I’ve heard recently that recording artists have so much done to their recordings that it’s nearly impossible to know what they actually sound like live. They probably don’t know themselves what they sound like live. I don’t view this as a good thing.
Yet, sometimes you can find really wonderful music in your local neighborhood “joint”. Folks who really want to sing (or play) will find whatever place they can to do so. Often they aren’t paid, or given only a “tips” jar, but they sing anyway. I’ve heard really excellent music in places that are tiny, out of the way, and nearly invisible.
I admire the performers who are so dedicated they do whatever they can to get out and make music and share their gifts with the world. I feel sad to think they don’t get paid, but that is a reflection of so many aspects of our present culture and mentality, it can’t be addressed here. I also admire the places that allow performers to appear, at least giving them a venue and an audience but I also find myself angry that the owners can’t ante up any decent money for the artists.
Around the New York area we are blessed with an abundance of many people who are talented, well-trained and experienced. The quality of their music is high, sometimes very high. We get very spoiled. It isn’t just young “wannabee” performers who are out there, sometimes it’s older people, too.
Things being what they are, many talented people realize after a few years of “trying to get a break” that they can’t go on. They give up and get a “real job” or a “job job” in order to earn enough money to have a life. Many of them adjust and adapt to a life in an insurance agency, or a law firm, or an investment house, or in a restaurant behind the bar or as a manager, or of going into teaching, while understanding that choosing to work this way “ain’t so bad”. That doesn’t mean that they don’t miss the muse that lives in their soul who keeps saying, “Go find a place to perform! Go get a gig! Go find an audience who will listen to you!!” Sooner or later, if that voice is persistent enough, you will look for a place to sing, even if it’s for no money.
So, until and unless average people have some motivation to seek out music — good music — because they would rather hear someone who can actually stand up and sing without an army of technicians helping them make a decent sound, and until we have audiences who are always willing to pay for that privilege, we will be left with the situation we have now. Some of us have some really great folks to hear, but they are stuck with having to give away or almost give away what they have for the love of doing it, and this is, naturally, both a plus and a minus.
Sometimes the folks who are deemed “small time” by the profession are the ones that have the goods “big time” when it comes to performing. Sometimes the music is as good as you would ever hope to hear. If you have a venue near you that brings singers or musicians in to perform, support those places and encourage them to PAY those performers (not just via a tip jar). It’s the least you can do.
And, if you are a performer, go ahead and play wherever you can and don’t worry if it doesn’t seem like it’s a place you had dreamed about. You never know who might show up in the audience, even if it’s a hole in the wall place, and you never know who will talk about you the next day or the next week. If you can keep your heart open and sing for the love of it, you will energize yourself and open unseen doors. Thinking big is the first step to becoming big. Don’t forget.