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December 2023
Vol. 23, No. 3

Ask Charlie...

A Controversy …Already?

by Charlie LoachMarch 2012

Hello Troubadourians! I received the following email the other day and I wasn’t sure if I should respond or not. Check it out…

    Thank you for this forum. I was a professional musician years back and I know there are a lot of people asking something for nothing from musicians. Well, now unfortunately I’m one of those people… I am sincerely trying to grow a huge club in North County (it can hold 2,000 people). The club has an awesome sound system, and for now, I have been using a DJ on Country Night just to cut expenses. I really want to have live country music but can’t afford the quality or caliber of talent that I want in the venue. Can you or the Troubadour suggest or help me to create a great country music spot in North County by helping me find musicians and bands that are willing to work for a piece of the door and partner with me until this Country Night gets off the ground? Maybe we could call it Troubadour Night? I’m new to this publication so forgive me if there is something like this out there already, but I would appreciate any help you could give. Email response to  PS. Please forward this question if you feel there is someone else with Troubadour that could help. Thank you.

This topic is somewhat outside of the scope I originally set for this column but I do think that it is sufficient to merit discussion in this forum since the intent of the column is to address the needs of performing musicians. I can’t think of many things that are more important to performing musicians than places to perform, so I’ve decided to address this

I promised that in this column I would remain objective and deal primarily with facts. In this case, the “facts” can be few in number and the only “facts” that I know and that I doubt anyone would dispute are these: performing musicians need places where they can perform and get paid for doing so, and club owners need to make money so that they can keep their businesses open. Beyond that, most everything else becomes a matter of subjective opinion. So I’m going to offer my subjective opinion to “Rick” in a manner that I hope will be constructive if perhaps not as informative as he might have expected…

Dear Rick,
    Thank you for your email. I’m probably not the best person to contact for specific advice on booking performers for your club. I would, however, offer the following, which I believe applies to all club owners who want to build their business and offer top-notch entertainment in their establishments. Very simply, you need to foster relationships with bands and performers that are beneficial to their needs as well as yours. A club owner wanting to feature entertainment in their establishment needs performers as much as performers need a venue in which to perform. Both parties want to make money and each has what the other needs to achieve that end. So it should be a symbiotic relationship, yes? Well, often it’s not. It has been my experience that the relationship is more predatory than symbiotic and both sides can share the blame. What I’m suggesting is that you determine an approach to booking performers that would appeal to you if you were a performer and then reach out to the bands that you’d like to have at your club. Research the local performers and find out what they’re doing, and then tell them what you can do for them if they play at your venue. Consider it like a “reverse audition” where you’re auditioning for the performers. I think you’d be surprised at the level of positive response you’d receive even from the performers whom you think you “can’t afford” at present.

That’s the email response I sent to “Rick.” But, of course, there’s more to this discussion…

I was recently asked about this column and what sort of response I was getting from it. At the time, the first column had just been published so I replied, “It’s too early to tell…” Someone then quipped, “Just write something controversial. That’ll get a response.” Yeah, it probably would. While the intent is to inform, educate, and entertain the readers of the Troubadour — especially performing musicians — I would be remiss in my efforts if I avoided controversy just “because.” It is with that consideration that I offer the following anecdote.

In 1957, my uncle was playing guitar in San Diego clubs. He was paid $50 a night. That was good money then. Good enough that you could actually buy a house and support a family on that income alone. So, what about 2011? Well, as crazy as it seems, it’s still $50. It’s difficult to say for sure why the amount that San Diego’s performing musicians has remained unchanged for over 50 years, but there are plenty of opinions from plenty of people that “somebody” should do “something” about it.

Perhaps, the answer is to forget about assigning blame and instead, assume responsibility for our music careers. Yes, that “something” is to work for our music like it matters (it does, doesn’t it?) and that “somebody” is us. Is it too “controversial” to expect club owners and performing musicians to work “with” each other rather than “against” each other? Maybe it is. I hope not, but I’m willing to put it out there because I know that there are club owners who are willing to work with even the most jaded of performing musicians (my friend Lou Brazier at Lestat’s is one that comes to mind) and I know that there are performers who have enough business-savvy to earn the respect of even the most cynical of club owners. Perhaps you, yes you my friends, are among the latter. It can’t hurt you to acknowledge that music, while a treasured art form, is likewise a business — whenever you expect to be paid for performing your music.
Oh, and as for “Rick,” well, he responded to my email with this: “Thank you, I will try it … and get back to you.”

Okay, “Rick,” we’re watching now. Let’s see what you come up with…

Need to know? Just ask… Charlie (

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