Another day, another gig, another catastrophic misspelling averted in the annals of rock history. A rare Sunday night outing for The Layers and, whilst it would have been nice to see a few more of our fans show up, we recognise the difficulties in checking out of a secure institution on an evening without visitors, laundry trucks or staff fire drills. Fear not, our next CD will contain a small file and a lock pick.
In spite of the restricted fan action (and we are indebted to Joe Bull, of the splendid Apache Rose studios, and friends for supplying the whooping) we had a splendid evening – not least due to the acts that joined us for the evening, The Veneer and Jamie Jamal & This Human Condition, who supplied two sets of brilliant, thoughtful, original music.
We had a small but appreciative audience and, if you’re a musician thinking of looking to gig, we can heartily commend the sound which was great on and off stage thanks to Brian, our Perth-born engineer.
Spoiler alert: no one got paid.
The issue of pay for musicians has come up again lately, partly due to this article by Jack Conte of Pomplamoose doing the rounds on social media. It’s worth a read and, if you can face it, so are the comments. There are indeed, two sides to every story.
We Layerses are lucky chaps; we have, at least for the time being, reasonably well-paid jobs that we don’t utterly hate and supportive families, all of which enable us to put time and money into something that we love. We make original music, we’re proud of what we do, we’re fortunate enough to find enough people who will pop along to occasional gigs and tell us that they appreciate us. Off the back of that support, we’ve been able to tour and record two albums. I suppose that you could say that we’re proof that you can still make music and not have to worry about making a living from it.
On the other hand, we have friends all over the world who are far better at it than we are. The difference, apart from having more than us in the way of talent, determination, youth and beauty, is that they work at it day and night. It’s their job and they treat it that way.
What I see in the articles about musicians getting paid is an argument about whether anyone has a ‘right’ to get paid for touring and my instant response is ‘no’. It’s art. You put it out there and risk it; if people like it, they can pay for it. I’d like to see a world where payment for any art is voluntary.
But we’re a long way from such a world and, whilst I have some common ground with some of Mr Comte’s detractors, I also sympathise with the plight of the working musician. It’s more of a struggle than it should be – especially if there is an element of art in it, if you’re making original music and trying to stay true to some sort of vision.
Because you’re up against an industry that is hell-bent on picking up performers with nothing but looks and ambition, using them to pump out a banal, vacuous product and marketing it so hard that your audience will be hard pressed to know who you are, then dropping them as soon as the figures start to drop in favour of the next half-naked starlet.
You’re up against a whole raft of advertisers, marketers, image consultants and statisticians who don’t give a crap about music, just money and fleeting notoriety.
You’re up against an audience who’ve been led to believe that image is as valuable as talent, originality and, dare I mention it, something worthwhile to say.
You’re up against people who think that £4.50 for a whipped-cream caramel macchiato that lasts for ten minutes is entirely reasonable but 0.79 for a piece of music that took months of writing, rehearsing, recording and mastering, that they can own forever, is too much.
We know that we won’t all get to sell out a tour, won’t all get to crowd surf, won’t all get to be deafened by an audience roaring for us. I don’t think that paying for your downloads, supporting up and coming artists or even just turning up and offering polite applause is too much to ask, though.