Visitors to this space may be familiar with the pieces I’ve written about YouTube and its clones, and how the unauthorized and uncredited postings of jazz film clips have made life difficult for those of us who have produced and financed the actual, video source material.

In response to one of my rantings, I received an email from someone who couldn’t really understand my displeasure, saying, “Music should be free for everyone.”

I mailed him back and asked him what he did for a living.

He replied that he was a brick layer.

I answered him and said that I had always believed that “brick laying should be free for everyone.”

In line with this whole unpleasant business is a development that is not particularly new. Let’s just say it’s recently hit close to home in these quarters.

Names will not be mentioned, but you know who you are and you know who you’re not.

The issue? Playing jazz for free.

Playing jazz for free has its place(s), whether sitting in at a jam session, auditioning for a gig, recording a CD on spec, lending your talents to charity or shedding with friends in a garage.

It does not–and should not–apply to those individuals and “house rhythm sections” that stand as the back bone to the hundreds of weekly, jazz jam sessions that are taking place all over the country.

The proliferation of jams is great, great news. It’s how young players gain experience, and older players get their rocks off. And in the end, there is always the possibility of a steady gig coming out of it for one and all.

In this area, there is a tremendously talented instrumentalist, who, along with his rhythm section cohorts, is running a weekly jam session and leading the house band, for free.

Some might say, and some are saying just how marvelous this is. “Isn’t it wonderful that the ringleader and his rhythm section are doing this for free? How wonderful!”

The fact is, said ringleader and the boys are doing this week after week at several locations, for a company that not only runs a chain of venues–some serve booze and some don’t –but owns a profitable record company as well.

On top of all of it, the ringleader in question, as good as he is, has a stage presence that is one of utter disdain. He shows up late and makes it clear on the stand that he’s rather be anywhere else than where he is.

Perhaps you get what you pay for.

The bottom line is that he owners of the venue are making all kinds of money from this, the jammers are deservedly happy jamming, and I guess the guys that are doing this for nothing are saying, “Well…we just like to play.”

Why not do it at home?

It does not take a graduate degree to figure out that working for free sets a precedent and makes it difficult, if not almost impossible, for any decent player to get a decent wage from any club or restaurant owner. After all, they can just say, “Well…those guys are doing it for free. Why should we pay?

No further amplification is necessary.

The concert stage was Mr. Sinatra’s forum. This is mine, and I’m using it to say that this practice absolutely must stop, unless your goal is to fully ruin this business.

To the ringleader I can only say: Be a man. Stand up for jazz and for yourself. Insist on being paid, no matter what the amount. Or else, just stop playing.

I welcome and invite any comments to this piece.

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