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Friday, January 21, 2005

Navigating the Treacherous Sea of Musical Tastes

Deciding what kind of music to cover is like choosing sides in a multiparty election. I keep about six 40's era songs in my book because I like the arrangements and they were covered by people like Nat King Cole, Tony Bennett, Ray Charles and James Taylor. I don't play them often enough to be very smooth. Recently some nice folks in their seventies suggested I switch over to all forties all the time. They kept me busy with requests for over an hour and then didn't leave a tip. Unless you consider their advice a tip. I gave their suggestion grave consideration for a while. No pun intended. In trying to entertain them, the owner of Althea's, Greg Silvia, was patient but told me later, "You're killing me with that stuff."

He's right, of course. I do what I do. I'm not going to get hired to do private parties for later seniors but most people in their sixties like the music I'm already doing. As long as I leave out my coffee house set. People from late thirties to fifties like it a lot. When I play the coffee houses, I go more contemporary and include more of my own material. Right now you can make a lot of money and stay very busy doing forties music. But that's gonna change as the baby boomers start taking over the demographics down here. I think I'm well situated for that. There are lots of rockers in their early sixties now.

But these are questions that performers and songwriters face every day. The music that moves you is the music you should write and play but the music that moves most people will pay the bills. It pays to be flexible but there are limits to everybody's ability to stretch. Nobody wants to see Mick Jagger doing Celine Dion. Or vice versa! Except as a comedy sketch.

People who treat live musicians like juke boxes and then don't tip should be ignored if you only knew in advance what their game was. Play this, play that, good bye. But guessing what people are going to do when they exit is too risky. In yoga we learn to lead with our hearts. That's the way we should perform too. Play every song like it's your opening number in heaven. Sometimes the angels will be listening. And sometimes they just beat the tip.

posted by Bud @ 9:38 AM

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