Monday, December 03, 2007

Aren't I lucky to do what I love?

Girl posted this video a few weeks ago. It riled me up, because it is so true. Today, I'm finally adding my two cents.

I used to think that it was musicians who were just taken advantage of as a profession. I know better now. There are so many people out there who want to get it for free. While I've discovered that it isn't an issue unique to musicians, I do think though, that it is a more prominent issue in arts based professions.

I'm here to tell you though, that just because my profession had to start of with some raw talent, doesn't mean that I didn't work my ass off to become good enough to earn my keep this way.

Music is one of those majors that you can't just walk into your freshman year of college. There has had to be years of training prior to making that decision. Training that you didn't get in school. Private training that cost your parents extra money, and that you had to make a conscious effort to continue every year. Training that requires expensive equipment and countless dollars towards books and upkeep of the instrument.

It's not like majoring in English, math, chemistry, or any other of those core classes that everyone takes. Anyone can choose to major in one of those if they have the credentials to get into the college in the first place. Not everyone can follow through, but they can try.

To major in music, you have to not only be able to academically get into the college, but you must also audition to gain permission to major in music. It's a whole different ballgame. And if it sounds like I'm a little snotty about it, I am. I am tired of people assuming that I'm less intellegent because I'm in an arts profession. Want to compare SAT scores? LSAT scores? IQ's? Bring it on. I'm a musician because I chose to be a musician. Not because I wasn't smart enough to do something else.

My training began when I was five and continues to this day.

Why then, am I expected to do what I do for free? Why am I expected to work under any circumstances, play any old crappy instrument that is provided, work without a contract, and be okay when people cancel a gig at the last minute?

Because I'm just a musician.

I'm calling bullshit on that today. I'm so tired of people thinking that because I get to do what I love, that I should just give it away. Literally and figuratively. That's one of the reasons I shy away from getting too involved at church. The day Guy and I joined the church, I was introduced to the music director and given the list of times that the choir met and all the other ways I could "give my gifts" to the church.

Yeah. Well, I might bake you cookies. I will donate to your Joy Gift fund. I will volunteer to do many things, but I will not be your free musician. You pay your preacher, your administrators, your janitor. Pay your freaking musicians. Pay them well. Because they have been studying their craft a lot longer than anyone else on your staff.

Here's the thing. I was supposed to have a gig at a historic home that has been converted into a place for parties. The holiday season is my busiest time of year, and this year, I have had to choose my gigs wisely. I can only sit at the piano for about an hour or my hips really start to hurt. It's also extremely tiring to be "on" for 3 hours at a time. So, I said yes to some one hour gigs, put them on my calendar, began brushing up on my Christmas music, and bought a non-returnable maternity outfit appropriate for gigging.

Less than 24 hours before the first gig, the girl from the house calls and cancels. Says very casually that they won't be needing me after all.

So let me ask this of you, oh unorganized event planner, what would happen if you did that to your caterer? What would happen if you did that to the florist? What would happen if the guests did that to you? There would be money exchanging hands anyway. People would still get paid instead of just brushed off.

Do you not understand that what you have done is completely unacceptable? That you can't just hire someone for an event and then decide the night before that you have changed your mind?

No. You don't. Because I didn't make you work with a contract. And that is my fault. I know better, and I still didn't send one. You were so nice on the phone, and I trusted you. I trusted that you were going to do what you said you would do, that I would show up to the scheduled gig, play, get paid, and go home.

Stupid, stupid me. But I always trust people. Guy has been gently pointing out to me different times when I have just trusted what someone has said, been let down, and then been angry about it. When I never should have trusted them in the first place.

I'm bitter today. Tired of being taken for granted professionally.

So from now on, don't even ask me to give it away. Unless you are my friend. In which case, I give you music because I love you and want you to have it.

Everyone else can just bite me.