Being a musician is hard… In order to become one in the first place requires a great deal of work. In order to make a living from being one you have to work even harder. You’ll have to work on evenings when everyone else is off and having fun. You don’t get paid holiday, or sick leave. You’ll spend most of your money buying and maintaining equipment, or filling you battered-up car with petrol to get to your next gig. You’ll have to always project happiness on stage, even if you’re having a bad day, and you’re not allowed an ‘off’ night to be an excuse for a bad performance. You’ll maybe be made to feel guilty about taking breaks between sets or charging the amount you do for performances, and you can’t fully explain to people that all the prep and rehearsal time counts towards that fee. You might have to waitress or teach just to make sure you have enough to pay your bills. Oh and every January you have to complete a bloody Tax Return (no matter how many blog posts you write to avoid doing so).
So why do people do it?
Because they love it.
Because they can’t imagine doing anything else with their life.
Because they have to.
All those bad things don’t really seem like a massive issue when you get to do what you love – they’re part and parcel. The only negative that I’ve found that truly is a negative, is that there are people out there who take advantage of that love and who will manipulate you for their own gain. And unfortunately, I found this out first hand.
You hear stories of ‘the conman’ in areas of the arts. The ‘Casting Couch’ in Hollywood, the agent who takes a 50% cut of your gig money etc. etc. and you keep an eye out. You have to. But sometimes, these people are not quite so obvious.
Nearly 3 years ago, I was (unknowingly) introduced to such a man by a mutual friend. I was recently out of LCM, and I had just got a band together and recorded my first album: ‘Bookmark.’ We started to chat about music and about the CD and how I got my gigs, and he asked if I wanted him to be my ‘agent’. No money exchanged hands, my friend was there at the meeting so I wasn’t alone with a stranger, and everything seemed so exciting. I couldn’t believe my luck.
This man asked for nothing but a percentage of the fees he achieved for me. And he was getting larger fees than I had ever asked for. He told me how much he believed in me and my music and he delivered – getting me gigs and spreading my name. I may have been naive, but I thought everything was going very well. ‘Agent’ soon became ‘Manager’.
It slowly became apparent that the percentage this man was actually taking was 100%. Apart from the odd payment here and there, I guess to keep me quiet when I started pestering too much, for every gig I did received no money. Money that I, in turn, could not pay to my band.
I will not go into the details for I don’t think they would help, and I imagine I could rant for a while, but eventually I sought a solicitor and took my ex-‘manager’ to Small Claims Court, to try and retrieve the substantial amount of money he owed me. I won and he was given a CCJ against his name. This however didn’t stop him from continuing his work with a ‘Charitable Foundation’ he set up and still runs, nor did it force him to pay me.
The only way I got any response from him, financial or otherwise, was through emails from my father (who, with my Mum, had become financially involved as I needed money to pay my band). The courts could do nothing, the police could do nothing, but my parents took on my fight with me, despite the stream of lies, broken promises and missed deadlines that made it seem almost pointless.
I was not and will not be the only person who was affected by this saga, and to those other people – I hope you get peace from the situation you are in, and I am truly sorry that it happened.
I can not tell you how awful this battle has been; how frustrating and upsetting. I have moaned and cried and ranted and bent the ears of so many friends and family, and I have a massive thank you to make to all of those people who have helped me through this. Particularly my parents who I do believe are some of the best there are. Ever.
Today, I heard word that the final amount (save 91p of the capital and around £100 interest) of my outstanding debt has been paid and there is a cheque waiting for me on my Solicitor’s desk. £100 is, as one of my old bosses once said, a very small amount of money to ensure that he is out of my life, and so I am taking this as a victory. And I am celebrating that after 2 years of hard work and persistence and occasional patience, we finally won.
I will not name him, nor the Foundation that he set up because, although I want to, (if only just to save others from his lies and deceit) now is not the time. It’s a time for moving on and looking ahead to this New Year, and being extremely grateful for my wonderful friends and amazing family.
But I will say to those wanting to make a living being a musician: take care. Don’t be too skeptical, but do take care. And pay attention to the Musician’s Union ‘Ask Us First’ list – I know that there’s definitely one name on there I’d keep a long way away from, so I’d bet you’d be best to avoid the rest of them too.
Thank you everyone. Truly. I’m so grateful to you all.
Now, where is my Champagne? 🙂