Friends, lovers, haters, family, movers and shakers, how are you doing? When you like to speak your mind about our scene and music in general and the Coincidence crew gives you a page in their online magazine…I call that an offer I cannot refuse. There’s so much happening in good old Belgium when it comes to music and nightlife that it is pretty hard to pick a subject. So-called liberal mayors threatening to close a nightclub because one unlucky fellow kicked the bucket, our ‘national music awards’ being hijacked by someone catering to the young, old and uninformed (sorry Niels, nothing personal, but if you are the main artist in the popular music scene I am losing faith in humanity as a whole), ghost producers taking over (who, what, where & which tracks?!) or the ongoing mediocrity called tech house, etc.
So it looks as if this column might be in it for the long run! But let’s put the pedal to the metal and move on to something far more worrying: money. Hang on, I hear some shouts already: “music and underground is not about the money!”. Well, I hate to burst that rosy bubble, it is always about the money. The nuance here – there should always be nuance – is that it is not about getting rich, it is about getting by in a decent way so you can focus on what matters: the art and the music. If you want to do something properly and get better at what you are doing you need to invest time. And what is time according to the old phrase? Right!
Why am I bringing this up? Well, because the longer I am galloping around in this thing called music, the more it seems professional life is harder for 99% of music people around me. Selling/buying music is fast becoming a thing of the past (or do you really believe streaming will come to the financial rescue?), clubs are having a hard time getting packed for a normal entrance fee, which reflects on the artist fees and festivals are paying quite simply ridiculous amounts to the 100 happy few, leaving only chump change for the local names. The fact that every single big festival wants the exact same 5 big names all the time does not really help either, but that is a different discussion. The point I am trying to make is that promoters, clubs, festivals and also the visitors expect all artists to be on point, surprising, unique, friendly, …and also promote the heck out of any event where they are playing, because you do have thousands of followers on your socials now do you? All this is expected…of hobbyists. Because if you are paying DJ fees for locals anywhere between nought and 300 euro (invoice please!) the best those DJ’s/musicians can do is take music as a hobby. “Oh, but when we book you that’s promotion for you and then you get other gigs” is the main argument…that you get from every other promoter as well. Need some mathematics? DJ/artists is booked 6 times a month (which is already pretty rare for most) at an average of 250 euro gross. At the end of the month that makes for 1500 euro BEFORE taxes, expenses (buying music to support other artists remember?) and cost of living. I have seen unions go on strike for far less.
Should every artist be a professional artist? Not at all, but if we want our scene to thrive with quality we need people that can devote 100% of their time to their art or craft. And for that, they need to be paid properly. So festivals, instead of 30K for some overhyped RA name: why not book 3 international names for 3K each and spend the rest on decent fees for your overlooked but very motivated locals and throw in some well-known Belgian names as well? Dancers, try not to look like your cat just died when a club asks for 20 euro entrance for a solid line-up. And clubs, give those local DJ’s and crews a real home and enough set time so they can practice what you preach and become the crowd’s favourites in the future. And to all you motivated DJ’s/producers/artists in ANY genre: keep your head up and do not settle for 4 drink tickets and a packet of crisps, just stay home and focus on your music and art and wait for a decent spot and place to hone you skills. All good things do come to those who work hard…and fair. Because in the end anyone who has been to Lunch Garden before should know: you get what you paid for.