kind that might catch a local band if they're opening for a heavily-hyped touring act.....and they might even enjoy the local opener, but they'll rarely go out to see said local band on a local bill.

Argh. I'm tired. Happy holidays everybody.
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Re: Town Hall on Madison Music Budget Recommendations is Ton

Postby Mandoliniment » Mon Nov 26, 2012 1:32 pm

Kyle -

I was at that show, and it was indeed well attended, and a $13 payday is indeed ridiculous. I recognize that sometimes that's going to happen for an opener slot, but when two established local bands bring in a significant crowd (i.e. not far from capacity) that's there to see them, there's no excuse for that. And your hourly wage calculation is way off, since you don't include practice time, transportation time, etc.

We were actually discussing that very deal at [REDACTED LOCAL VENUE] that night; I'd contacted them a while back about playing there and didn't realize that that was their deal... Once I heard that I said f it, there are other places to play.

When I played at Wonder's every week for 6 years, we got a significant payout every single week. We got a guarantee from the bar, and it was worth their while. Before then we quit playing the Up North when they yanked our free beer privileges, despite the fact that they were paying us.

One thing I think we can do as local musicians is provide a floor for what we're willing to work for. I don't think it needs to be outrageous, but if we don't value our work, why would anyone else? No headlining local band should play a club setting/no-cover show for less than a $150 guarantee. Period.

I don't mean this to sound like blame-the-victim, but bar owners do this because they can get away with it, and possibly because they don't really know any better... It's ultimately up to us to inform them what we're worth.

You wouldn't see a wedding photographer lamenting that they were paid only $20 for a wedding gig; they set a price and contract it. No painter sells a painting without knowing what they'll get beforehand. It's crazy that we, as a town, continue to operate on this unspoken gentleman's agreement and that local musicians just hope it'll all work out in our favor, and then lament that it doesn't.

Perhaps one step could be a musician's union type thing that sets guidelines for performers about what to ask and expect in terms of compensation, provides contract templates when necessary, etc.

[EDIT TO ADD] Your show at [LOCAL VENUE] easily had 75 people there (probably a lowball estimate). Not hard to figure $10 spent per attendee. That's $750 gross. Figure 3 staff for 5 hours = 15 man-hours labor = $150; $150 in liquor, $100 in other overhead (of course this is a fixed cost of doing business); they're still clearing $350 for the night. They can't throw you $150? That's only another $15 per musician, but still. That bar was hopping that night, it would have been quiet otherwise. That's absolute bullshit. They had you there to bring people in the door - and you held up your end of the bargain.
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