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The Life She Wants You to Have

December 16, 2014

…there was lunch in the larger, first floor cafeteria where, in the corner, on a small stage there was a man, playing a guitar, who looked like an aging singer-songwriter Mae’s parents listened to.

“Is that….?”

“It is,” Annie said, not breaking her stride.  “There’s someone every day.   Musicians, comedians, writers….We book them a year ahead.  We have to fight them off.”

The singer-songwriter was signing passionately…but the vast majority of the cafeteria was paying little to no attention.

“I can’t imagine the budget for that, ” Mae said.

“Oh god, we don’t pay them.”

The Circle, by Dave Eggers

Two different Bay Area artists have posted on Digital Music News about being asked to perform on Oprah Winfrey’s “The Life You Want” tour.  Both were asked to perform for free, one chose to do it for the exposure, the other decided not to kiss the ring.  The one (Revolva) who wanted to be paid did not get hired.  The one who did it for the exposure did get hired.

The question came up with artists who were asked to play for free on the Amanda Palmer Kickstarter tour (about which criticism Ms. Palmer evidently is still stinging) and it’s actually a very old question.

I would suggest to you that there’s a difference between telling an artist that the tour can afford $500 plus some swag and a bunch of comps, and telling the artist that in exchange for being allowed to bask in the glow of the genius of the headliner, they have to play for free plus a couple of house tickets.

Particularly when the headliner is one of the richest performers in the world and can clearly afford the $500 route.

I think that the question that needs to be examined here is not what decision the artists made.  Artists presented with this “opportunity” will either take the deal or they won’t.  The question is why is the deal being offered in the first place, particularly when employers are being sued every day for unpaid internships.

As a restauranteur told me once, if they can’t afford to tip they should cook dinner for themselves.

The tour is called “The Life You Want”.  That title has so many satirical possibilities that I think I will just let it sit there.

  1. December 16, 2014 at 12:44

    More of the same, these days. These types need to be picketed, photos taken, put online. Picket signs need to be simple, with online address on them so people can look at articles with details.

  2. December 16, 2014 at 12:50

    Large picket signs at shows, with very simple, short message, and easy to remember website written on them, and/or business card size handouts, so folks can go home and read details online. /// if I went to place that didn’t pay the musicians, I would eat and leave. If someone took umbrage with not being paid for the meal, I would say ” what??? You do this for LOVE of cooking, of course ! Why should I pay? “

  3. D.Rosen
    December 20, 2014 at 06:49

    As the widely-circulated story about the wedding band states, “Call the plumbers’ union and ask for six plumbers to work from 6 ’til midnight on a Saturday night. Whatever they charge you, we’ll work for half.”

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