Thursday, February 5, 2009

Beggars Beware

I sent an email the other day. Last week, actually. At the time, it wasn't that big of a deal, or so I thought. As most of you readers know, I'm a working musician, here in Chicago, and I have been for a long time. I've got two groups that I work steadily with, and the career has been successful so far. Like everyone else, though, I need to fill dates in my calendar. And, like everyone else, I have a large network of professionals in the city that I know, so hustling for gigs just comes with the territory.

Just like everyone else who works in music for a living.

So I send this email, like I said, to all of the musicians on my "list". I had an open Saturday night that I was hoping to fill. One of my colleagues, on my "list" replies to the email with a request to take him/her off my "list". This person then publicly posts a note saying that he/she got hit up for a gig and that "beggars beware", lest they wish to run the risk of taking this person off of their "list".

My initial reaction was disbelief.

I mean, wow.

Why such a strong reaction? Especially in these trying economic times? And then my reaction turned into something along the lines of, "Oh no, what have we become?" Surely, the bitterness and cynicism of being in the biz hasn't consumed us so completely that we've become a bunch of whiny protectionists, has it? We're a very creative and talented community. It's hard enough to make it with the obstacles that are out of our control. Do we really need to start treating EACH OTHER this way? It seems to me that it just creates additional obstacles.

This is something that we don't need.

I know a lot of people looking for gigs all the time. This year on New Year's Eve, the granddaddy of all nights to play, the vast majority of the players I talked to had no gig. I had a gig that was cancelled at the last minute. Which means I had no gig, too. And I'm talking about excellent musicians; some of the best players you'll find in Chicago. These are people that I actually know, as well as people I know by association. Or reputation. They're in the book, so to speak. It's not just an arbitrary "list".

The social networking avenues that we now have available to us online are some of the best tools around for musicians (and other professionals in the arts). Whether it's Facebook, or MySpace, or just your own email list, networking for musicians is so much larger and easier than it used to be. These are avenues and resources that need to be embraced, not rejected. Jeez, I remember the days of coming home to a message on the answering machine that was left 3 hours ago. How many gigs did I miss back then because of that? Hell, how did we survive at all back then?

Being a professional, working, musician is a difficult career choice: possibly insane, but impossible to ignore. The late, great, T-Bone Walker once said, "You can't take it with you...". Everybody's, and I mean EVERYBODY'S, gig comes to an end at some point. Yours will too.

So I say to you, Mr. Beggars Beware, we're all in this together. Please, don't you forget it.

So it goes...


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. yes, yes, yes. hear, hear. we, artists and musicians and writers and photographers and poets, we who choose to live a life of the arts, who choose to make a creative undertaking our vocation, despite the hardships and difficulties -- we are a COMMUNITY. and we should act like a community, sharing, helping, giving, being generous with one another. it is NOT cool to shoot each other down. a little humility, kindness and empathy is in order. beggars, beware, indeed. awful person. awful sentiment.