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.
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.