An Olympic Insult to Musicians

I have been following with interest the furore ignited by Olympic organisers LOCOG’s recent approaches to professional musicians to ‘showcase their talents’ for free at the Olympics.  I am not surprised in the slightest that this has happened and, sadly, I don’t think any of my peers are either.

It has long been the attitude of people in general that entertainers / musicians / singers / dancers are so lucky to be pursuing a career they love that, in fact, it is rarely considered more than a serious hobby (unless you happen to be famous and rich from it like Elton John or Beyonce.)  There is little or no respect for the ‘work’ involved.

I have heard my mentor (drummer, vibraphonist, former AMD of the National Theatre and pioneer of bebop in Britain) Laurie Morgan complain many a time that musicians are historically offered wages which are often less than that of the glass collectors at venues.  He and many other long time professionals cannot understand why a skilled, trained musician should continue to be bracketed in the general public’s mind with unskilled workers – no one would flinch at a solicitor or plumber quoting £200+ for a job requiring their expertise and equipment so why is this the case when a trained professional drummer, pianist or singer asks the same?  I will tell you why:

It’s because all people see are our smiling faces loving playing songs to them; which is clearly our motive for doing music as a profession. What they don’t see are the hours of transcriptions, arrangements of charts, rehearsal, practice, planning sets and requests, printing out books and transposing Bb charts, driving to and from venues, filling up the car with petrol almost daily, checking tyres, oil and water every other week, loading and unloading heavy equipment we spent more than £600 on 8 years ago, numerous emails and phone calls to the band and B&Bs arranging the logistics of the show and journey, getting in, setting up and sound checking, unravelling all the wires…… Grrrrr….  No, it’s not all smiles, but clients just don’t see all that, why? Because we ARE professionals.

Not only has the digital revolution diminished people’s appreciation of the cost of recorded music, the long-time wide spread opinion that we do not ‘work’ also continues to jeopardise our industry and leaves us struggling to pay our overheads.

But this public opinion will never change unless we change it.

Entertainers – do not work for free/pathetic fees (unless it is for a charity you support).  Do not agree to be insulted financially for ‘exposure’ – the promise of work off the back of a free/low fee gig hardly ever comes to fruition and you will continuously be taken advantage of this way.  Have the self-respect to demand the fee you require to cover your time and overheads AND give you a profit.

Below are some vital links to make this change a reality, plus a fun illustration of this historically sore point.

Whether you are a musician, entertainer or an appreciative audient please SIGN and share THIS PETITION.

The BBC’s recent coverage of the row

The Facebook protest group