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Artist Profiles

Ren

By Published: October 22, 2003

"I finally decided to start raising my fees for gigs. Yes, this meant that I was eliminating lots of venues. Yes, it meant my booking agent had to work harder to book me in those places. But again, what image was I projecting by accepting the same old excuses for low pay? This was a hard thing to do, and initially I waffled a lot and thought I was wrong to insist on more money but it has paid off. Once, my agent told me that the clubs weren’t paying the prices I wanted. My answer to him? Book me in the clubs that ARE paying these fees."


One year ago


"After playing a week at a venue on the west coast with first-call musicians of exemplary background, experience and reputation, I insisted on traveling with my own band from then on. Why? Because I got a very bad review. Now, ordinarily, I don’t pay much attention to reviews. But this time, the critic was exactly right in most of his observations of the performance. This critic noted the haphazard intros and endings, the disjointed feel, the sense that everyone was trying to remember "what comes next?" But it wasn’t my fault, it wasn’t the fault of the musicians. It was simply the situation. The quality of the music is bound to suffer when the time to rehearse with a pick-up band is limited. You only have a couple of hours to rehearse, at most. Under such situations, the musician will play what he is hearing; i.e. what he played the last time he played this or that particular standard. Maybe he has a certain lick, chord or rhythm he favors for a certain song - and he knows he sounds good when he does it. Perhaps he doesn’t particularly like your arrangement or maybe he just doesn’t have it down absolutely right after only one rehearsal. Under these circumstances, a vocalist can only hang on for dear life and hope for the best. But I wanted the musicians to play what I was hearing, because having solid musicians playing your arrangements in a solid fashion can be likened to standing on solid ground - a vocalist can do nearly ANYTHING and it won’t throw off the music because the musicians know the arrangement so well. You can go almost anywhere vocally and the instrumentalists will not only follow you, but be there to catch you when you come back. Otherwise your singing is tentative and fearful and distracted. Not that these musicians weren’t great musicians. They were fantastic. But how much rehearsal can be accomplished in one afternoon before the gig? Not much, let me tell ya. You can’t expect them to want to rehearse four hours for a two-hour gig or two hours every day if it’s a week long hit (they aren’t getting paid but so much money, after all), so how much of the arrangements are they going to remember, even when the chart’s right in front of them? Basically, they are a band for hire who may not ever perform with you again. They have no vested interest in making the music really happen over a two-four hour period. It’s a job. Occasionally there are exceptions, but this had been my experience almost across the board. Most vocalists/soloists will tell you the same thing. What’s the point in having arrangements to tunes that set your musical thinking apart from others if you don’t have enough time to rehearse the damn things? It was folly to continue along this same line of doing things. Do I have to turn down gigs if they don’t pay enough to offset the travel expenses for my band? Absolutely. Do I make less money because of this added travel expense? "Deed I do. But it is my name on the marquee, my name in the review and my name on the CD. And it is a sacrifice I am willing to make voluntarily, not because of the pressure I get from a presenter or the manager of a venue to lower my fee."



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