It’s the philosophical conundrum that has stymied man throughout the ages.
If a tree falls in the forest and no one’s there to hear it, does it make a sound?
By extension, if a band plays to no audience, or has no place to ply their craft, do they make music?
This is a roundabout way of stating that the number of places for musicians to play out has been drying up left and right.
This not very pleasant phenomenon has had local practitioners scrambling just to cobble together a gig here and there.
In a word, it has been pretty brutal out there.
More and more clubs have shuttered their doors, drastically scaled back or cut music out altogether.
And it isn’t genre specific.
From jazz to blues to rock & roll, the places with stages that will pay musicians has been steadily dwindling.
No amount of arm-twisting, cajoling, begging or pleading seems to be enough.
As someone who is charged with trying to nail down gigs for The Generation Gap, know that it is downright disheartening at times.
Even when your band lands a gig, has a nice crowd that eats and drinks and tips the staff, there is no guarantee of a return engagement.
It’s as if you have to prove your worth over and over.
The canary in the coal mine in the jazz genre was the closing of The Grove in Elm Grove a few years ago.
In just the last 13 months, the following places have vanished from the live music scene:
Rocco’s, Tusa, Anthony’s, Venice Club, The Red Mill, Via Downer, 88 Keys and Rooters are no more.
In the last week, Sheer Lounge decided to stop having music.
Deejays and Karaoke have been a cheaper alternative for some places.
Let me say that I have nothing against either form of entertainment.
I made a good living as a club and wedding deejay for some 25 years.
I have gone to and had fun at karaoke nights in places.
There is room for people playing live also, however.
The fear of lawsuits from the ACSCAP and BMI folks have also had clubs going in a different direction.
There is money to be made.
Some of the best nights the aforementioned places had was when they had bands.
It’s not as if these highly-skilled pros are hitting the lottery with every gig.
To put this in perspective, a five-piece combo often plays a three hour-plus job for similar money that a deejay was paid…30 years ago.
It isn’t easy.
And it isn’t getting any easier.
Musicians love to play music.
They would probably play for free, they love it so.
By the time you figure in travel time, wear and tear on your vehicle, set up time and packing up afterwards…it isn’t a ton of money.
It would be nice if they could gas up their cars, have a pizza and pay their Netflix bill.
Well, a fella can dream, can’t he?