Musicians & Values
by J.P. Kallio
As a musician, especially at the grassroots level, it can be a lonely place. When many people looking at us perform rarely see the all too common put downs behind the scenes. It hard to convince people that what you do is valuable, when they see it as something some bloke do as a hobby on Friday night after a hard week in his “real job”. Let me just ask you people who think this is just a hobby one thing. You are out in the bar on Friday night getting wasted, or even on a just few social drinks before you head home to spend the weekend with your family. What would make you go out every Friday play music in front of a drunken crowd week after week, year after year?
Sure we are passionate about what we do, but not many musicians who only do this as a hobby last very long. Sooner or later life takes over, and things like family time become more important than the gig. So surprisingly many of those musicians you see playing out in the bars week after week, actually are full-time musicians. And this is not a swan song, it is me laying it out as it is. Most of us struggle, that’s a fact of life.
We need to fight constantly to have an income, but then does any startup company as well. But we also need to constantly fight to be valued. By this I mean, there are some great bars, clubs and venues out there who value us, but for every one of those there are one who treats us like some unnecessary expense, even when we fill the bar for them. And being treated like that can knock a man down.
Also it is always a struggle in the personal life as well. We can’t provide constant security, as we don’t know how many gigs we have the next month. If you are in a relationship with a partner who is not a musician, their job is always more important, as it is a “real job”. Even if from time to time you might contribute more in to the household income, it’s still not a “real job”.
So this can leave us feeling quite unvalued. And when you are feeling like that, it can be hard to get up on the stage looking confident and on the top of the world. These are some of the reasons why many musicians struggle to be in a relationship, or resort to alcohol.
So let me say few things. First of all you people in a relationship with a musician, cut them some slack. What they do is extremely important, and have much more deep-rooted effects on the society, economy and the world around you. You might ask “but why should I put up with it?” Well if you need to ask that, then do both of you a favour and walk away! You do not deserve to be in a relationship with someone as artistically gifted as your partner, if you don’t see the value in what they do.
Also you grumpy bar owner, or a manager. The musician in your bar is self-employed, and they can take their business away from your bar at a blink of an eye. Sure you can replace them, but sooner or later you will build a reputation for yourself where no musician worth their money will work with you. I have seen this happen time after time. I’ve seen bar bankrupt themselves just by treating their musicians like crap.
And last but not least. You ground troop musician, what you do is extremely valuable, to the society, to the bar owner, who is giving you grief, to the economy. You are also extremely valuable as a human being, as a partner, as a parent, as a lover. Never forget that, and never sacrifice your dream for someone else’s false sense of what life should be. Value yourself.