It's all about the song
"Paying to play"
I have seen a few posts on Facebook and other places that ask "Why do people in Nashville all play for free? Don't they know that you should get paid for what you do?"
The answer is a bit complicated, but for those of you who have wondered that, here it is:
SUPPLY AND DEMAND.
In Nashville, there are around 100,000 plus people at all times wanting to be involved in the music industry. The entire music industry, every writer, artist, musician, manager, agent, publisher, t-shirt maker, driver, studio owner, (you get the idea) employs around 4500 people. So jobs are VERY few and VERY IN DEMAND.
Around 600 people a week come here either to move, or making trips. That is offset by around 1200 people a week who move home lasting between six months and two years.
There around 50-65 bars, restaurants, entertainment venues that feature live music. For every one of those slots, around 1000-1500 people would want to play in there.
Writers nights, do dozens of shows a week with hundreds of writers. The downtown players, have been in those places for years, sometimes 10 years to get a steady job.
MTSU. Belmont, Vandy, Sound and technical colleges, graduate around 2000 people a quarter. That are thousands of more people trying to get into the pipeline.
Nashville is called a "TEN YEAR TOWN" for a reason. It takes that long not just to get your skill level up but to get the political contacts that will help lead you to the next levels.
Most people are simply not going to qualify for artists, writers. publishers, record jobs, because their abilities or their drive and ability to stay with it are simply not there. The average writer will never make more than $2000 in their lifetime.
And there are 30-60 million writers, artists, authors, etc. on the Internet with around a billion songs a month being uploaded.
So you have to have your eyes wide open when you try to do this.
So why Try? Because we are all driven to do it. And a town like Nashville, New York. Los Angeles, etc. put people in PROXIMITY to the industry, the labels, the publishers, the producers, the banking and infrastructure that gives people that opportunities to make their careers.
And even for those who make trips, build relationships, etc. and then go home, they LEARN more. They absorb things to do and not to do and take that back their HOME REGIONS, making them more valuable to their own areas. venues, audiences.
You can make money of course, when you can get people to PAY YOU FOR BEING YOU. When you can command crowds to come see YOU specifically. In some areas, like downtown, audiences are going to be there no matter who is onstage, so the performers are actually the ones benefiting from the venue more than the venue benefits from them. It all has to work together.
At places like THE BLUEBIRD, again, are going to sell out every show. But they are the best of the best, who have passed the auditions ore done their time to be able to perform.
And the venues have to have people who can bring in crowds. For every hour you spend ONSTAGE, you spend TEN hours promoting, networking and bringing people to your brand. The venues are doing multiple shows a week. So the artists have to do their part.
It's never fair. There are great people that just don't get seen and finally quit, out of frustration or life getting in the way. There are people who advance quickly and run up the ladder. And their are people who don't. Tough business. Not for the feint of heart.
These are the rules. No one has to come here. No one is being forced to come to this or any arena. They have to earn their way. Both on and off the field. Most careers are ended when people do things off the stage that comes back to haunt them. Got to realize you are in a fishbowl.
But it can be great, a lot of fun, and for some lucrative. But it is a continually changing market. Have to keep your eyes and ears open.
Good luck and try not to suck. And remember:
"You don't choose music, music chooses you."
Marc Alan Barnette