Oakland, Berkeley, And East Bay News, Events, Restaurants, Music, & Arts
Wow-first off-kudos to the East Bay Express for publishing a pretty in-depth article about this subject. I've read other articles in past years about this very subject but this got in a bit deeper. I used to be one of those Berkeley High jazz musicians East Bay Express would write about when I was younger-now I'm playing electric bassoon in Tokyo, Japan 380 shows a year with a Cirque Du Soleil show called ZED. I'm doing it because I need a stable existence to support my family. I've tried to "make it" in the Bay Area, but in my case, to really make a career-I needed to leave town. There's a difference between a music scene (San Francisco does indeed have a vibrant music scene) and having a career (a living where you make enough to pay rent, mortgage, health insurance for kids, retirement fund). Not that I like being away from home-believe me, I love San Francisco. Since I graduated from BHS over 30 years ago-I've seen so many musicians and scenes come and go and morph and evolve and devolve. I do remember that when i graduated from conservatory-one could still play sax in bands 5 nights a week and make enough to live (being in my 20's). This is outside of being primarily a 'jazz player' but there are many working musicians who are great jazz players. There were so many clubs that aren't around anymore-Keystone Korner, The Stone, Keystone Berkeley, the Berkeley Square, New Georges in San Rafael, Yoshi's was a regional stage primarily, Koncepts Cultural Gallery in Oakland, tons of clubs in town and a vibrant local MUSIC scene regardless of idiom. But the key thing was that those 1980's gigs paid pretty much exactly what they pay now-and there are less places now to play LIVE MUSIC regardless of the idiom. I don't know anyone making $800-$1000 a night on corporate gigs unless they are national acts. If you are talking about casuals (weddings, et al)-I would think that $300 is a good price and that has been the case for awhile-it's been at least 3 years since I did a Bay Area casual date. And club gigs-I used to make $50-$100 a night 5 nights a week with one or two bands playing local clubs and dives-who does that nowadays in the Bay Area? In fact-it's changed everywhere including New York and even in Europe. I was born here in SF-when I was growing up the Bay Area was a more bohemian place than it has become; coming out of the Beat Generation to Flower Power to the hotbed it was in the 1970s to the diversity of the 1980s music scene to the acid-jazz and electronica and turntable stuff in the 1990s. And it's still evolving; but it's just harder and harder to get paid. That's just the facts. If you got paid $60 for a gig in 1985 and you got paid $60 for a gig in 2011-it would feel a bit strange wouldn't it? Music (much less purely jazz) is a very tough career choice-it's always been. The recording industry in general is in a chaos-now there are sample libraries aplenty of musical instruments so a composer doesn't need actual musicians as much as before. Also-and probably most importantly-public school music education has fallen so far from the 1970's. I still see a bunch of creative, enterprising musicians in the Bay Area-they are there and working hard. But it is very hard and you have to be a business-person as well as a musician to make it anywhere these days.
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