Tag Archives: musicians

A modest business proposal

Tom and I have an idea for a business model and we’d like to run it past you all and see what you think. We’ve been thinking how great it would be to open a restaurant. We’d need to get funding for the venue, and to buy all the eatery gear and set up a kitchen. We’ll need to pay for raw materials, for waiters and bar staff, cleaners, managers, someone to take bookings, maybe some publicity. Where this really gets clever though, is our vision for the chefs.
We think chefs should be paid a percentage of every meal they sell, rather than paying them a wage. It gives them opportunity to earn a great deal more, of course, but if their food doesn’t sell, it reduces our financial risk. We’ll only start paying them that cut when we’ve covered the cost of the food and the waiting staff and taken something towards the rent, too.
If we’re taking on new chefs, who won’t automatically attract eaters, then we think they ought to pay for their own ingredients. We, after all, are taking most of the financial risk here, it’s only fair to ask them to contribute to that. We think it would be helpful if chefs made some effort to promote their food, too. We envisage them going out to people’s houses to cook sample meals now and then in order to attract customers. If a chef already has a TV program, they’ll get a better deal and we might be able to consider paying them up front.
We’ll pay the chef their percentage every six months. Well, we say that, but in practice the six monthly cheque will arrive when we get round to it, and could be a month or two late. However, such will be the contracts that if chefs don’t like this, about their only option will be to take their skills and recipes to another restaurant and try their luck there. To really make this work, we will get all other restaurants onboard, so that these are the only terms available for wannabe chefs.
We realise that with this model, the chef will probably need to work a regular day job in order to make ends meet. However, as being a chef is such great work, and it’s really a hobby job, this seems perfectly fair and reasonable to us. They ought to be happy doing it for love. Given the glamour and reputation of being a chef, we’re also confident that there are so many people who want to do it that we’ll never struggle to find people willing to work for us on these terms. After all, everyone has a meal in them.
If this business model made you a bit uncomfortable (and I really hope it did!), please consider that this is how the publishing of art, words and music tends to work, and that this is standard as a way of treating creatives in those industries. We’re wondering if the idea of ‘fair trade’ could be extended across the creative industries. All creative industries depend on the ‘product’ but usually the people making that product are the last to see any money from it. Editors, managers, in house designers, and the person who cleans the editor’s office will all get paid long before the creator sees a penny, in the vast majority of cases.

Part of the flow

I’ve met one hell of a lot of people along the way in all manner of different capacities. Authors, pagans, comics artists, musicians, publishers, organisers of events… It’s given me considerable opportunity to see what works, and what doesn’t. There is a classic mistake that people make, and it is simply that they show up making some noise about whatever they’ve got and expecting people to take an interest. Many of the communities I’ve been involved with have been welcoming places, encouraging of new ideas and energy, but even in those contexts, just showing up with your thing tends to be unfruitful. Fruitless, even.

One of the reasons is that if you aren’t engaged, you don’t know what’s out there or where you fit. If, for example, you’re writing Steampunk books, but have never read any Steampunk books, listened to any of the music or been to the events, the odds of doing more than skimming the surface of the genre, are slim. This is often why first time authors are samey and derivative, in all genres – not because they’re emulating the greats, but because they haven’t read enough to know what’s been done to death already.

Most communities respond better to people who come up from a grass roots level on the inside. It’s true in politics, where candidates with the right face, air dropped in from some other place tend not to be popular on the ground. People tend to respond to you better as a leader of Pagan things if they’ve seen you learning your craft by showing up to stuff. Obviously tricky if you were the only pagan in your village. If you want to get respect as a folk musician, you don’t show up half an hour before your set, play it, and leave. You go to a session as well, or a singaround, or listen to someone else’s set.

All the most successful teachers and organisers I have known along the way have spent time sat quietly in other people’s events and lessons. Partly to learn (borrowing other people’s ideas!). Partly to support the wider community. Partly to network and get insights. Partly to be seen as someone who also shows up. This is something that works in a whole number of different ways all at the same time.

The person who turns up, is part of the flow. They put money in the hat, engage with the wider community, learn, give and participate. In online spaces, this can translate into things like reading other people’s blogs and responding to them, giving other people a shout out, reviewing, and the such. Giving something back. It’s not wise to expect things to flow towards you if you are not also creating flows of energy that go from you towards other people and spaces. Mostly, they don’t come towards you if nothing is moving out from you.

It’s also worth being watchful for spaces online that just consist of people who turn up to try and sell things. Back in the day of yahoo groups, this used to be a huge problem with ebook authors. You’d get hundreds of people on a list, all trying to sell their latest book. No one was listening, and no one was buying. Easily half of the writers hadn’t read enough of anything to know what made a good story, either.

It is so important to engage, it doesn’t matter what you do, or want to do, amateur, professional or somewhere in between. Get involved. Connect with people who are doing it already. Show up, participate. It will help you. It will help everyone else. Everyone wins.