I briefly had a conversation with a musician friend of mine recently. We were discussing how musicians sometimes feel guilty for charging a venue owner their fee when, after the performance, it ended up being a slow night for the venue.
I asked why he felt guilty, mainly because I wanted to hear his response. I know I’ve been in that situation before and have felt similarly, but more times than not I’ve been in situations where the venue owner knowingly took advantage of my guilty feeling and general good-hearted nature to save on having to pay my whole fee. After which I learned my lesson.
I digress, my friend responded to the question of why he felt guilty when the venue had a slow night…he said that basically he felt bad because the venue owner hired him to perform and there wasn’t that many people there, so the venue owner didn’t make much money on the night. It’s worth noting that my friend marketed the show just as he had for other shows that brought in a lot of folks.
I said, that he shouldn’t feel bad or guilty for the venue owner (and I don’t say this to be mean toward venue owners at all – many are my friends). The reason he shouldn’t feel bad is this:
The venue owner is in business to run their venue and they are the one who took the risk of opening their doors and hiring a musician/band to perform in hopes that those actions, among others, would help generate business. Likewise, my friend is part of a band, which for all intents and purposes is a business. His band took the risk to practice, write songs, book a gig, and perform that gig for a fee.
So where’s the guilt? I mean, I get where the guilt comes from…as a musician you want to bring in as many people as you can so you have a crowd and the venue owner gets some more business, all of which bodes well for you in your hopes of getting a second gig at that venue. Essentially, you’re rooting for the venue owner’s success because his success means you will likely have success by being hired again at that venue. I get it. However, I see it as two businesses who did what they both agreed to do, but the variable in the equation (the crowd/patrons), for whatever reason, didn’t pan out as they hoped. It’s really not more one party’s fault over the other (the venue owner or the band).
But if you were hired to provide a service and did so to the expectations agreed upon by the venue owner – the venue owner hired you to play 2 hours of original music because he saw you perform at another venue and liked it, and you did exactly that – then there is nothing to feel guilty about…you provided the service you were hired to provide.
Too often arts-related endeavors are marginalized. They go unrecognized as legitimate businesses and thus are devalued. Such a service takes time, effort, energy and money to develop to a professional level, not unlike someone in another professional who went to school to become, say, a lawyer and spent time, effort, energy and money to achieve that profession. Thus, being an arts professional is to provide a product or service and means that as an artist you are in business. Don’t feel guilty for running your business.
Posted by: Nick Venturella