As a musician who spent over 10 years in LA I got very used to being mistreated by music venues. Most of the bad deals offered by the clubs and venues in LA county have been chronicled in previous blog posts. The nefarious practices of “pay to play” and “advance ticket sale” deals are among the worst and as a songwriter who plays mostly original music I’ve been subjected to the most degrading and financially disastrous music business deals of all time.
So now that I am living on the road and performing night after night in venues all across the country (far far away from LA county) I am consistently shocked when venues offer a few hundred dollars in exchange for booking my act. I feel a bit like a domestic violence victim whose first instinct is to flinch when someone leans in, arms outstretched to give a hug.
As a result of getting paid (not a grand fortune mind you) in addition to selling the odd CD here and there, I find myself for the first time in many years making steady money from my live performances. It’s not yet covering all the expenses of touring, but every little bit helps me get from gig to gig and every so often I get a blessed email notification that someone has donated via paypal to my tour. My current tour is donation based and whatever people donate goes direct to offset the tour costs (food/gas$$) and whatever folks donate to my tour, I in turn donate a portion of those donated funds to the charity of my choosing (a different charity for each leg of the tour). I’m sending a portion of donations from this leg of my tour to charitable health organizations that are working feverishly to contain the frightening Ebola virus in West Africa.
All of these fiscal streams really help but more often than not the expenses outweigh the amount that I receive and the lack of funds have occasionally stopped this tour dead in its tracks. Each time I run low on expenses I am forced to take a day job or a seasonal gig wherever I happen to be on my journey. For example last Nov/Dec I joined the crew at the Dickens Christmas Fair in San Francisco in order raise $ for the tour. As I write this I’m employed as a wine bottler at a winery in Branson Missouri. I have 4 weeks of employment left at the winery and then I hit the road heading back to LA.
I’m looking forward to returning to LA however I currently have no place to stay and I also had to give up the music studio I was renting in order to afford to be able to tour. I will very likely only be in the South land for a few days to visit dear friends (and perhaps play a show) before I jet off to San Francisco to re-join the Dickens Fair crew for another season of work.
I do not mind the life of a vagabond, and I am thankfully well suited to the itinerant musician lifestyle. It is my goal to eventually (hopefully sooner rather than later) be able to make enough money from my shows/Cd sales/digital downloads / tour donations to not have to take on any other side work. If I can build upon the contacts and paid gigs that I have already done, I might be able to parlay them into more and more shows year after year which would keep me on the road until further notice, but at least I can now more or less survive on the gigs that pay which is more than I can say for my entire gigging experience in LA.
I’ve 6 more shows in the Ozarks before I hit the road back to California. It’s been a grand adventure so far and I am looking forward to what is in store for the rest of 2014.