The 6-day Grind

We work an average of 30 hours a week (4*6 + extra 2 for most bands on the weekend = 24 + avg 6 hours rehearsal). This is excluding personal practice time, but also excluding time when we aren’t learning any songs or rehearsing. It also doesn’t include all the breaks between sets which can often be long and you’re stuck in a bar, either enjoying it, or trying not to breathe in smoke or drink or talk too loud. Most of those hours are generally pretty solid work, physically and mentally taxing and there. But on average: 30hrs. WHAT-A-LIFE AY!?

The prescribed work week is 40 hours. A 5-day week with 8 hours a day, and that includes their hour lunch break (so therefore our 15 minute breaks count). If it works like that then I don’t know how many hours you could give to brunch days: 1pm until 3am: that’s 14 hours if you include your massive break where you try nap. This isn’t to moan about how much we work. We work amazing jobs where we get to do what we love, and it’s way less work and way better than sitting in an office for 8-10 hours a day. However, I’m starting to think that the 6-day(well 6 night?) week, however short the hours, may impact the lives of musicians on the road quite severely. So let’s start with something:

Where the F did the 5-day work week come from? I found this article: http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/08/where-the-five-day-workweek-came-from/378870/ (worth a read) which described it very well.

Even in pre-christ, from Babylonian times- the 7 day week existed, despite no natural factors to justify it. The moon cycle explains the month, and the sun cycle explains the year, yet man decided 7 days was the week. It seemed 6 days was the maximum work one could take before needing a day to oneself. Scripture described it as the 7th day of rest

Ok so when did we lob off that extra half day of work and commit to a full 2 days off? According to the article: We first lobbed off an extra half day.

STEP ONE: ‘Saint Monday’

Some 19th-century Britons used the week’s seventh day for merriment rather than for the rest prescribed by scripture. They would drink, gamble, and enjoy themselves so much that the phenomenon of “Saint Monday,” in which workers would skip work to recover from Sunday’s gallivanting, emerged. English factory owners later compromised with workers by giving them a half-day on Saturday in exchange for guaranteed attendance at work on Monday.

STEP TWO: Thank Religious Conflict? The Jews wanted Saturday off, The Christians- Sunday; They were offending the Christians by working on Sunday, so they were all given 2 days off, and it remedied underemployment in The Great Depression! Hey, something good came of religious conflict!

It took decades for Saturday to change from a half-day to a full day’s rest.  In 1908, a New England mill became the first American factory to institute the five-day week. It did so to accommodate Jewish workers, whose observance of a Saturday sabbath forced them to make up their work on Sundays, offending some in the Christian majority. The mill granted these Jewish workers a two-day weekend, and other factories followed this example. The Great Depression cemented the two-day weekend into the economy, as shorter hours were considered a remedy to underemployment.

There are a couple of studies or respected opinions that shorter workweeks increase productivity and health and attitudes of team members e.g.

there’s some anecdotal evidence that a four-day workweek might increase productivity. Google’s Larry Page has praised the idea, even if he hasn’t implemented it. And Jason Fried, the CEO of Basecamp, has his employees work four-day, 32-hour weeks for half of the year. “When you have a compressed workweek, you tend to focus on what’s important.  Constraining time encourages quality time, ” he wrote an op-ed in The New York Times. “Better work gets done in four days than in five,” he concluded.

Beyond working more efficiently, a four-day workweek appears to improve morale and well-being. The president of the U.K. Faculty of Public Health told the Daily Mail that a four-day workweek could help lower blood pressure and increase mental health among employees. Jay Love of Slingshot SEO saw his employee-retention rate shoot up when he phased in three-day weekends. Following this line of thought, TreeHouse, an online education platform,implemented a four-day week to attract workers, which has contributed to the company’s growth.

However, these all talk of 8 hour days. So for musicians whose days are on average 5 hours (still not including personal practice which is usually more) it seems that our comparison to the concept of the length of a ‘work-week’ is suddenly null and void. It shouldn’t be. Singing and performing is incredibly taxing on our bodies. We may not have the stress and pressures and/or boredom that comes with an office job (although sometimes playing Brown-Eyed Girl or Hotel California can compare) but we have increased risks of tendonitis, throat infections, vocal nodules, and increased physical strain depending on how intensely one performs. We do not have office rights, as due to the nature of our industry, we have little choice but to work in smoky bars which intense aircons. So wouldn’t you say if the rest of the world worries a 2 day weekend isn’t enough. Could you not say the same for residency musicians who do not have the luxury of sick days when they are feeling ill.

In decreasing the 5-day work week some professionals have suggested this:

Beyond working more efficiently, a four-day workweek appears to improve morale and well-being. The president of the U.K. Faculty of Public Health told the Daily Mail that a four-day workweek could help lower blood pressure and increase mental health among employees. Jay Love of Slingshot SEO saw his employee-retention rate shoot up when he phased in three-day weekends. Following this line of thought, TreeHouse, an online education platform,implemented a four-day week to attract workers, which has contributed to the company’s growth.

So what about decreasing the Five-Star-Factory’s 6 day work week?

****Quotes from musicians who have moved from the 6 day work week to the 5 day work week to come

I have spoken to multiple musicians who work 5 days, and I know they would do a lot to retain it. Female singers especially have raved about the health benefits, as if one gets sick or inflamed, the extra day does wonders for recovering. The 5-night working musicians seemed to be more settled in their work, less frustrated or lost, have more friends and support groups on the road and have created communities and lives for themselves, rather than being only consumed by their work. They enjoyed their work, while the 6-night-week musicians seemed to have higher levels of dissatisfaction. This may be due to other reasons, but I do think it would be worth investigating, and investigating what the managers of the 5-night-week bands and 6-night-week bands thoughts on the matter were.

But here’s the problem:

That said, the five-day workweek might already have so much cultural intertia that it can’t be changed. Most companies can’t just tell employees not to come in on Fridays, because they’d be at a disadvantage in a world that favors the five-day workweek.

And it’s the same of the 6-night work week with musicians. Hotels are designed to get as much out of their employees for as little as possible. It’s why they do so well at making the big moola – can you say 2 pound bottle of water, but would their attitude be different if the norm adjusted itself, and even the poor exploited philipino guys got 1 day off a week, and that was then the exploitation rate.

The Article describes a scenario in which one company splits it’s employees into two parts, so they work 4 day weeks in different shifts, yet still work the standard 5-day prescribed 4- hours. They just get longer weekends. Would we rather work and extra 4 sets into the week and get an extra day off? that’s a difficult question as vocally maybe that would be even more challenging and taxing. If that work could be assigned in rehearsal times and maybe off-stage work, for example if we were assigned marketing work to do in those times. I think may musicians may need some education in what to do but would definitely take up the offer. The ways to adjust the 6 day work week and still earn the same and get the same benefits may be difficult, but not impossible and not unheard of.

I know personally, the few few few times on the road, that I have been allowed an extra day off (i think precisely 3 times (although sometimes it was because I’d worked a 13 day week or I had to work a 13 day week later) It made a world of difference to the quality of my work and my attitude. The best was of course when those 2 days were in a row. It was refreshing, almost like a holiday. As Ramadan approaching I see in myself and many other musicians the complete collapse of morale, in the way that one’s ability to hold one’s bladder decreases as you get nearer to the toilet (apologies for the slightly crude simile) – perhaps if we had 2 days off a week, we would not grow to struggle through our awesome jobs as much.

I definitely think I’d happily work more during the week to get at least the world’s normal weekend.

Is our Night Job, just a Day Job in Disguise?

My dad’s always said to me

The Music Industry will fail you time and time again, but the music never will.

You’re not loving your job right now, and you thought your job was music…… so if you don’t love it right now… does that mean you don’t love music? No. It doesn’t. It might just mean you need a change or break, or it means you want more. You need a different environment or different relationship with music to reinvigorate the passion. The residency scene can make music a job for which you need escape from, instead of music being your escape. Its an odd place to be.

I read an article on Music Clout called managing your expectations. Similar to a John Mayer talk I’ve seen before:

Music Clout – Managing Your Expectations (worth a read although long)

(worth a watch)

In the Music Clout Article it speaks about how you cannot expect music to be your living if you’re still working a day job. And I do wonder if MUSIC is actually our living, or it is the nightly equivalent of a day job. If you have aims in the music industry, seperate from the factory music scene, the road is a very tough place to achieve those. It doesn’t mean you can’t. Artists such as Ross Swanton and Sam Terret have managed to keep creating, and Ross has even started building a production/recording team in Dubai, which is pretty awesome and revolutionary!

There are so many amazing musicians on the road! And I even boggle my own mind at how I don’t utilize them or team up with them, or even just pay for them to session on my stuff. It is hard because it’s pretty expensive here, and you’re not gonna make much money from it because you work almost every night, and at least MY night off I NEED OFF. One can do it. I watched Sam Terret discipline himself by sitting with his bass on seperate from the gig at least 4 hours a day, ensuring a healthy gluten free diet, and making sure he meditated and went for walks He forced himself to put up a bass video everyday. Be it random improvisations or writings. I have so much admiration for the man. I also spoke to Ross Swanton, and he gave up drinking and partying. And really devoted himself to his craft. It’s hard on a gig. But it is possible. I don’t know about for all… but at least for some.

My Berklee-studied bandleader Greg Lassalle once told me you need to be a sniper. Now what you want to hit and go for it.  If you want to be in factory music ‘Create a Show’ for which either he or I will write a blog. But if you want more, aim for it. Your day job being music doesn’t mean you’re working towards a life in music. If you’re feeling dissatisfied and want more- it’s totally allowed, but do something about it.

Familiarity breeds Contempt BRUNCH *be prepared for a lil rant

I sat at El Sombrero (a Mexican restaurant in my hotel) with some musician friends from the Sofitel and Harvesters. We sat comparing how our contracts were all trying to whittle away our benefits, even trying to make two of their members share a room. In most jobs (ignore this gross generalisation) the harder you work and the longer you’re there for- you climb the ladder, you get more benefits/a raise in your salary/a position of greater power. In the factory music scene, we seem to get less and less; let me elaborate.

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We have amazing benefits and it’s incredible to find in this industry. Very few musicians can live the lifestyle we live, get to play music 6 nights a week and have consistant work, and free accomodation and meals just for doing what we love. But at the same time- we do work for those benefits. I have a feeling many hotels feel like they’re doing us a ‘favour’ by giving us these benefits, rather than that these benefits are rightfully earned remuneration for the craft and work we offer. I may be wrong, but I could imagine worker’s unions would have a field day if people’s pay randomly got docked and they got made to work extra hours for no extra remuneration? especially having been asked to extend their contract as they were doing so well – which is essentially what happens when hotels decide they want to remove or degrade benefits.

Hotels make a lot of their money by getting as much work out of their bottom tier employees for as little as possible, and squeezing their customers for every cent they can. It’s not wrong – it’s business- and it’s the business of the rich in 5-star hotels – which as much as we’re paid very well- we certainly can’t afford a 5-star lifestyle- we are still musicians. At our dinner table the other evening, we were discussing how frequently hotel management thinks what we do is simply easy. It’s certainly easy and awesome compared to people who slave away in hard labour, or long hours in an office, however we are people with a learned craft and the job comes with its difficulties. We work hard on maintaining our skills and instruments and bodies (well some do haha). Some of us spend tons of money on equipment and/or lessons to maintain our craft and sacrifice entertainment and parties to keep our voices in order. We are not a bunch of marauding bafoons/hippies rolling out of bed onto stage and then into a pint of beer and shots of tequila (although some people do have that talent and I am very jealous of them *sigh*). They don’t realise men have to buy suits, women dresses, jewellery, make-up etc (this will be a blog on it’s own), and make themselves up 6 NIGHTS A WEEK. And we try make hotel california sound like we’re not bored to death of it for your customers, despite sometimes loathing it or having a bad day, or having a cold or being in pain. *takes a breath after long rant*

I do love my job. But it ain’t great for the performer’s already fragile esteem and self-worth in a tough industry, to work endlessly and think you’re doing well, only to have benefits taken away from you, or be forced to do more work for no extra pay.

We are replaceable. Yes. I’ve always believed that in this industry. No one is IRREPLACEABLE. But know your worth, and try fight for it as much as you can. The one thing I will STRESS- that I learned from being exploited by my last band leader, is it’s ok to be agreeable- but when it comes to your HEALTH- be it management, be it bandleader, be it agent, STAND YOUR GROUND. No person, contract, or company is worth you sacrificing your health.

If anyone has any ideas how to stop hotel management trying to take more advantage the longer your contract, please let me know. I’m interested in this business aspect.