Wednesday, April 12, 2006

How To Spot A Midget

New York's music world is full of unprofessional, bottom-feeder, small-time, ghetto hustlers, be they managers, other musicians, or whatever. I'm sure they're everywhere, but we have more. Many, many more. It is a wise thing to learn how to spot them from the get-go, lest it start to feel like you're traveling with the circus, what with all the midgets running around. Aspiring musicans, take heed and read on!

The signs are usually apprehensible when you first meet them. They often times like to drop names like the Pentagon drops bombs. Let's say you meet a well-dressed guy named Hoops McCann. Hoops says, "Oh, yeah, I play marimba for Liza Minelli," or, "I manage Sade whenever she goes to Guam." Of course you give them the requisite, "Oooh, that's AMAZING!!" and toss them a card. Later on, you go home and google "Hoops McCann" with "Minelli" or "Sade" and absolutely nothing comes up. Or, if you're really lucky, you get a google-whack, and the only hit turns up a story in which a sweats-clad Hoops is pictured having his t-shirt signed by Liza Minelli. At this point, one eyebrow should be moderately higher than the other.

Another sure-fire sign is if you've only been in town a week when you meet Hoops. At this point, no one knows who you are, and most could care less, especially those with whom you'd likely want to play, or those who can give you good gigs. Hoops sees you at a jam session, blows a bunch of smoke up your ass about how great a player you are, how he's got this band, or that connection with Liza Minelli, and you're going to be working every weekend, making $50K a year, and living in in an East Village studio apartment instead of a Bushwick loft. Interpret: "Mmmm... fresh meat!"

Then he gives you a call, sometimes soon, sometimes after a month or so. He leaves a message, and it goes something like this: "Hi Dave, Hoops McCann. I got a gig for you on Saturday, April 22nd, with a rehearsal tomorrow morning. Gimme a ring, lemme know if you can do it." (note: if Hoops is from Long Island, he will probably address you as "baby," not your real name.) Flags should be going up left and right. Interpret: "Hey, do you want to play a shitty gig about three hours away for no money? It's only five hours long, and you won't get home until six am. And oh yeah, can you do a couple horn charts?"

Never, never, NEVER say you're free until you have answers for the basic questions: where, when, with whom, how much, how long? If you do, you're trapped. Then you have to deal with the rehearsal, which is supposed to go from 10 to 12, then doesn't start until 11:15 and runs until 2:30. God help you then.

Usually, one inquiry will reveal the answers to these questions, and the gig ends up being at a club way out in Long Island with a weekend-warrior blues band from 11pm to 3am for $30 and a couple free beers. This is the point at which you say, "Oh man, sounds great, thanks for the call, but I've already got something in town." Sometimes even one phone call and several text messages will not reveal critical details such as pay and hours. This is also a point at which you tell them to take a long walk, and not the one Jill Scott likes to sing about.

Do this a few times, and Hoops will figure out that he can't take advantage of you, and will move on to find another young guy who's just come to town.

Maybe Hoops gets bold, especially after having recently obtained and skimmed through a copy of Power Plays for Third Grade Bullies. If you refuse the offering, he informs you that it's a give-and-take relationship here, asks you to "work with him on this," there are big things in the future. He may remind you about the magnitude of the opportunity he's providing, and that he's doing you a big favor. Then, an aside: "You know, I'm putting together a four-month tour with Sade in Guam, and there's a long line of people who would love to do it..." (Again, you go home and check Sade's website. There are no dates lined up in Guam, nor have there ever been.) Of course, this is petty manipulation, which even your average fourth grader would see right through, and should not be tolerated. The way in which you deal with it varies with your own personal humor; it's not at all outside the realm of acceptability for you to tell him to go do something dirty and inappropriate to himself, or even to give him a couple of good cracks.

And even after having completed this phase, he may tell you to leave two dates free in July. Wash, rinse, repeat...

Ahh, midgetation, the world of hacks and sucker-fish. It may be good for a laugh, but meditate, for a moment, on the thought that there exists a personal story to go with each and every line... At least I have semi-enteraining stories to tell. For that I am thankful.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home