Who’s Playing Tonight?

| February 1, 2014

By Mike Sales

This column borrows its title from a song I wrote about being a full-time island musician. It provides a snapshot of the person you seewhos playing tonight at your favorite island bars and restaurants, from the entertainer’s point of view.

In this article, every month, I get to take it further, through the stories, experience and viewpoint of my friends and colleagues on Siesta Key.

Being a full-time local-level musician is not a typical profession to say the least, in that we are small business owners, of an enterprise spanning many categories.

We are artists, performers, marketers, outside sales reps of business-to-business services and private event entertainment, equipment movers (ha ha), sound engineers, horse-traders and most of us dabble in social media, websites and graphic arts. Many of us are writers and some of us are comedians.

We excel in public relations and networking begins pretty much every time we leave the house, because, the more we play in any given area, the more we can be assured that someone is always watching everything we do, on or off the stage. You could say we’re low-level celebs!

Even when we conduct ourselves with the utmost professionalism, we can be replaced anytime, without notice.

The income is irregular, to say the least, there are no paid vacation or sick days. A rainstorm or a slow night can cause an unexpected loss of a night’s pay and a tip jar can double it. I don’t know who started the tip jar custom, but I love you, whoever you are!

This is a competitive business, but we enjoy each other’s work as well. With peers, the competition is really about making sure we as individuals are performing at our best.  We take our cues from the people who are doing their best and step up our own game accordingly. While there are typically a dozen musicians vying for any one gig, it works itself out like a game of musical chairs and the competition pretty much ends when the slot in your schedule is booked.

Unlike most other businesses I know of, our customers like to collect us. The value of an iPod is based solely on how many different artists are on it. Sure everyone has favorites, but the goal is to be in the group of favorites and, at least at this level, there’s no incentive or inspiration really, to beat the competition. Its just about making sure your boat is still above water, every time the tide of the talent pool rises. It actually helps to recommend other artists to your own customers…helps!

I love this game that is show business. All of the talent, strategizing, footwork, prep and planning is real and constant, but the end goal is nothing more than to give people a good enough feeling about your music, to want to hear you again and tell their friends. That’s it. In fact, most of the effort is merely to get the opportunity to be in front of people…for a living.

As I look back at the past year, I feel a great sense of gratitude for the privilege to sing for a living and the aptitude to stay afloat doing it. The challenges and requirements, mentioned above, illustrate just how committed and qualified we have to be to make a living at music. It’s a level of commitment only possible by virtue of knowing no option would be bearable.

I believe that musical ability and the love of performing is a gift, that when nurtured as a stewardship creates a level of purpose, second to none. These hoops we jump through are just a rite of passage. And once we pass, the possibilities are endless.

There are literally hundreds of live music venues along the gulf coast. On any given day, on Siesta Key, you can see dozens of talented musicians. Some of them are world class, and by that I mean, they have literally spent some of their career touring the world, with headlining national acts, while others are just getting started on their way up the ranks.

Along with some nice publicity (thanks Siesta Sand!) a benefit of writing this column has been the privilege of sitting down with these talented people and getting a glimpse of how they see themselves, their music, their careers and the business. I get to know them better as people and friends.

When I go to see them play, I feel like I’m more a part of the musical community. Many times I feel a deeper appreciation for what they bring to the stage, because I’ve heard in their own words about how the music touches them and what’s most important about their performance.

My main goal with the article is to share a glimpse of each musician, from the perspective of someone who knows the business first hand and to paint a picture of the person behind the music.

Whether you’re here for a week, a month or all season, I invite you to make the rounds of Siesta Key Village and check in each month to learn more about “Who’s Playing Tonight.”

Mike Sales is a local singer/songwriter for more info visit mikesalessings.com

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Category: Arts & Entertainment

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