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January 2014

January 2014
Mr. P.C. By

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Dear Mr. P.C.:

Why is it that whenever I go to a jam session, the best players are the meanest? Does that mean that I have to become a jerk if I want to get good?

—Still A Nice Guy
 

Dear SANG:

Sounds like you're buying into some very common but misguided notions of "best." Just what is it that you admire about these "jerks"? That they play comfortably and melodically at any tempo? Negotiate chord changes effortlessly? Phrase naturally at all dynamic levels?

What you don't realize is that those are all tricks to cover up the troubled souls that lie beneath! As if there's no uncertainty or conflict within—how utterly dishonest and cowardly!

The players who are truly "the best" are the ones who aren't afraid to show their vulnerabilities— weaknesses like uneven time, clumsy phrasing, bad note choices, or the simple inability to master their instruments. They're telling you real stories, of real lives that reflect the fragility of our troubled planet.

Remember the children's tale about the ugly duckling that becomes a swan, or the creepy caterpillar that grows into a beautiful butterfly? That's what these raw musical truth-tellers are like, but without the ridiculous Hollywood endings.


Dear Mr. P.C.:

How big a fee is appropriate for a booking agent or bandleader?

—Phil S.
 

Dear Phil:

I asked an agent about this, and he explained that it makes more sense to think in percentages rather than fees. So, for example, rather than saying he should get a $150 fee when he books a $1,000 dollar gig, he prefers to consider the percentages of being caught if he takes $600 and gives $400 to the quintet.


Dear Mr. P.C.:

I recently did a club date for a saxophonist, and as we were finishing, I overheard the following conversation between the client and him:

Client: "You did a great job, and I'd like to give you a tip. There are five of you, right? Here are five hundreds, one for each of you."

Saxophonist: "Thanks!"

Mr. P.C., you probably know where this is going. When I got my check, it was only $50 more than what I was booked for. When I started asking around the band, it turned out that we'd all been given different tips, from $50 to $90. On top of that, we'd been hired for different amounts, too!

What should I say to him?

—One Hundred Should Happen In Tips
 

Dear OH SHIT:

It's pretty obvious why he'd hire each of you for different amounts: he set the pay based on how well he expected you to play. When the tip money came in, it gave him the chance to correct his initial estimates and pay you based on your actual performance.

I don't know which is more disappointing: Your indignant reaction to his savvy, results-based managerial style; or the fact that you just really didn't play very well.
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