Thursday, May 24, 2012

Venues and door splits

In this month's Jazzwise, Stuart Nicholson has a go at venues who do door splits with the musicians. As ever in such matters, "Up to a point, Lord Copper!"
He makes the implicit assumption that venues who give a share of the door give amounts to musicians which are lower than they would get from fixed fees. Fixed fees are not necessarily higher. If they are then the shortfall in income has to be met somehow.
Of course, I am sitting and involved with a venue that probably does door splits for 60% + of the gigs.
1) If we didn't then the Vortex probably wouldn't be here today. So this is a way that the venue can balance better its costs against its income.
2) It is not always the case that musicians do worse from fixed fees than door splits. I have heard of several cases where musicians do better from getting a good crowd through the door at the Vortex than doing gigs in the foyer of the South Bank or larger venues. Certainly many feel that their fees from many of the smaller venues around the country hardly support their travel and subsistence costs.
If musicians earn low fees from a door split, it's because the audiences are small. Nowadays it has certainly become more and more of a joint promotion between musicians and venues. It's a partnership. I don't really know of many promoters  who work against musicians such as if similar to Harvey Goldsmith, especially who are running jazz venues.
3) It assumes that venues are exploiting musicians. Well, some may think so, but the Vortex isn't exactly full with staff and others who have made millionaires from jazz.
4) Door splits stifle adventurous music. Look at the Vortex's programme this week, for example. Sol6, Mary Halvorson, Evan Parker, Peter Evans, Julian Arguelles. I think this proves that fixed fees don't necessarily help musicians make imaginative music.
Most clubs pay what they can because they are starved of public funding. Stuart's article makes out that they are flush and holding back. If he was to argue that more funding is required to keep this sector going, then I'd agree. It's been a major point made to me by many touring musicians that the number of gigs between festivals at weekends are declining. Clubs and similar are a threatened species. Only heap extra costs on them by giving them adequate support.
Musicians are realists. They perform where they do out of choice/need. As long as the deal with them is transparent, then musicians can make their choices. Reading the interviews with the likes of Mike Westbrook and Evan Parker in Ian Carr's "Music Outside", one realises that, as the musicians decided to make the music that they do by their own choice, they had to work out how to survive.

No comments: