Weekly Update 4 (Dec 2021)


Okay, they’re not really polyamorous. I know, I checked.

It’s been a wet week here in Victoria, so wherever you are, I hope you’ve managed to stay dry and safe.

I seem to be on about two gigs a week at the moment, which is okay, but there’s room for that to obviously build up.

The Mood Merchants enquiries have started coming in again – I’ve had a few this week – but it does take a while for those to come to fruition, and to fiill the diary with those gigs again.

This week I’ve been doing freelance work again, and that’s totally great, but it will be good to get a few more Mood Merchants gigs in the book. It does take a bit of patience, I’ve learned over the years. You can feel as if nothing is happening, and then all of a sudden one day you’ll get four enquiries and you’ll feel like you’re off again, so I’m just being patient and waiting for that time to arrive and doing what I can in the background in the meantime.

My two gigs this week were with a company called Random Acts, run by a bass player called Robert Severini, and he puts on these costume roving gigs. So in this case we were the Christmas elves down in Aspendale Gardens, wandering around with Santa, and then up in Broadmeadows and in Sunbury with the nutcrackers. So these gigs are good fun. I’ll put a link down in the description if you’d like to check that out further.

I got some more work done on the website this week, so I’m hoping to roll out those changes maybe next week. I do have to choose my moment when I’ve got time to work on it and get it all fully operational again without too much downtime, so I’m thinking that could be next week, so I’m hoping to be able to share some of those changes without you next time we check in.

I have been hitting the practice pretty hard this week, and also doing some recording and a bit of multitrack video stuff that I’m working on for a future project, so I hope to be able to share a bit of that a bit later on.

And Mel and I did take advantage of fantastic weather on Sunday. We headed down to Anglesea with the dogs and had a really beautiful day down there, so that was fantastic.

So this video has a bit of a freelance theme, and the music today comes from a couple of weeks ago when I went down to Portarlington to play with Spider Jazz, which is a group run by Peter Hooper, and again I’ll put a link down below if you want to check out his website and see what they’re all about.

So I’m going to get back onto the polyamory now, and I’m going to try and tackle another slightly awkward which musicians get asked quite a lot of the time, and it’s awkward from the point of view of the musicians. It’s not an unreasonable question for people to ask, but it can leave musicians sort of shuffling awkwardly and not quite knowing how to answer it, and this is a really common one that we get asked all the time.

And these questions are pretty simple. They go along the lines of “So are you guys in a band?” or “Where are you guys from?” or “Have you guys been playing together for a long time?”

So you might be thinking to yourself, well, what’s awkward about that, and it’s fair to say that musicians, myself included, quite often make things more awkward than they need to be. But those questions have an assumption within them, which is totally reasonable for anyone to have, about bands about the way that they work. But it doesn’t actually reflect the reality of how things work in our part of the music business.

If we think about the idea of a band in the popular imagination, you could probably imagine that they might be a bunch of people who perhaps live near to each other, and who met up somehow or other through a common love of a particular kind of music, and maybe they started meeting together in the living room and playing some music, and eventually that became a band which goes out and plays for gigs.

So when people ask “Where are you guys from?”, they’re thinking, well okay, where did you meet, where did you start that interaction that started this group actually happening.

Because after all, how else would you have met up and started playing together? How is it that you’re able to come together and rehearse and make the music sound good? Of course, you must live somewhere close to each other.

But here’s the thing: If you’re coming and speaking to my trio on any given day, it’s not unlikely that you’ll have one member from Geelong, and another member from Daylesford, and perhaps another member from Ascot Vale. So they might be hundreds of kilometres apart, in some instances, and not from the same place at all. And so it would be much easier if we could just respond okay, well, we’re a band from Brunswick. But we’re not. We’re sort of geographically dispersed, but it’s also more than that.

So if you go and chat to any jazz band you see playing around Melbourne, then it’s fairly unlikely that the people you’re chatting to are a band in the way that you might imagine a band might be.

What there probably is, is a bandleader, somebody like myself, who has the concept and who does the work to get the gigs, and perhaps does musical arranging or repertoire choice and all those sorts of things, and then books other players to come in and play with them to do that gig. And we tend to use the same players a lot, when we can get them, but because all of those players are freelancers, they’re not always available to do the gig that I want them to do, and so I’ll then need to go and find somebody else to do it, and I will start out with certain players in mind for a certain gig, and it’s not the same for all gigs, because different people suit different situations, and then if I can’t get my first choice then I’ll go down to the second choice and so forth, and work my way through until I have a really good trio, say, that I think is going to be great for that gig, and they’re all booked in and ready to go.

So when people come and ask “How long have you guys been playing together?” the right answer might be “Just this gig”. There is an old joke where musicians will look at their watches and say “What time is it now, how long have we been playing together?” I don’t endorse those jokes, but I can understand why it’s sort of an awkward question to be asked in that situation. What’s the right answer?

(There’s only one right answer to this question, by the way. Thirty years.)

So what’s polyamorous about that? Well, bands are not exclusive. When you go and see a band playing, what you’re really seeing is a bandleader with whatever musicians that bandleader has booked to play with them that day. And if you go to see the same band with the same name next week, you may see a slightly different group of musicians. Further to that, you may go and see another band with a completely different name, and a completely different bandleader, but with exactly the same personnel in it, sometimes playing the same music. So a band is not a band in the way that we tend to think of a band being a band, at least not within Melbourne within this particular community of musicians.

Now obviously there are exceptions to this rule. There are bands here in Melbourne within the jazz community who do have a really consistent membership, and they do go to someone’s house and rehearse, and put together really special music that they couldn’t do if they were just freelancers rolling up on the day. And I think there’s something really special about that. But I think even those bands, the players within them generally speaking, go and do other gigs with other people too. There’s not any bands that I’m aware of (happy to be corrected) which are able to offer a living to all the players within them in a really exclusive way, so that you’re committed to just that band and you won’t do any other work with other people.

You won’t be surprised to learn that I have lots of thoughts about the freelance model, good and bad, but I’m going to save a more deep dive into that for some future video.

Thanks heaps for watching, if you’ve made it this far. It’s been really exciting to see a views coming into these videos, so I’m going to keep making them and I hope you’re going to keep watching them. I hope to see you next week.

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