02/24/2012 03:43 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

(Un)Fair Pay for Local Musicians

I play in a band comprised of super talented musicians from out of the much maligned D.C. Go-Go Music scene. My band's name is called GODIHSEUS -- pronounced Gotta-See-Us. I came with the name over a decade ago while working at my desk in Arlington County Government dealing with the frustration of being a noted one of D.C.'s top performing and producing artists, working to achieve sustainability as such, struggling to make a successful career change from the civil engineering profession to music industry.

Much has changed with regard to dynamics of how local professional musicians are viewed by venues and promoters that employ them to entertain music patrons in the last ten years. No longer are bands rated by their proficiency and skill as musicians and composers to determine our value to be employed, but instead a practice called "polling" has taken substantial root. Polling is a practice where venues and promoters itemize concert-goers according to who they came to see in order to determine how bands are paid for our labors at the end of concert night. It has nothing to do with the actual job performance of show-rocking. Polling around the country has created a frenzy of unhealthy competition between bands to beat the streets as promoters for the venues we play in, instead of the very healthy competition of actually working on one's artistic craft to establish and maintain viability as an artists worth being promoted by venues and promoters to actually go see. In effect, bands now have two jobs: that as live entertainers AND promoters for the places we play. The crime in all this is that we are not being paid fairly for neither.

GODISHEUS just this week was awarded the distinction of being the Best Hip-Hop Group/Duo by the Washington Area Music Association, "an umbrella organization of Washington area musicians, concert promoters, lawyers, recording engineers, managers, graphic artists, and related businesses working together to address areas of common concern." This is the second year in a row that GODISHEUS has received the award and I would be remiss to not point out the fact that we were not booked once by a single major venue in the D.C. Metropolitan Area all of last year even with this honor. In fact, the majority of the gigs we've played in our four years of existence were self produced.

Below is the GODISHEUS response to national booking agency inquiring about booking us, that claims to be made up of musicians who understand the difficulties other musicians face in cities and towns across America working to receive a fair wage for our labor on show night at venues. I have omitted the name of the agency. My point is to reveal to local live music lovers what we and the majority of local music professionals have to deal with on a daily basis to survive in the industry.

Peace brother _____.

Thanks again for responding. After consulting GODISHEUS band members and other locally based industry professionals (management and booking) I am sad to say that we will have to pass on booking with ______.

We seem to have a fundamental difference in philosophy on what professional musicians are responsible for when it comes to getting booked and playing shows. The pressure, stipulations, and low pay ______ employs is counterproductive to our effort as musicians working to enjoy a sustainable living as professional entertainers of concert goers. We are not hobbyists. We are full-time well-traveled and well-heeled musicals with over 100 years combined experience creating, recording, and performing. The prospect of bringing home about $100, based on the formula proposed, on the night being offered in no way compensates for the work we will do on stage, not to mention the work of petitioning our fans to fulfill a ticket sales quota that, again, only pays us about $100 -- and that's split between five grown men with families. At $20/piece, that's barely even gas money to get to the venue and back and therefore is simply not doable for us.

I personally have published national articles on the way the dynamic has changed regarding how bands are viewed by venues. There has been an egregious devaluing in the criteria that determines what a band is worth nationwide. Venues and promoters are using the labor of rtists to do the promotions work THEY are responsible for. A musician's responsibility is to play at a high level and wow the crowds gathered at any venue. Venues responsibility are to advertise to the public that they have the space and infrastructure to produce high quality entertaining events that feature the best performers, and then go out to assess the local band roster to find the best live performance acts. Furthermore, if musicians are doing the work of two jobs, performing and promoting a show night, then they should get paid for both jobs. What's being offered is a fraction of the compensation for the many hours it takes to promote a show, not to mention in what it takes for musicians to artistically get ready for a show.

Even though we are not able to accept the gig being offered, GODISHEUS still is hopeful to work with _____ on the shows it produces that are more suited for where we are in the profession. We are looking to rock well-promoted shows with known high-level bands that will net a decent wage for all participating. Please keep us in mind and I hope to hear from you soon!

Vance "Head-Roc" Levy