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You Win Some You Lose Some

You ever had an amazing first impression go south?


That's what happened to me and this promising piano bar on a popular street in Hampton Roads (leaving out all the identifying details, you're welcome!)


I strolled in on a Tuesday night, offered to play, left my phone number, was asked to return to play, performed for thirty minutes, and was offered slots that same night. Great, that was the intention.


However, in the process of the owner handing me over to the accounting department, things took a wrong turn.



Without being offered a calendar to sign off on, my name appeared online for more dates than I volunteered as candidates.


I promptly informed both the boss and the house manager in person that I wasn't available, and received confirmation to my face that the slot would be taken care of.


In spite of that, they apparently never took care of the night. It came and went & I was reprimanded by accounting as if I'd been a no-show.


I was on their roster for all of a week with zero onboarding communication - who to talk to, policies and procedures, never explained - and by my own efforts, decided to speak directly to the person who had hired me & who had been singularly discussing dates with that I was not available for the night in question.


After a week of back-and-forth with accounting and being completely ghosted by the owner, with no clear direction on how to confirm shifts (simply ambiguous statements like, "Send us an email" & "Tell us in Slack" -- which I did, sent to whose contact I had) I rescinded all 10 nights they'd booked me for, and they "agreed it was best," like I just beat them to the punch.


They apparently were looking for someone who could commit "full-time" for $75 a night...as a degree holding musician.


I have never been this poorly treated by a venue, or as an employee (and I've worked for $2.50 an hour in my time), and I am sharing this experience for two reasons.


One, to comfort some one out there that you can be as forthcoming and upstanding of a business person as it gets, and still deal with incompetent bosses and internal comms issues. So don't let it indicate your worth, and don't worry about gossip.


And two, to comment on the state of affairs in venue-artist relationships.


We are a small portion of the population that actually provides the service of live entertainment to establishments, and the attention is proportionately devoted to the patron side of the equation: is the customer going to get their kicks off of check having live music? I get it - the average customer isn't listening that closely (so everyone gets what they're paying for...)


Is it good enough just to "have live music?" Aren't you sick of the guy with a guitar who wails every song? Don't we have enough of hims? Is it good enough to hear a tone deaf singer at a piano bar, just as long as the piano is plinking? Buy a self-playing piano and spare us, rather. How is having low standard really translating as good business?


You might be saving money in the long run, but are you saving your reputation?


Word of mouth. Customers talk. Musicians love their industry anecdotes. It gets around when you treat your employees badly that you are a gross person to work for. So inevitably you end with slim pickings of folks with enough poor self-respect that will tolerate working for you, or people with an I've-already-given-up-on-life attitude - which sure translates well to hospitality...


Restaurants - hotels - cafes - resorts - don't talk about "hospitality" for a second if you're not going to start with the least of these; the court jester musicians that make your spot even worth remembering.


And to those spots that do treat their musicians with value - THANK YOU.


Keep your standards high and weed out the incompetent - help the musician class raise their own standards for themselves.





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