What’s better? A $5 cover when you walk in, or a jar with a “suggested donation” sign?
Before you answer (and please, do answer!), think about this: Anymore, it’s crazy challenging to cobble together a decent living playing music. Which means it’s almost impossible to keep a band (playing any type of original music) together. Which means it’s difficult to develop a cohesive sound, let alone new ideas or new music. And on and on, into a vicious spiral that ends in some karaoke bar where crimes against music happen nightly, at no additional charge. We’ll always have “I Will Survive.”
This situation is doubly challenging in jazz or instrumental music. Some of Philadelphia’s best jam sessions are free; some of the least interesting musically require listeners and players to pay. What’s the best way to make sure that the members of a house band, people who play for four hours with just a few breaks, leave a club with at least gas money? Musician pay has been depressed for so long, many clubgoers probably don’t realize that the music accompanying their $15 appletinis is being made by people who are not getting paid.
As I’ve talked with the Milkboy Philly crew about the session that’ll start on September 27 in the tremendous new Milkboy second-floor space at the corner of 11th and Chestnut Streets, these questions keep recurring. There may be no easy resolution. Our goal is to develop a following for an evening of music that’s a bit different from what’s going on right now. That will take time. And it costs money. How to make it work?