Mike Clark & Michael Barsimanto Clinic

Drum Clinic

Here are a few excerpts transcribed from a drum clinic held at A Drummer’s Tradition in San Rafael, CA.  Mike Clark, Michael Barsimanto, and organist Wil Blades performed some original music and jazz standards, and spoke about their careers in music, sharing stories and taking questions from the audience.  Check out all the videos on YouTube!  

: Changing Times – New Music :

Mike Clark:  It was the early seventies, maybe 1970.  My friend took me to hear Michael (Barsimanto) when he was about twenty years old.  He was so great.  I loved him.  We all started following each other and going to each other’s gigs, and we were all deep into Tony Williams and Elvin Jones at that time.  (Things had) changed from Max (Roach) and Philly Jo Jones), to Tony (Williams) and Elvin (Jones) and Jack DeJohnette.  Things were moving, the music was changing.  Things started really happening.  Funk, rock, and jazz started to blend all into one thing.  A lot of it happened in Oakland and San Francisco, right around this area.  It was a Bay Area thing.  Michael (Barsimanto) and I are both guys who pushed the envelope in our own personal playing in this new genre, which was a not a genre yet.  We were making it up, along with a whole lot of other people.  I didn’t just make it up, it was going that way.

Michael Barsimanto:  I was in Marin County at the time.  I came up here from LA in ’69.  I had been playing drums since I was about eight years old.  I heard in high school that there was a drum teacher here in town, very renown in the Bay Area, named Chuck Brown.  I was one of his students, and (David) Garibaldi was as well.  Chuck had his own way, a certain technique.  Some of the things that (David) Garibaldi and Mike (Clark) were doing up to that time… I didn’t have my radar on those guys as much.  But the whole Bay Area – it was a really nice blend.  A little bit more of an attitude; the spirit of the Bay Area.

Mike Clark:  All my stuff comes from the roots.  Even though my jazz drumming is modern, I come from Philly Jo (Jones).  My funk is the same way.  But at this point I was getting a little bored.  In those days we were trying to break away.  I (had) played a lot with Albert King, Albert Collins, Freddie King… So I decided to change things.  I can take a double stroke roll and put it on every part of the instrument – It’s not that hard.  And a paradiddle.  And this thing that everybody played, that Elvin (Jones) played – I played it slow instead of playing it real fast.  That’s what I was trying, I had “Elvin Triplets”.   That’s kind of where we were headed – we were sort of “binary drummers” in this particular style that didn’t do exactly what Tony (Williams) or Jack (DeJohnette) or Elvin (Jones), or Clyde (Stubblefield) or Jabo (Starks) did.  It sort of went into this other thing.  It was a glorious time, because it was a time when we were all in the laboratory.  It was like science study class, expect it was down.  If that makes any sense…

Michael Barsimanto: Also, at the time, the drummers really started pushing the envelope volume-wise and vocabulary-wise, and the drummers started to be… I don’t want to say “busier,” but drummers started playing more outside the roll of just traditional time keeping.  You got a lot from Tony Williams who broke that code, and Roy Haynes.  Free-er phrasing, interesting keeping time – what they call “comping”. Playing grander statements within the “rhythm section roll” playing.   Tony really broke that code for us.  What Mike (Clark) did when he played with Herbie was to take that kind of suspended time feel, and the jazz ride time feel, and… Well, part of what you’re doing is comping, but then playing back beat figures in there, so then that’s where that vocabulary became very crisp.

: Musical Beginnings :  

Mike Clark: I was fortunate because I played as a child, professionally.  My father was a drummer, and I played with adults that were thirty, forty, or fifty when I was only seven, eight, or nine. So they were like “don’t change cymbals in the middle of a guy’s solo… Don’t do this.  Don’t do that”… And also, Paul Jackson of the Headhunters was my roommate for about 12 to 15 years, which I’m having trouble remembering… But what I do remember is that we played constantly.  That’s how I developed.  I developed in a time where we worked five nights a week.  We worked five nights in a week in those days.  Seven days a week.  We used to cut work, find reasons to not go to work, to leave from working.  Really, there were no days off.  Now it’s like, if you work two nights a week, you’re really playing your butt off.  (After leaving Herbie Hancock)…I came home here to San Francisco and I played five nights a week for a year and half with Eddie Henderson.  Dig that, first and foremost – a jazz gig.  Pharaoh Sanders was on the gig, Joe Henderson, all these great jazz musicians.  And that’s where I really learned to play the  music I’ve been trying to play since I was a child.  It was on that gig.  Because everyone was talking to me, you know?  These cats were schooling me.  It was righteous.

Michael Barsimanto:  I got one advice from Dave Liebman, early on.  I was taking a drum solo.  I was playing him with and Michael Forman, and some other guys.  I’m taking this solo on a tune, and when I’m done soloing I look over and he’s waiting at the wall.  I look over and he’s – (gesturing in circles with hand) And I’m young and say “Well, I played already…” It’s hard to remember exactly what was going on, but I just played and played and played and kept soloing.  And I looked over and he does it again!  And now, I’m just a puddle.  And I asked him after the gig, I said, “what was that all about?” And he said that’s something Miles (Davis) had told him.  He said, “you really start to play when you’re out of all your ideas.  When you’re tired.  Then you start to play.  Then you really start to find it.  I thought that was really good advice.  So do that in your practice.  Really exhaust a situation until you stumble on one little kernel.


Full YouTube playlist for the clinic: Mike Clark & Michael Barsimanto Clinic: 6/23/17

OPEN FIFTH’s Last Call

As some of you may have heard, Anthill Pub & Grille officially announced they will be closing in the next two weeks. The Pub’s ten-year contract has run up and the university put its contracts out to competitive bid, and decided to take up different offer. This fall would have marked the TEN year anniversary for me there; I started my undergrad at UC Irvine in 2007 and have been playing at the Anthill once or twice a month for just shy of a decade. It’s truly unheard of for any gig to last that long. But it’s not just a gig…

The Anthill is really a special place for me. I started there as a shy freshman, playing in a band called OPEN FIFTH with a bunch of juniors, seniors, and grad students. I was really excited and honored to be a part of that group. It was really inspiring to see them write and perform their own music – I learned how to run book/run rehearsals outside of school. The importance of showing up to the gig on time. Know what clothes to wear. Just in general, how to “get your shit together.” Also, how to drink.

They all were major influences on me as a player, and outside of music as well. As time went by I started writing more of my own stuff, calling different players, booking all kinds of groups with different lineups. I got to met and jam with people that were way out of my league musically. I got to take some serious risks and truly experiment with the music. I learned what works and what doesn’t work. Some of my closest friends today are people that I met there. I really “got my shit together” at the Anthill Pub.

I still have photos, posters, and recordings from every one of those gigs. I don’t know how many different musicians are on these recordings, I’d guess at least 100 different players, some of whom aren’t even with us anymore today. I’ve been listening to some of these recordings today and looking through the old pictures and have been overwhelmed with nostalgia. Right there, that’s the moment that I learned ‘It Could Happen To You.’ And now that’s me not knowing the form of ‘Alone Together’. Nope. (Sorry Duane, thanks for not killing me). Though initially disgusted at the sound of my own playing on the old tapes, I am glad to say I’ve gotten a lot better! 🙂

I need to send out a huge THANK YOU to Scott Winterstein, for giving us a shot that one time ten years ago and continuing to have us be a part of the Anthill for so long. Everything mentioned above would not have been possible without you. The “New” Anthill had just opened my freshman year, and it is inseparable from my college experience. I would not be who or where I am today without the opportunities you offered and I am eternally grateful for all of my time spent in your bar. Whether or not I was even making any music. And so after all that…

I really hope you can join us for OPEN FIFTH’s last call: One last party. A night of tunes, drinks, and memories. We’ll do a fun set up front followed by what I hope to be a huge jam session going late into the evening. All ages are welcome, (except for bar seating, 21+) As always, no cover or minimum.

Our final lineup will feature:

Brian Mantz – Trumpet
Craig Cammell – Sax
Aaron Provisor – Piano
Michael Alvidrez – Bass
Me – Drums

Plus some surprise guests…

The Anthill is a CASH ONLY BAR.

It can be a bit tricky to find the Anthill if you don’t know how to get there. It’s located in the student center, on the corner of East Peltason and Pererra Drive. There is a parking lot located across the street. You can call/text/message me if you need to.

Come and hang.

Open Fifth Last Call

Julien’s Bit

Taken from an interview with Julien Minard:  4/29/16

First professional work

“Every eleven years I change professions…. I was a public school teacher, two years at Glendale High teaching speech and English, then I came to CSU Long Beach for my masters and taught a junior high school reading class.  I taught for ABC (Artesia, Bloomfield, Carmenita Unified School District).  That’s how I got involved with and started working for the union, with CFT – (California Federation of Teachers).

Back in the 1960’s there was no collective bargaining. We passed ours in 1975, that’s when it effected people I knew.  Before that the only way to get an agreement was if you had a lot of power and could leverage it.  There was the Winton Act, which said the management had to sit down and listen to us.  They called it “Meet and Confer” we called it “Meet and Differ”.  But the new law said that for teachers of K-12 and community college, you had the right to form an employee organization without management interference.”

With the union

“I started on January 1st, 1978 and did that until August of 1988.  I lived in San Jose and Santa Cruz.  We were organizing all over the place and teaching people how to bargain contracts.  Not everybody jumped in right away, and it took years for all the elections to happen, to select which union to represent the people (CFT, CTA, others…)

When the law was first passed, the first group that wanted a union had to circulate petitions that said something like “I hereby authorize the CTA to represent me in all things about hours, wages, working conditions, terms and conditions of employment…”   And they had to get 50% of the employs to sign that card.  In 1978, Proposition 13 changed the property taxes here in California and that changed how much money schools got, and the layoffs were amazing.  400 teachers laid off…. We’ve undercut ourselves (in the schools) dramatically since then.  My masters degree at CSU Long Beach in 1969 was $50.  UC, State schools, and community colleges were tuition free.  It’s doable…”

After the union

“…I was working in Santa Cruz and San Jose for the union and I wanted to leave.  That’s when I moved to Portland, Oregon.  I thought about mediation for labor, but I was tired of labor and its’ subjects.  I was tired of hearing management’s arguments.  And when you get tired of something, sometimes… I have a tendency to get disrespectful, which doesn’t get you anywhere.   I was ready for a career change, and went to Willamette University – their law school had a dispute-resolution certificate, and I worked for the city of Portland part time (Portland City Mediation Center).  Later, I went to work for them full time.  They weren’t paying me much but I wanted the experience.

Once I started working full time I got to really implement things.  There were 4 full-time mediators working here, and we ran a volunteer program.  One thing we developed was a Police-and-Citizen mediation program.  If you filed a compliant with internal affairs against a certain police officer they would offer you the opportunity to have a mediation with that officer.  It was voluntary for both parties.  I ended up being the one who ran it, and we used volunteer mediators for the most part.  I like justice, but I also like connecting with people.  I like the courage.  I like when people stand up for what they believe.”

Back to the union

“…In ’99 the place was so crazy that I called my old boss (at CFT) and asked if they had any work.  I moved back to California, and applied for a job that just opened up and I got it.  They said I could locate anywhere I wanted and I picked Long Beach.  With the union job I had in Santa Cruz in the 80’s, we did a 5 night, 6 day summer school program where you could take a class on collective bargaining, political action, grievances… Maybe 8 different cases.   It was a big operation, and I decided early on that I wanted music with the night program.  It was labor music and political music. When I came back to work for them I did that again.  I would get musicians for the convention and different programs.

(Some of the other artists include Mark Levy, Jon Fromer, Emma’s Revolution, Joe Jencks, Francisco Herrera, and Rebel Voice).

Musical impressions 

“I went to high school in South Dakota, at a time where South Dakota and Mississippi were fighting for last place in per capita income and how much was spent on education.  This school was sad in many ways, but we had band, and choir.  We were never good, but there were some individual musicians that were good.  And they never cut that program, even though they didn’t really have the money.  I was a jazz fan before I even heard of labor music.  My sister came home from the University of Minnesota and she had been listening to jazz – Dave Brubeck and Errol Garner were the first two people that she introduced me to.  My parents weren’t musical but they loved to dance, and we lived in this tiny town in the middle of nowhere,  and there was this man that lived in town and would book bands like Tommy Dorsey, Lawrence Welk, and a pianist named Frankie Carl, and they’d come and play a dance show and a concert.”

House concerts

“Anne Feeny and Chris Chandler performed for the first concert I did here at the house in 2004.  Other groups and performers include String Madness, New West Guitar Group, Sara Gazrek, Luther Hughes, Joe Bagg, Ron Eschete, Bruce Babad, Becca Stevens, and Steve, Sasha, and Martin Masakowski.  I don’t really know what I’m doing…  But I love their music, and I want the people that I really like to be heard by more people.”


The next house concert will be Sunday, August 21st from 3-6pm featuring Will Brahm and Homenaje.  Tickets are $20 per person, and dinner is served for an additional $12.




Last week I had a very stressful experience with the current state of our health care system.

Under my current health coverage, I can only make appointments to visit one primary doctor.  If I want to see a specialist, or want to make some other appointment with a different doctor, my primary doctor has to have me in for an appointment, write me a referral, and wait for a letter that states whether or not my insurance has been approved and if I’m able to make an appointment with that the desired physician.  Then I can contact the office of that specialist, and set an appointment time.  It takes about 2-3 weeks for me to even get an appointment with my primary doctor.  It then takes 2-3 weeks before any kind of approval notice goes through.  Then it takes another 2-3 weeks before there is an opening for an appointment with that desired physician.  All in all, from the day I contacted my primary doctor telling them I wanted to see an allergy specialist to the day I could get an appointment, it was already just shy of two months.  Let’s take a minute to acknowledge how ridiculous that already is.  OK.

I have a lot of allergies.  This allergy specialist is one that I’ve already had a history with.  I’ve been in their offices off and on over the course of a year or two.  They know who I am.  I was previously able to visit them when I was under my parents health coverage, but in the last year or two of my own coverage, they wouldn’t accept my insurance.  I mentioned this to my primary doctor when we was looking up specialists that might accept me, but he put the request in for them anyway.  I was surprised and glad to hear that I was actually approved, with an official letter of notice, and that I could call them and make an appointment.  So I did.  I had to wait a few weeks for it, but it was in the books.  The day came, and I drove about 30 minutes to get there.  I went up to the reception desk to sign in, and they asked if my insurance had changed since my last visit.  It did, so I gave them my new card and my approval letter.

Then they said to me,  “Sorry, we actually don’t take this insurance.”

“What do you mean?  You sent me an approval letter right here.”

“Well, somebody made a mistake.  We take that provider, but not through that program.  They’ve made this mistake a couple times and we’ve been in touch with them to fix it, but we actually can’t see you today.”
“But you approved me already.”
Sorry, somebody made a mistake.”

“Well, what would an out-of-pocket fee be for a visit then?”

“We actually can’t even do that for you.  Unfortunately you just can’t be seen here anymore, unless you change your insurance.”

READ: We won’t make enough money from seeing you today, so you need to go somewhere else.  We sometimes see people through your insurance provider, but only when they pay us more.  They won’t pay us enough for you to be here.

Internal monologue: “But I played your game, I made all the appointments, I waited, I was approved, your office spoke with me and made an appointment, I waited, I drove out here, I’m here.”

“You can call your insurance company and speak with them.  Maybe you’ll have to get a different referral.”

So I called them.

They told me, “Sorry about the mistake, sir.  You’ll have to contact your primary doctor and ask for another referral.”
“You can’t put the request right now?”
“No, it has to come from the doctor.”
“You can’t contact their office for me?”
“No sir, you have to.”


I didn’t realize until a fews days later how even though I had been really upset at the staff and the people I spoke with about my problem, it’s wasn’t even their fault.  They weren’t personally apposed to me coming in because they would loose money – it’s an entire system that’s in place that keeps things moving in this manner.  That receptionist is probably making $10-15 an hour, (whether or not I’m given an appointment) with their own boss telling them, “This is what you have to tell them.  These are the rules.  We can’t change them, no exceptions.”  They probably don’t want to be denying people coverage, or turning people away from appointments, but they don’t have a choice either.  That’s just how the system is set up, and they’re coming in to work to support themselves, and maybe their own family.  I know people that work for health care providers that don’t even get health coverage from that corporation.   What’s that about?

Money.  Everything is almost always about money.

Here’s a confession of mine – I have never voted in my life.  I’ve never ever registered to vote.  I don’t know why exactly.   I never felt inclined to, or maybe nobody else in my household had voted or ever talked about it, or I don’t think that my own opinions and thoughts would matter in the big picture, against all the other votes.  Even if I felt strongly about something I’d figure, “Well, most of the other people won’t see it that way, so it won’t make a huge difference if I act on it or not.”

NOT true.

One thing to take away from the Bernie campaign is that if enough people get together and speak out against something, it WILL have an impact.  At the very least, it will raise awareness and bring attention to an issue.  My experience from that day was small.  I’m sure it pales in comparison to the struggles that other people and families face every day, but it was a glimpse into the way the healthcare system disguises its’ corruption.  I realize it may be too late for some of you to register and vote in the primary (and local) elections this Tuesday, June 7th, but I urge you to start thinking about the big picture and how the issues will effect not just “other, random people you don’t know”, but you personally.  There’s still plenty of time to get registered and informed before the presidential election in November, and plenty of time to continue to bring attention and awareness to the big issues, healthcare being just one of the many.  I’m still figuring things out, myself.

You can register to vote online, in just seconds!

A Space For Music: Interview with Rocco Somazzi

Last year I met with club owner and entrepreneur Rocco Somazzi (Rocco’s, Cafe Metropol, Duene, Angel City Jazz Festival, Cinema Grill) to pick his brain and ask him about his experiences in the music business.  Our conversation was mostly for my own benefit, to gain some insight about the life of a club-owner.  How has the Los Angeles music scene changed in the last twenty years?  What do you look for in a venue?  What does the future look like for new potential venue spaces?  I found some of his stories too interesting not to share, so here are some of the hi-lights:

June 29th, 2015 – The Blue Rose Cafe.  Hollywood, CA.  1:30pm.

Rocco Somazzi: Well, I opened the first place up in Bel Air, and that was ’98.  After I closed that, I opened up a second space right here.  When we took it over, it was an empty space.  I think it used to be hardware store or something, and it was next door to this theater complex called Elephant Theaters.  We started doing shows there, but we had problems because there was a theater next door and we couldn’t sound proof it.  It was sharing a wall, we built another wall and tried to insulate it, but the people in the theater next door could hear us, and they were doing plays.  So it gave us that restriction where we could only do music after 11pm.  It was known as a late night place. We were doing music five days a week, starting at 11pm.  So of course it was very hard to get people out.  It was fine for me, and musicians were coming out.  But for people with regular nine-to-five jobs during the week, it was pretty hard.  But we had an amazing run.

Jacob Wendt:  And how long did that go for?

RS: I was there for two years, and then I made a deal with the theaters, and they had this beautiful theater around the corner, part of the same complex, called the Lillian theater.  It’s probably still there.  It was really beautiful; high ceiling, old, wooden beams everywhere.  It had really great character and a great sound.  I said, “I’m gonna give you this space, the space that I set up as my club,” I gave it to the theater so they could turn it into another theater, and I made a deal with them to rent the Lillian after the plays.  I couldn’t start anyway before the plays were over, so it just made more sense to do it that way.  I started doing shows in the Lillian, and the capacity was bigger, maybe 200, and it worked for a while, but then there were complications because when the theater was having week-long plays, they would have to change the stage, change the sets.  And I had a piano and you know sometimes the set wouldn’t allow for the piano to be moved in and out, and sometimes the plays lasted longer…

JW:  So these weren’t little venues spaces.  You said a couple hundred people? It’s more of a concert hall?

RS:  I think its that in-between.  It’s definitely not just a gallery space with a few chairs, it’s definitely a performance space, but not a big concert hall.  It’s definitely underground and low key.

JW:  And so this was the very first spot in ’98?

RS:  In ’98 I was up in Bel Air.  That’s when I took over a restaurant and turned it into a jazz club.  It was 5,000 square feet and we had a dining room, the bar, with a stage, and I think I could fit about a hundred people, maybe, in the music area.   That was actually really cool.  I think in a way it was the closest… Well, I don’t know, it’s hard to tell whether that was the closest to an “ideal” setting.  But something happened, maybe because at that time in ’98 there wasn’t much going on, so it became THE place.  Very quickly, within 6 months, and was THE place.  All of the jazz community in LA was coming.  The location was interesting, because being up in Bel Air, people were coming from the west side and from the valley. “Rocco”, it had my name.  And people were coming.  We really built a sense of community there where we had a core group of people that were there every night.  Some of them were musicians and some were hard-core jazz guys, they were there every night.  So that was cool, because I think that’s how you want to build a club.  The problem was the restaurant – I had a full service restaurant and I didn’t know anything about the restaurant business so it was costing me way to much money to run.  And although it got popular after a while, it was actually kind of breaking even and I was managing to keep it open, it was just burning me out.  I was living there – I had a mattress in the office, and I had a shower in the office, and it took over my life completely.  And after three years I just couldn’t take it anymore.  I got an offer from Herb Alpert and he bought the place and now it’s Vibratos…

I was doing a little more open-minded music, so we had some straight ahead and we had more experimental and some electronic music, and rock based music.  We tried to focus on the creative aspect of music and not being just a jazz club .  But we had a lot of really cool stuff happening there and up in Bel Air, and players like Cedar Walton, Billy Higgins, Wayne Horvits, Andy Milne and Lyle Mays.

JW: Did you grow up playing in different groups?  What made you want to run your own spot?

RS:  I remember I started thinking about it in ’95 or so, when I was actually going to school at LACC and I was in the film program. While at LACC I met Matt Piper and we would just hang out and play music and just listen to music.  We tried to go out to listen to a lot of music and we both started thinking,  “you know, there are lot of great musicians, but not a lot of great places for people to play.”  Catalina’s and the Jazz Bakery were kind of old school with a lot of old people and so we thought,  “Oh man, if we do something a little more hip and more young, and more open…”  We thought we knew enough musicians to do something and that we could develop something, so then we started looking for a space.

JW:  At that time was Catalina’s in the newer location? 

RS:  It was still at the old location on Cahuenga.  It was different but still very old-school.  Both the bookings and the vibe – old school, sitting up at tables with little counters, and leaning, and everyone is over 60 pretty much.  Just not very dynamic. I saw some great music there but we were young, in our mid 20’s, and we loved music with an edge – with energy. We liked the electronic and rock music scene.  That club scene was more appealing to us but the music sucked.  We wanted good music with a more hip and modern vibe…

At that time I had some money and I needed to do something to be able stay in the country because I had been on a student visa for a while and then it was the time that either I would go back to Europe or do something here, so I decided to look for a space.  The problem was that the money I had wasn’t that much, maybe $150,000.   It’s a good chunk but not enough open a space.  If I wanted to open a jazz club right now, I wouldn’t even try with less than a million dollars.  Maybe 1.5 million.

JW: What kind of size space? I imagine it’s a much different endeavor trying to open something the size of Catalina’s versus bluewhale. 

RS: I would say something like bluewhale would still set you back, easily half a million dollars.  Maybe $750,000.  The other big problem for me is the limits of the food and beverage programs.  I’ve worked in restaurants for a long time now and I know what it takes to make money with a restaurant… Just the license is in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

JW:  Do you think there’s a trade off between having all that stuff done up front before the space actually opens, as apposed to if its a more of a grass roots project?  Maybe it is just about the music and the bar isn’t finished, and it’s more “bare bones.”  Is that a worth-while track to go on, and incrementally build it, or is it better to have it all ready?

RS:  Well obviously it’s better to have it all ready, but actually when I moved to Santa Monica, we did something very grass roots.  We did it with no bar – just coffee, thats it.  Coffee and pastries.  That’s all I was selling.  We just created a nice stage area – a performance space, with a piano and an expresso machine.  We opened the space with less than $100,000.  I basically just had chairs in rows and a good sound system and coffee.  We found that musically, the experience was just as good, if not even better, because you could really focus in there.  But the problem is you’re never going to make money that way.  It became an exercise in sustainability. I originally had a door person, a sound person, and a barista.  After six months I had only two people.  After six more months, I had only one person.  Eventually it was just me running the place.  This was on Santa Monica Blvd and Vine, just a block from here.   People were calling it “Rocco Two-Point-O”, or “Mark II”.  It was so grass roots I didn’t even have a sign.  It was completely underground.  I went from the upscale Bel Air restaurant with a full bar to the opposite end with an empty warehouse room and a coffee machine.  People knew it as Rocco’s still, but I had no sign, nothing.

JW: I don’t mind that.  It’s like, “Here’s the space, and we know that its a space for the musicians to come in and be respected, and listeners and musicians will want to hang out and it will grow.”  That sounds great, but it comes back to that idea of “how is it going to be sustainable?”  

RS:  Exactly.  I had fun doing it, I must say.  For the few years I could do it it was fun.  But I couldn’t afford to hire anybody.  I was doing the door, the sound, and the coffee, which can be pretty crazy.   And I’m making zero money.  I was renting a room for $200 a month; I had no credit card and no bank account.  I was kind of happy in a way, but my life was just very dedicated to the space.  I spent my life there and I had friends and knew a lot of musicians,  but then I met my future wife and when she saw where i was living she said “I’m not gonna date somebody that has zero aspirations for the future.”  I never knew how i was going to pay my rent next month.  I was looking for change under the chairs and eating at Yoshinoya on the corner.  I was living on $700 a month – that was all the expenditures that I had.  In a way it was liberating, it was great.  So that model works – It’s either you’re twenty and you don’t have any aspirations for the future and you just want to do that and it’s fine, or, you have enough money where you do that as a side project like John Zorn does with the Stone in New York.  He opened this bare bones space and he pays the rent as a philanthropy.  He has volunteers working there, and the door goes to the band, and that’s it.   It’s very sustainable because he is the most famous experimental jazz musician in New York and he has enough income that he doesn’t have to worry about that.

JW:  Would there be certain acts that would come in and say “we need a guarantee of this kind of budget,”? Would you be able to do that, or would you still just say “this is our model?”

RS:  You need to work with guarantees, too.  An 80-20 split is fine for regular programming but  if you want to generate a new audience, you gotta bring someone in from out of town, and soon enough, if you have a good space and people like playing there and enough word gets out… When I was in Bel Air, within a few months I had people from New York calling me.  First you start with the local scene and as soon as they like playing there and start talking about it, then you start getting calls from bookers all over the country, and for those acts you need a guarantee.   Nobody is going to travel without a guarantee…

You can negotiate a little.  It depends on how much they want to play at your space.  I found that a lot of the national touring artists are willing to play for less money than they make at a more established place, but they need to cover their travel expenses and make a little money.  The key is to balance it.  You can’t make guarantees every week because sometimes you win and sometimes you loose.  My formula was to do at least one a month, to have a national touring act.  That started when I was up in Bel Air and I was publishing monthly schedules.  At that time, email was not a thing.  I’m talking about ’98 – it sounds like not that long ago, but there wasn’t that much online activity at that time and so we were still printing and mailing schedules, and we had a mailing list that we would send them to.  It was fun.  It’s much easier now to reach people, but it’s much harder to get people to pay attention.  It’s different when you receive a calendar in the mail.  I remember a lot of people were posting my calendar on the fridge and they knew what was going on.  When I would announce that the calendar was ready a lot of people would come into the restaurant and pick it up.  You want your monthly calendar to have a least one big name that people recognize, if not maybe two.  And then a bunch of other stuff.  But you need the “anchor artists” in your monthly programming.  That helps to raise the level of reputation of everything.  If somebody reads into the calendar and there is nobody that they recognize, that’s no good.  If there are at least one or two people they recognize they say “oh, this guy’s playing here so maybe the other acts are good, too.”

JW:  If there’s a group coming in from out of town, they’ll maybe be there for two nights, but usually every night is a different act.  Maybe this was the case in the 80s and 90s, too.  But at some point before then, was it more common that an act would be playing a week’s stay, or two weeks?  

RS: Yeah I actually like that a lot.  I started doing it when I was up in Bel Air and I continued when I was down here.  I did it at Duende, too, and it’s amazing.  I really like that model, but it’s difficult because people have very busy touring schedules and not everybody is open to that, but I think it’s great because a band gets better with each night and you can have special guests, and you can really develop and make the visit so much more special.  I went to the extreme once – I booked a band up in Bel Air for a month straight, every night, and that was actually extremely successful.  The first week, nobody showed up, very few people.  The second, we started building up.  The third week there was a line out the door every day, because people were talking about it and there was this buzz around town.   It was a band that nobody had ever heard of, but it was mind blowing.  It’s interesting that I got to book that band – I got a call, I was up at that club, and got a call from Bobby Colomby – he’s a drummer, and the guy that discovered Jaco Pastorious and produced for Weather Report, and he used to be an executive for Columbia records.  He was also known for being the drummer for Blood, Sweat, and Tears, a long time ago.  And he calls me and says he heard this band that is the next Weather Report, and it’s the best thing he’s heard since Weather Report.  And this is the guy who put Weather Report on the map, so I said, “Let’s check it out and see what it’s all about” and they were amazing.  There were called Dapp Theory, and it was a hip hop, jazz fusion band with a  rapper, and these guys were the funkiest thing you’ve ever heard.

JW:  I think one of the hardest parts about LA is that all the spaces are spread out.  Do you think that would work, to have closer proximity spaces?

RS:  I don’t think it would work in LA.  It’s a relatively small scene, and it’s not just that the venues are spread out, but the people are spread out.   People want a venue close to where they are.  I don’t think they want them close together, they just want a venue that is close to them.  It’s such a spread out city.   The only way that you have multiple venues working is that if you have one on the West Side, one downtown, one in Long Beach… Then it might work.   But if you put them all on one street, it’s not gonna work.

JW:  Did you notice any attendance differences in the locations you’ve been in, away from downtown or outside of LA?  Where were some of the other locations?

RS:  So I went from Bel Air, to Hollywood, to Downtown.   I always thought that I wanted to be in a relatively high traffic area, also because all the people that I knew were living in this area, so I have zero experience outside of the metropolitan LA.  Even in North Hollywood I wouldn’t feel comfortable, or Orange County, or East LA.  It’s hard.  The farther out from the central LA area you are, the harder it is to get people to drive out.   And for me, I never lived in any of the outside areas.  I lived in Glendale, and I’ve never done any shows there.  Downtown was the best for me.

JW:  Without losing the original intent of your project, what are some other ways to get people to come out?  

RS:  One thing that I did end up doing to establish myself really fast as a place to go see music is that I started out with some really big names.  The first month that I opened Duende, Nels Cline did four nights.  The week after I had Steve Kuhn with Joey Baron, and Buster Williams.  Right after that we had Charlie Hunter.  So in a month, we packed some super stars and right after that we were the place.  You have to establish and get the biggest names you can when you open.  Invest in that to launch a serious space.  Of course you can’t sustain that every month, but it’s easier to reach out to people once that’s already happened…

The key is it needs to be a good space. I developed some good relationships with artists and they will come and play for very little money to help get a new space started. All these local guys are very supportive if you’re doing something good.  If you’re just doing a gallery show, forget it.  But if you had a good space that has potential, and if you can get them excited about the space… It doesn’t need to be big, it’s more about the sound and the vibe…

But at the same time, the only way that it can sustain and stay in operation is if you have shows that draw really well.   And if you only have room for thirty or forty people and you have a show that draws 150, you’re loosing out on all the money.  At Duende I had 100 seats.  And many nights I would fill 25 or 30 seats and it would still look good in there.  But when I had a big show I would do two shows of 100 and those were the shows that would sustain other shows.  If I didn’t have the ability to sell 100 tickets to the big shows, then I’d be wasting the (band’s) guarantees.  As we were saying before, you want to have a national touring act each month to raise the reputation of the program.  But you cannot do that with less than 100 seats.  If I get Steve Coleman and the M collective to come in and you have 50 seats, you’re never gonna make you’re money back.  He’ll draw 150 people easy, and you want those people to come in.  So for me the ideal size is at least 100 maybe even 150 with bigger shows.  But I will not start a program in a room with 30 seats, even though maybe 80 percent of my shows only have 30 seats filled, I wouldn’t do it in that room.  Again, those shows that drew well are what put you on the map and build the momentum, and what people talk about. And if you only do 30 people shows you’ll never go anywhere and it’ll just stay there… Always packed is great, and if you have that problem, great.  But if you’re packed and you can’t generate enough money to pay the band, then you’re very limited to what you can present.

JW:  How do you feel about a private club vs a non profit, or shared arts-collective space?  

RS:  It’s an alternative.  Let’s say I were to open a club and I couldn’t do the food or the restaurant part of the club, then what I would do would be a non-profit space.  And I’ve been working at a non profit organization for 6 years now – that’s how we do the Angel City Jazz Festival.  It’s a very small non-profit.  But that’s the only way that you could get some funding that is not directly relatedly to selling stuff – you can raise money through organizations and grants, but it takes time.  It took us five years to work with enough foundations so that we have a little bit of a budget and can do the festival every year.  But it’s a small budget.  If I was still living here in LA, I would try to use Angel City Arts to finance weekly shows, if not a space.  So then you’d have an alternative to the money side, and you’re not dependent on having a successful business.  You could just have enough connections to donors.  But it takes time.  It’s not easy, and it’s a lot of effort to maintain a non-profit.  That’s what the Jazz Bakery was doing – it was a non-profit,  and right now they even have a chance at building their own building, much like SFJazz did in San Francisco.

JW: So you could have a non-profit that would still have the club element and atmosphere?

RS:  Yeah, basically the way they are planing to do that is that they own the space and it’s a non-profit, and all its operations are sustained by donations, and then they rent out space within the building to an operator, to run the concessions.  I don’t know if the non-profit could have a liquor license.  Maybe they have to partner with an operator and make a deal, but its doable.  You could still have a full scale restaurant and bar within  a non-profit run space.  But again, you’re talking about a lot of money to be able to do something like that.  In the end, I think the ideal space is more something like the bluewhale.  The problem is that even for the buewhale it’s hard to remain sustainable despite the fact that it is arguably the most successful jazz club in LA…

JW:  Tell me about Duende…

RS:  Duende just came up out of the blue. I was working in Culver City doing some shows there and running a restaurant.  That was actually a weird space – it was 10,000 square feet, with an art gallery, shop, and cafe.   I started doing film screenings and live music there and it was fun but then out of the blue, out of one I event, I got invited too open a space and that’s how Duende happened.  It was the next opportunity.  Maybe, it’ll be easier in two years.  Or ten years.

JW:  Is it worth it to try to work with a pre-existing place and bring a new series in there vs. having your own space? 

RS:  Yeah it’s hard because most people don’t get it.  It’s like… when you hire people, you need to hire people that have experience, but they also need to love music.  It’’s very hard to run a space with people that just share your passion, because most likely they’re not qualified to do the job you need them to do.  In every space that I’ve worked I’ve never been able to find a full staff that was on board.  Even worse when I collaborated with spaces.  With Cafe Metropol, I was doing basically what you’re saying with collaborating with existing businesses and it can work for a limited time, but it always becomes an issue at some point.  The conflict of interest with what you’re trying to do and what the business wants… It’s very frustrating and I think it’s so hard to find stability doing this kind of thing.  Joon, I don’t know how he does it, but he’s able to find stability.  A lot of places have come and gone, so many places.  It’s just very hard to reach an equilibrium.  I think ultimately, the only way that you can guarantee longevity is if you are the owner, operator, and you’re in control of everything, like what Joon does.  And you have enough money to sustain the operation somehow.  Be determined.  It’s tough.” //

Appreciating/Valuing the Arts

A few weeks ago I posted a rather long status (read; rant) on Facebook.  I’d like to repost it here, slightly cleaned up and edited.  There might still be some profanity.  This is still a long entry, and my main points are at the end.

January, 11th, 2016
I am a professional musician. That’s my profession, my job, my career. I play, I teach, I write, I hear other musicians, I try to be an active member of the “scene”.  I like to organize different events.  Music is how I support myself – pay my bills, buy food, buy clothes, and fill my gas tank.  Music also happens to be one of my passions.  I like music a lot. I play the drums. I like playing the drums, and sometimes I get to make money by playing the drums.  Pretty cool stuff, no?  Last month I was playing music at a bar, from 9pm to 1am in the morning. On a break, I was sitting eating and then heard my drums being played. I looked up and saw an incredibly drunk woman sitting at my drums, playing them, laughing… And then she face planted directly onto my snare drum, leaving a line of lipstick on the brand new drum head, and bending the arm of the stand until the snare tilted sideways and fell to the ground. She got up and walked away like nothing happened. I went over to her group to talk about what just happened, where I was confronted with confusion, anger, and then outrage. She denied anything happened.  A man in their group starts to yell at me,

“She never touched your stand! How can it be broken?  What’s your fucking problem, man?  You want to kick us out of the bar now or something?  What, you want us to pay for something?  We didn’t do anything.  Even if we DID play those drums…. How were we supposed to know that they were YOUR drums?  There’s not event a fucking sign that says ‘don’t play the drums!’  You can’t expect someone not to play the drums in this place.  Without a sign, anyone could just walk up and play them…”

“What?  What are you talking about, sir?”  I was getting very angry.  It was about to come to blows. I was prepared to get violent with this guy. And you know what?  The management/staff at this establish immediately saw the confrontation unfolding, and stepped in and had that whole group escorted out of the building. They sent in 4 or 5 security guards. They asked me if I wanted to press charges. They asked if my equipment was damaged. They felt so bad, and were appalled at the lack of respect that group had for us. They told us how much they wished everyone valued us as much as we should be valued. They made me feel respected and valued, and treated me like a human being. It was a great feeling. They gave me a fresh drink, and I finished my meal, and then I had a great time playing the rest of the night. I wish all establishments cared about musicians/artists/staff/people that much. But I’ve noticed, there isn’t a lot of respect going around these days for musicians/artists. Being self-employed is a lot of work. It’s rewarding, but there’s a lot of work involved. I started thinking about the pros and cons of this line of work. Why do I get discouraged so often? Why do I feel powerless? What is causing this emotion? What IS this emotion?

Oh, I’m feeling disrespected and devalued.

I’m sick of that.  And you know what I’m sick of? I am sick and tired of being told,

“Hey, THIS guy over here is willing to be taken advantage of way more than you. THIS guy doesn’t have as much self-respect, and doesn’t mind when we ask him to devalue himself and be treated as less than what he’s worth. Why are you so adamant about being treated with respect? Like a human being? In fact, it would be in your best interest, and you would even BENEFIT from treating yourself this way and doing what we ask of you, because it will establish a reputation for you as a ‘like-able and friendly guy’ and insure you more work. I think you should be more like THIS guy, because we LIKE this guy. It’s way more beneficial for us to employ THIS guy, because it means we end up more on top. Don’t you see that by lowering your standards, and not needing to feel respected, OUR company does better? And you want to work for us, don’t you? So you should just stop feeling this need to be treated decently. It’s only going to get in your way. I’m doing you a favor by telling you all this, can’t you see that? Just drop the idea that you need to be compensated, respected, or valued. THAT’S how you make it in this world. One day in the future it’ll all pay off! I’m also acknowledging the fact that you and that other guy have the same product. You’re both great! But it’s better business for us to not have to respect you – that seems too costly for us… Think of it this way – the more people you bring in, the more we’re able to use you for whatever purpose we see fit, the more business you bring us…. The bigger your pay check will be! We will reward and give special treats to those whom we deem our most valuable workers. Anyone willing to abandon their own self-worth holds a special place in our books. Give us everything you’ve got, and hey, you *might* get rewarded!”


I don’t want to hear it anymore. I don’t want to hear your twisted, mendacious prophecy about how I could be the artist who will surrender his whole being and will be rewarded for my life of humbleness. When a restaurant says, “We’ll start at this pay, and if you bring people, and if we like you, maybe we can talk about raising it to this pay. No. The reality is, if they’re actually willing to pay something higher, they should be able to pay that now. You know what happens? You do a gig once or twice for little to no money, and they dump you, and they find someone else willing to give it try, and repeat that formula forever. That’s how they win. That’s how they take advantage of you.  Or worse: Maybe the budget DOES increase over time. Maybe they DO start to value you, or at least pretend to. You played it their way for a while, and took an initial hit, and in the long run you made a good investment. And then some time goes by…

“We’d like to renegotiate the band’s compensation. It worked a lot more in our favor when we paid you less, so we’d like to go back to that now.”

“What? We had an understanding that what we are currently being compensated is the appropriate amount. We started lower than this and worked up to it. We had an agreement. Why would we go back to being paid less? What happened?”

“Well, we’d like to make more money. And we realized we’re losing money when we pay you the current amount. We’d like to go back to paying you less, and you were fine with that earlier in the month/year, so you should be fine with it now, too. You’re options are to either continue playing here for less money, or we’ll get someone else who’s willing to do it for less than you.”


How? How did it get this way? What’s going on? I had a thought –

**Musicians will do whatever you tell them to do if you threaten to take away their opportunity to play music.**

Somehow, this has become a truth in the music business.  Somehow this leads the way.  This includes devaluing themselves. And unless everyone stops accepting this as a truth, it will continue to be a truth. It’s actually quite simple. You know how to make that $50 gig disappear? You know how to put an end to being/feeling devalued?

Just don’t do it.

It’s really that easy. Don’t take that gig. You don’t have to blow up and chew out the person asking you. You don’t have to write a novel on Facebook declaring it (though I am…) But when something stupid is proposed to you, make sure to keep in mind that it’s not your only option.

One time, I was approached by a coffee shop to play music in their store. They called ME! *I was approached. I didn’t call them or go in asking about putting together a show. They called me. Think of the biggest coffee chain the world – the most famous one you can think of. The one that generates more business than most of could ever dream of. That one. This coffee shop wanted to have some live music for an event and they called me; they got my number from someone, with a recommendation to hire me and bring in a group to play music. We started discussing details about the event, and when it came down to the key points, they told me,


Oh I’m sorry, I thought you were one of the biggest companies in the world, one that could afford to have live music 24/7 at every location on Earth if they wanted. I’m sorry, I guess $100 or even $75 each for three people plus some food is too much of a dent for your business. My mistake. Did you really just call me, a total stranger, and ask me to work for free? What makes you think that’s OK? Do you not realize how incredibly insulting you’re being?

So when that owner/manager tells you, “I know you said you want this amount, and we already agreed to it, but now I’d like to only give you THIS amount”, the only way they can get away with that IS IF YOU LET THEM. Don’t! Don’t let that be OK. There are ways to help secure this agreements. Contracts, for example. That club owner screwed you over? And they have a signed contract saying they’d pay you more than they did? Even if you think it’d be more costly to file for small claims court than to just take the hit – Don’t. Don’t get pushed around. Don’t get taken advantage of. Have some respect for yourself, your craft, your profession. That way they won’t keep doing it to other people over and over again. “Hey, they didn’t stand up to us, so the next guys probably won’t, either.” This helps to reinforce the precedent:

**Musicians will do whatever you tell them to do if you threaten to take away their opportunity to play music.**

Let’s make those musicians believe that they’re the only ones who benefit from their playing – They want to have a good time. They want to be able to make music with their friends. If we make it seem like this insulting offer we throw them is the best they can get, maybe they’ll bite and just do what we want.

If you don’t take that $50, four-hour gig on Saturday night, with no food or drinks, playing background music at the lowest possible volume, to room full of people who don’t give a fuck about you or what you’re doing, except when they ask you if you can play “Take 5” … Someone else will. You think, “eh, I won’t like it, but yeah I’ll do it.”

Hey. Stop that. Don’t support that. Just don’t, and it’ll all go away. I think some people don’t understand exactly what I mean. I’ve heard,

“That’s great that you stick to your guns. Good for you, man. That takes a lot of guts. I’m just not in a position to do that. I just don’t see it that way. We should be playing everywhere, all the time, no matter what. It’s just not that simple – the fact is, that’s what gigs pay now. That’s the world, now. We can’t change it, so just go with it and relax. It’s not about the money. It’s about the music.”

No. No, man. No, I won’t relax.

Hey, owner of establishment; A jazz trio at a fancy restaurant isn’t an “exposure opportunity.” The musicians performing at your restaurant are not there just for their love of the music. If they just wanted to play for the sake of touching an instrument and creating a sound, they could do that at home, in garages, in the park…. Anywhere else. Live music at your restaurant creates ambiance; it is a boost in atmosphere. The customers/patrons of the restaurant are there to eat, and the music is secondary.  Don’t expect me to bring 20 people to your restaurant. Don’t expect me to promote my Tuesday night restaurant gig like I’m going on a world tour. I want people to be there.  And yes, I’ll promote the fact that I’ll be playing there.  But don’t tell me I should be thankful I have the performance space (free of charge!) and then ask me to turn down the volume, and then ask to turn it back up, and then ask me to play just one more song even though it’s 10 minutes after the time we agreed we’d stop playing.

And what I’m saying isn’t an argument about “things being for the music, and not the bread.” I’m not saying you should only take a gig with a big price tag on it. I’m not saying I need to be the center of attention. I’m not saying I won’t do a background/casual gig. I’m not saying that I need to make at least $100 anytime I leave the house. I’ve played gigs before, and have no problem playing for far less money than that, depending on the scenario. There’s a time and a place.

What I’m saying is STAY RESPECTED. Don’t get taken advantage of. Make sure you know the difference between “a favor” and “let us just screw you a bit”. How much did that Bachelors of Music degree cost? How many hours did you practice last year? What percentage of your life has been dedicated to this craft?



That restaurant says they only have a total budget of $100 for a Friday night, and they want a 5 piece band? And they don’t want to feed any of the musicians? And they want live music for four hours? Well, shit. Sorry, restaurant, looks like you won’t be getting what you want. I’ve performed many times for little to no money. Charity events that I’ve been invested in, house parties, jam sessions, original projects… Those events are different from the situation I’m talking about. What I’m talking about has more to do with –


The two aren’t too far away from each other, or completely exclusive. They’re close. But there are differences. Yes, you can be performing original music somewhere, and get compensated for it.  Yes, you can do something that you enjoy musically and still make some money.  But, how about this scenario:

I’m thinking I’d like a sandwich. I go into Subway and order a sandwich combo meal. I look at the menu, and I see the clearly posted prices for the various items on the menu. I ordered a meal combo that costs $10. I say to the cashier, “Now, I’ve read on your menu that you’ve valued this meal at $10. I’d like you to give me the meal for $8.”

Normally at this point, you would have to leave without a sandwich. But if we apply the “music business reality” concept into our scenario, somehow THIS becomes an acceptable continuation…

What? No, I should be able to get the sandwich for $8. You clearly enjoy making sandwiches, and you should be willing to sell them for whatever price I offer. In fact, you should be lucky you can even get some work in the sandwich business. You’re doing what you love, so it shouldn’t even “feel” like work at all. You guys are just up there, having fun all day making sandwiches. I think it’d be better for business if you lowered your prices. Think of how many more people could eat YOUR sandwiches. YOUR brand. How badly do you want to sell these sandwiches? Listen, if you don’t give me that sandwich for $8, I’m going to purchase one from THIS guy. He’s only asking $5! I’m paying you $3 more than he’s asking. Why can’t you just be like him?”

And then I wouldn’t sell my sandwich for $8, (lower rates to the counteroffer) and that customer (restaurant owner) purchases (hires) a sandwich from the other sandwich maker (musician) instead of me. (or, a musician looses a gig that they worked to attain because someone else has offered to do it for less money).


That’s a hard statement for me to believe just a week after I had about $2,000 worth of equipment stolen from me. But I’ve had a lot of really great musical opportunities, too. I once had a completely different experience with a different coffee shop than the one mentioned earlier. One time I went into a coffee shop where there hadn’t been a lot of music and I built something from the ground up with them, and it worked really well! They had so much respect and appreciation for what we were doing. This little independent shop did everything they could to make us feel appreciated and valued. They couldn’t offer a huge amount of money, but they consistently offered decent funds, as much food and drink as we wanted, and complete musical freedom in a friendly and creative space. No micromanaging, nobody on our cases about breaks, no pressure to pander to the customers, etc. Some people DO get it. Some places do value what we do. You just have to find the right connection in the right place.

Hey, just value what you’re doing. Value yourself. Think about repercussions. Don’t be a part of the problem. It’s hard enough as it is – we don’t need to make it worse for ourselves. As long as you continue to play just for tips or a meal, you have no right to complain about the fact that some restaurants expect you to play just for tips or a meal. Don’t complain that it’s Saturday night and that place only offers $50 even though you routinely play other gigs for $50. I’m not saying never play for $50. I’m saying make sure you respect yourself, and that others respect you and what you do. It seems that everyone *appreciates the arts. Not everyone *values the arts. Make sure you appreciate and value yourself.

Added thoughts: January 21st, 2016:

I received a ton of different responses to this post, and I’d like to make some additional comments.  Mainly, that the focus of this piece is about working musicians, being able to make a decent wage.   I hoped to bring attention to the idea of working musicians “being undercut by people offering services to businesses (which those businesses want) for low rates which are not sustainable amounts to live off of…” (D. Carter) 

-And the precedent it sets for those businesses to continue operating in this way.

A way that forces musicians to undercut each other and even at times themselves, just for the possibility of offering services. It forces rates and wages down further, and perpetuates the idea that it is not something to be valued. By accepting their conditions it’s a self-fulfilling series of events; “they don’t value their services, so why should we?” How did the industry/culture get this way?

 “Music has become devalued as a profession, as have most of the arts in America. It’s sad but undeniable. It has to do with both the glut of musicians produced by music schools who are willing to play for nothing, and the disintegration of arts education in primary and high school over the past thirty years which has lead to a culturally ignorant populace that can’t tell the difference between an amateur and a professional or a competent musician and an excellent one.” (R. Picket)

Yes.  A lack of music education and a huge increase of the number of musicians (students) willing to perform for little to no money.  Makes perfect sense to me.