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.

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3 thoughts on “The 6-day Grind

  1. Roxy,
    You are a very Talented Musician & Good with numbers. Do the Math, calculate the number of hours you work with rehearsals and compare it to regular professional who works 40 hrs a week. Keep in mind that every professional has to keep up with continuing knowledge & education. The weekly hours are not that far off. if it comes to salaries they are also comparable with remuneration and benefits.

    • I appreciate the compliments.

      I’m not doing a thesis. I have done a thesis, and there my maths on the topic was solid.

      I am not saying we work harder, I’m sure we work less than the majority of people and skilled workers.

      I am just vaguely comparing it in terms of the differences. And how working a fixed 6 nights, and getting benefits that are not under your control nor do you own in any way. It’s different. Just in terms of the fact that I may want to earn less, in order to be able to spend my money on food that I choose rather than benefits, or a residency that I choose, even if it will be seemingly less glamourous.

      I’m just looking at the factors, and how they affect musicians in a very loose way.

      This is a personal account. Not an academic report. It is my opinion with some anecdotal evidence involved.

      Sorry you believe that this is wrong. I possibly was not clear that I am not saying we have terrible or terribly hard lives, CERTAINLY NOT that we work harder than others. Just comparing some general circumstances. and how I’d possibly rather work harder on a 5-day basis.

      Sorry if you feel that is wrong.

      I believe the difficulties of this industry aren’t often spoken about as artists hide that they’ve had to undergo surgery, or serious training, and serious physical damage because it damages their image

      • Roxy
        the complements are well deserved. Your talents speak for themselves I am very sure you worked so hard to reach this level. As I said you are a very talented young singer and performer. The nature of the industry requires such hard times and I am very sorry to hear about your surgery troubles. But people like you walk out of this victorious. However, if you feel the industry requires change (and I am in agreement with you) it will require time and efforts and you are doing that. For that I commend you. Life is hard and to appreciate it you have to walk though it head high and say I did my maximum. I salute you for your efforts. The industry is like this and from it we learn lessons for our next job to try to improve the working conditions. I guess you won’t know unless you try it or try businesses or work places that have it……..
        EEC

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