In the past, we independent professional musicians have been "piggybacking" on restaurants, bars, clubs, bar mitzvahs, weddings, Pizza Parlors, Christmas Parties, New Year’s parties, Churches.... (you get the idea). Every single one of those venues require us to adjust our music to fit the venue, the occasion and/or their agenda. This is a good exercise in learning and gaining experience and paying bills but it doesn't cultivate individuality, art, original music or unique musical concepts. In fact, it often fervently discourages it!
I remember a gig back in the late 70’s. My friends and relatives had a “Cover Band” (back then cover bands were called “Top 40 Bands”). We were based out of Springfield, Illinois. It was a new band with a bold idea to use the vibraphone for the keyboard parts. We had connections with an agent from previous bands playing similar venues so we convinced him that this band was ready for the road. The first gig was in Colorado for two weeks. It was supposed to be 6 nights per week for two weeks and then on to the next gig that the agent would reveal to us after this one. Our 6 nights in Colorado turned into two songs, 1 night and the Gong Show’s gong sounded loud and clear!
Pointing at my vibraphone after the first couple songs, the owner of the club asked, “What’s that thing”. I explained that it was a vibraphone and I'd be playing it in place of keyboard. He said, “I don’t like it and if you play it again, you’re fired”.
Granted I really did suck but not THAT bad. So me being me, I called the next tune and I think it was bebop or standard just to meant to get in his face. He fired us that minute. We kind of laughed it off but we didn’t have enough money for gas to get back to Illinois or a place to stay.
Fortunately, a nice man in the small town about 25 miles or so away was in the audience and liked us. He offered us enough money to get back to Illinois if we’d play in his little bar. He said he’d also put us up at his farm for free since we didn’t have a place to stay. The fee was way lower than our contract was for the original gig but we all needed the money badly – so we took the gig. We drove to his farm late that night. When we put our stuff in the bedrooms, we found all the beds were completely infested with bedbugs. We re-assessed our options, and decided that the recently plowed corn field looked comfortable and decided to get “Drunk And Dirty” and sleep in the corn field.
It is very difficult for local musicians trying to develop music of their own to make money to cultivate their craft into an art. So usually, out of commitment, dedication and honor, they often take on many, less dignified, options to keep playing and pay their bills. They were lucky to have the opportunity to "Piggyback" onto other, more tangible, more successful businesses and be paid very scanty portion of the profit. The gig never include any perks that a normal, minimum wage job does such as sick days, vacation pay, health care assistance or any of the perks or respect of a living wage. However it does require musicians to put in their many unpaid hours in the practice room and learning multiple other occupations ranging from management, marketing, business, recording engineer, videography and a multitude of other things thrown in. In addition, all those things cost a fortune in equipment, lessons, education, website, marketing, vehicle, gas, parking etc. It’s incredibly expensive. In addition to the monetary cost, music and art require an amount of energy that is off the charts.
Where does that energy come from? Creative Energy is used up when it’s exposed to negative energy aimed at their art. Negative Energy like this can come in the form of a family member discounting their determination and sacrifice; an audience member talking loudly over the music inappropriately. Creative Energy is abundant and almost perpetually rejuvenated and replenished when the artist’s hard work is admired, respected, enjoyed and supported by patrons and family. It becomes meaningless and without purpose when their world does not support it.
Without opportunity, the artist delves into self-loathing and their creative energy is zapped from their soul as if to short out the electricity.
Artists are the bravest and most diligent humans on the planet. They are at the peak of human drive for excellence. Without artists, the bar is not raised but instead remains grounded.
Some people ask, “why should I support an artist I’ve never heard or listen to? It’s not my type of music.”
If you listen to music performed by any artists, you hear little spiritual bits and pieces of the local artist that those musicians played with when they were not famous and were still learning. Would those wonderfully successful and famous artists have become what they are if they didn’t have the influence, opportunity, experience and support of the local artists they grew up with? Everyone came from somewhere but not everyone goes to the same, monetary positions in life. They all have different trajectories influenced by different obstacles, different opportunities, different health, different life different priorities. But, they were there, and they all were a piece of the puzzle that help support the bar.
The Beatles learned from local musicians and then took it to different places. I believe they were so successful mostly from their incredible talent, innocent virgin knowledge and relationship to music and CREATIVE ENERGY that perpetuated when their music became loved. The Beatles and every musician learned from local musicians at some point in their career. When may have grown beyond their cronies as a result of lucky breaks, better Creative Energy Support, or more talent and took what they learned to a different place and perhaps became famous, or created something really special that multitudes of people love and support. But all the local guys were part of their support beams in the beginning.
The support beams (local artists) have only the support of their community. Without it, the Creative Energy dwindles into nothingness and there is no bar to raise. Fewer and less greatness will arise.
I’ve been looking for better options for piggybacking for decades. My most recent idea is to piggyback onto myself. I think it’s a way of looking at our unique times and challenges and treating them as a unique opportunity to finally find that new way, reason and purpose for supporting artists who are not famous.
The PIPERvibe Good Vibes Program is a tangible means of gaining support for music using modern opportunities of the Internet. The funny thing is that “Good Vibes” are NOT tangible at all. They, like music are a feeling. BUT, they gain monetary, spiritual, and Creative Energy support through donations from music lovers who understand the importance and have big hearts.
Music is now free for all listeners. I don’t pay for it. I listen through the commercials on Spotify and anxiously count the down “3,2,1, SKIP ADS” on YouTube. I can listen to anything I want and it's FREE.
However, on the flip side of that coin, I’m spending a fortuning trying to make music.
The money raised from Good Vibes sales helps me help others, help everyone.
The current Good Vibes program has collected enough donations to pay for my gas to drive up and back to pick up the donated M55 vibraphone 1,000 miles away that will be upgraded, repaired, improved, and given to a worthy student in need. More money will have to be raised to make those additions but for now, we can retrieve the instrument.
I've booked four great gigs along the path. Since the gas is already paid for by generous donations by Steve Weiss Music, Alan Zimmerman and Ben Thomas venues along the path of travel can pay me whatever they can afford. I will play for anyone who wants to hear me play and these venues are all about that. The performance for good people helps supply Creative Energy for me for the next challenges. I'd rather play for 1.00 than not play for nothing.
This blog was created 5/26/22 and will probably be updated/edited often.