I just hate watching the excruciating singing competitions that mainstream television has been shoving down our throats and hearing the insensitive panel of -sometimes- experts lecture the contestants about “passion”.

 

Passion.  What is it exactly?  A feeling of unconditional love for the arts?  Nah. for musicians, passion is the audience’s expectation of your heart and soul, and that is something they will want from you every time you perform, might it be on the stage of American Idol or at the crappy venue down the street … and they’ll generally want it for free.

 

We’re the only trade in our western society that’s expected to give it all for little but a couple of heart-felt accolades at the end of the night.  Surely we don’t need to be paid for what we do, given that we get to express our …passion?

 

Basically it works like this: slave behind a desk, hate your job, do something mundane everyday = get paid.

 

Love what you do, share and make people happy = starve.

 

It doesn’t end there either.  Take your family for instance.  When they (if ever) show up at your gig don’t they glow with pride and shower you with compliments like you’ve just won a gold medal at the Paralympics Games?  Sure they do!  There you are, poor-you-who-haven’t-made-it, showing them passion, despite your tragic handicap: a poverty-level income.  Don’t worry, they won’t hurt your pride by offering to help – after all, it was your choice to become a musician.

 

(oh, by the way, this is when passion doesn’t come into account … I mean sure, you can be passionate about it, but did you really have to pick it as a career?)

 

You’ve got to appreciate the majestic scale of double standards here; be passionate, but not so much that you’d feel deserving of getting paid.

 

Last year I was playing a residency gig in London at a’ mid-scale jazz lounge when the owner of the place came to me one night, during my break, and proceeded to blame me for the fact that two tables had left before the end of the night.

 

I have to admit that I was rather ticked off by his accusation because I was in my tenth month of residency at his venue and the feedback had been consistently positive.  When I kindly protested that I might not be the reason why these people left after dinner (huh, maybe they had a place to go?), he sharply replied that he thought my performance hadn’t been passionate enough. 

 

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Ooh, THAT’s what it was! The guy paid me $80 for a 3-hour set but clearly I was expected to spit fire and do back flips if I happened to spot early departers!  Delivering a solid set of music that kept the place packed and happy wasn’t enough but the crumbs he paid me were.

 

There are also the times when you could potentially be accused of having too much passion.

 

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Take the example of gigs where the sound guy can’t be bothered checking sound beforehand.  You get off stage really frustrated and you’re told to chill out (duuuude, don’t take it personal, it’s just a gig!).  Some sound guys really dislike a heartfelt performance. It means you’re doing what you love while they’re stuck behind the board practicing low-grade engineering.

 

Passion might make people happy but it also triggers envy.  Furthermore, I believe it makes people want to punish you for it.  The worst part is that we take it.  Our society manages to make us feel guilty for choosing a path that was traced for us: for following our heart, for being passionate beings. 

 

Keeping us poor is a very clever way to keep us under-confident and vulnerable to self-demeaning behaviors such as playing all night for no money, letting sound guys abuse us, or bending over for an abusive panel in a dumb talent competition.

 

I believe that we musicians and singers have to start valuing our trade as carpenters do.  They wouldn’t build a free cabinet if their life depended on it. I think it’s time we do the same. We need to put our foot down and respect each other and ourselves. We need a musician pride parade!

 

 

– eVe