Last updated Thursday October 28, 2021 at 08:50:50

2021 - The debate continues
Will you pay more for your live jazz?


23/10/21 - Interesting email from drummer John Petters today. - "My Retirement From Live Gigs - I will be retiring from playing live sessions following my date at St Johnís Arts Centre, Old Harlow on Saturday 30th October.  The jazz scene has been decimated by Covid and there is no sign things will get better any time soon.  I intend to focus my attention on my radio show, jazz history, talks on jazz to U3As and any other groups. I will also be writing a column for ĎRadcomí, the journal of the Radio Society of Great Britain and other writing projects. Much as I love playing gigs, enjoying the company of my fellow musicians and meeting jazz fans, I do not like all the aggravation which goes with it. Iíve had enough of driving for hours and lugging my drums into venues and out again and driving home again after playing a high energy gig. I intend to spend much more time enjoying my hobby of amateur radio and other activities". As a fellow radio ham and a jazz fan, I wish you well in the future John.

24/10/21 - Very sad to hear what John Petters is saying about how Covid has decimated attendances at live Jazz and that he is giving up performing. I feel bound to remark, however, that he is, or should we now say was, pretty much a professional musician (if a drummer qualifies as musician, according to the old joke). His gigs - John Pettersí Productions - were at the high end of the Trad Jazz market. I do hope none of the musicians in our wonderful territory bands, who are used to playing for love of the music and little more than expenses, are of the mind to similarly walk away. I'm fairly certain they won't be. -

Andrew Liddle

27/10/21 - Peter Jezzard writes, "Yes Fred, it is sad to hear that John Petters has called it a day. But I can't help responding to some of your comments with regard to playing music for the "love of it". A couple of weeks ago I travelled 270 miles to visit a band that with Liz Bacon I was instrumental in forming many years ago. The 'New Orleans Preservation Band' still continue to play at the Oxbridge Hotel in Stockton, but they have moved their regular Thursday night sessions to a Friday afternoon where you can a pleasant meal while listening to traditional jazz.

I say this to make the point that I will and have often travelled many miles often at my own expense, to visit (now not so many) old friends and play our sort of music. However the reason that I came to live and play in the South-East, is that down here publicans by and large, "respect", and actually "pay" musicians to come into their venues to help them sell their ale. This in turn encourages the musician to improve his entertaining sound.

From many years experience in the North, (CIU Working Men's Clubs excepted), a band, or a club went, almost cap in hand, to rent a venue. In effect they were/are saying "Please Mr publican if we pay you will you let us help sell your ale and advertise you pub?" Down here its the opposite, I get approached by publicans, restaurants etc. to provide live jazz entertainment, it is a different culture.

After COVID with more and more musicians retiring, if I accept a gig, I have to budget for the possibility of needing a dep who may have to travel many miles. Which is why, like John, I go out for realistic recompense to meet the expectations of the many, still professional, musicians who are available the nearer you get to London. It is also worth noting that venues down here often ask for certificate for P.A.T. tested equipment, and evidence of Public Liability insurance, none of which comes cheap.

Having said this, I also feel that audiences, both North and South have little or no realisation of how the music gets to them, nor appreciate the expenses in time, and money that musicians spend.  As illustration, there was a memorable occasion many years ago when after one of our regular sessions at the Oxbridge the owner of a famous brewery was 'having a party' and after much hail-fellow, well met, invited the band to it. The idea of actually "paying" the band was as far from his mind, as Hartlepool and his brewery is to mine".



Will you pay more for your live jazz?


09/09/11 - "Hi Fred, I'm probably treading on dangerous ground but here goes. As everybody is painfully aware the price of fuel is horrendous and will probably increase in the coming months. there are venues that our band played at 18months ago that we simply can't do any longer, not because we don't like the places but because it would cost us so much to get there. Other bands have similar experiences. I will now take a deep breath. Could not the admission fee be increased by even £1 or £2 ? I hasten to add that this does not apply to every club, but even this small amount would contribute significantly to every band's expenses enabling them to play more clubs thus giving the various audiences more choice of music. I shall probably have to go and hide now !".

 Moe Green".

10/09/11 - Re Moe Green's suggestion of increasing entrance prices to compensate for the cost of fuel. A basic principal of business is that the price of a service is governed by what people are prepared to pay, irrespective of the cost of providing it. If people are not prepared to pay more, then the principle of diminishing returns would apply. If they are prepared to pay more, then they should have been doing this already". - Barrie Quilliam

11/09/11 - What a shame that petrol prices have increased only for gig musicians and not for the people who travel and pay to see them.

Derek Daniels

12/09/11 - Hello Fred,

The short answer to Moe Green's question is yes and no.

Years ago, in Speaking the Unspeakable, listed in Discussion Pages, a long diatribe on remuneration by an anonymous London bassist was published.  Two responses came - from a promoter and me. Nobody else could be bothered. Since then the price of fuel has risen by fifty percent, musicians' fees have remained static or dropped and the Inland Revenue (for the current financial year) have increased the mileage allowance from 40 to 45 pence per mile.


1. This weekend about 300,000 spectators, paying £30+, will have attended Premiership football matches in England. Others will have attended concert and theatre shows costing between £20 and £80. I do not believe these people are significantly wealthier than jazz enthusiasts. If the normal attendance at a jazz club is 60, the football fans could populate 5,000 such venues.

2. We can see that there are people, devoid of any discernible talent, on television and on the touring entertainment circuit presumably being handsomely paid (did someone mention Irish twins?). Should not jazz players get a reasonable fraction of their rewards?


1. Most spectators/listeners listed above are unlikely to patronise jazz clubs.

2. A number of jazz club patrons appear to be indifferent to jazz as an art form, and merely want a type of entertainment that replicates the music of their youth. Thus some of the more popular bands peddle a repertoire of over-familiar standards (learnt from the trad bands of the 50's and 60's and not from the hugely superior original recordings of the 20's) played in a very limited number of keys (try getting them to play in G or Db). Admission fees are for cheap, jolly, nostalgic music, not for the promulgation of an art form.

3. Free admission gigs probably don't help the cause. Although the promoter is hoping to sell enough food, drink, ice cream to cover the cost and lure customers back on jazz-free occasions, the audience probably don't see it this way.

4. Recently I have been listening to bassist Paul Chambers' recordings (especially his bowed version of Yesterdays) and the wonderful John Kirby Sextet (with possibly, in Buster Bailey, the best-ever jazz clarinettist). What am I doing trying to perform this music? If they were the equivalent of Premier or International footballers, I (and maybe some of my musical acquaintances) are not even near pub team players in ability. Should we expect people to part with good money to hear us?

5. Local symphony orchestra players, choral society members and brass bandspersons play for free (or expenses for the group as a whole). And they rehearse. While professionals dependent on music for a living deserve to be properly paid, those of us with other sources of income (e.g. pensions) should perhaps set our sights a little lower. (And brass band players have a very high standard of musicianship.)

CONCLUSIONS  (from a musician's aspect)

1. Go for as much money as you can get.

2. Make clear to an employer/promoter the amount of fee regarded as expenses (and not only fuel).

3. Pick up as many private functions as possible.

4. Regard some gigs as indulging one's hobby.

5. Remember that jazz is (supposedly) the music of improvisation, change, challenge, fresh outlooks. Although we're not going to alter the course of the music, let's try to do something (musically) distinct so that listeners think of us as artists and not just gaudily waistcoated entertainers.

Good luck and Harmoniously,

John Muskett


Hi Fred I just have to add my bit to Moe's suggestion

Many jazz gigs are held in venues where the price of two pints exceeds the entry price! The ticket price cannot, therefore, be looked at in isolation. The cost to a couple, supporting their 'club,' can be out of pocket a tidy sum, when they add up their higher cost for their fuel, a couple of drinks, raffle tickets and maybe a CD (some I might add overpriced at £12!!!), even if the entry price were a meagre £5! Most promoters, I believe, run jazz events at no profit to themselves, merely for their love and enjoyment of the music. Generally the only one to make money on the night is the venue for food and drinks! I have no doubt that your Australian correspondents would tell promoters here to follow their long standing format of BYO gigs.

Norman Gibson

Strangely enough, I agree with Moe, they should receive a lot more money. After all, what chance do the young professional musicians with families to support and who earn their living through music have, of making a decent living, when all the jobs are going to musicians with secondary incomes, prepared to accept peanuts.  There comes a time when a musician has to decide, is it straw hats, waistcoats, weddings, money, and complete disinterest in what he's doing, or is it to be underpaid yet listened to, and  appreciated for his talent?

Reminds me of this golfing story.

Once upon a time, a musician, a retired professional engineer on Company Pension and an Old Age Pension, decided that playing traditional jazz, was no longer a financially viable pastime, as the £40 + he received no longer covered the petrol costs for the occasional 100 mile round-trip journeys to the jazz clubs in his new BMW.

So, sadly he sold his musical instrument and put the money towards a set of professional golf clubs, which unfortunately cost a lot more. He practised every day in the local park until one day he was spotted by another golfer who was so impressed with his talent that he invited him to join him at the local club the following Saturday morning. Before he was prepared to leave his home the musician wanted some assurance, "What about the fee he asked?". "It's about £50 a man", came the reply. The musician thought about it for a few minutes and asked if there was any chance of getting some more rounds in at other clubs in the afternoon and evening, to make it worthwhile. So sure enough his newly found friend spent the next week ringing around organising two more games at different venues, not an easy task as the greens were already booked and it involved a considerable amount of work arranging for other golfers to be there in order to accommodate his wishes.

Came the day, and the end of the first game, the musician enquired about the fee and said "I take it that it will be cash?" "You can pay the green fee by cash or cheque", came the reply. "What do you mean PAY?", said the musician, "This is a hobby, surely you don't expect me to pay for a hobby?". The discussion became quite heated, and the climax came when the musician discovered he wasn't even going to get a free drink in the club house at the end of his performance. He threw his clubs to the ground, and stormed off. "I'm going to take up fishing", he said, "At least I may get free food at the end of it".

"Licence? What licence?". 


14/09/11 - Hi Fred,

I seem to have aroused some feelings about expenses which was my intention ( hee, hee ).I would like to say to Anon regarding his humorous analogy that I don't own a B. M. W. new or otherwise, I have never gone down the straw hat and waistcoat road and golf is a good walk spoilt. To everyone thank you and good night !

Moe Green.

14/09/11 -

Enjoyed the golfing story. I play both in Jazz Bands and a Brass Band. For Jazz, I get the going rate, which includes expenses, usually between £20 and £40 for up to 3 hours 'on site', provide my own instrument and transport etc. For the Brass band I get a uniform, an instrument, a bandroom to rehearse in, and coach travel to major events, but no fee. I also go gliding, for which I put in 95% ground handling, maintenance, winch and tractor driving time for each 5% in the air, and pay an annual subscription and flying fees. I choose to do all these activities because I thoroughly enjoy them, and can just about afford it. I am very lucky. I hope the punters enjoy the music and am chuffed to bits when they do. That, like it or not, is the way it is.

On balance, I like it very much. --
Richard Knock

15/09/11 - Hello Fred,

I would just like to add a comment about the above subject as I think it is the bands which have to make a decision on this.

If the price of entry to a jazz club goes up then the risk is that fewer people will attend. If fewer people attend then the organisers will not be able to pay out for the bands. The bands will not get as many bookings so their incomes will fall. Do they want the work or don't they ? I suppose it depends how much they enjoy playing.



16/09/11 - Hi Fred,

Just gotta crowbar this hand grenade of an opinion into the present debacle on the subject of money. Hope you don't mind.

On one hand, as someone who invariably ends up doing everything from record production to choir singing for nothing, I loathe and detest the "what's in it for me" attitude which pervades so much of this sainted isle of ours.

On the other, it never fails to amaze me that so many jazz musicians are prepared to travel such long distances, put up with nattering audiences, and fork out for drinks and sometimes food, for the pittances which they typically receive.

There has clearly got to be some incentive in there besides money, and I strongly suspect that the real motive is love of the music and love of playing.

Great, and let's remember also that love of the music is the reason fans like us keep turning out week after week.

On the face of it therefore we have a remarkable concordance - a symbiosis if you will. Fans love listening to the music and musicians love playing it.

But let us pause to consider that a jazz session usually constitutes a remarkably cheap form of entertainment. If there is any admission fee at all, it seldom covers the cost of a couple of pints, and for that you get two hours of excellent jazz, a seat, and a splendid evening of bonhomie and good spirits. That is as it should be. After all, as I said at the beginning, I detest people who are out to screw the system for whatever they can get.

But that begs the question, who is screwing whom? If audiences are benefitting from musicians' good natures, and musicians are out of pocket as a result, there has got to be something wrong. Therefore if performance fees are falling behind rising travel expenses, I see no reason at all why the musicians should be the ones to suffer. In other words, if said fees have to rise to keep up with inflation then so be it.

So if Moe Green's band wants to play on Merseyside, and has to charge a little extra to cover the cost of the journey, I for one will be glad to cough up.

And before anyone shouts "Hark at Prospero!", I qualify for the old age pension in two months time. After a lifetime's living on thin air and water and trying to remember when I last owned a five pound note, I must be the first recipient in history who will actually be better off.


Fred McCormick.

17/09/11 -

In reference to Derek Daniels comment about fuel only going up for jazz musicians I might inform him that I don't know any fans who drive 100 miles or more getting to and from a jazz club.

Moe Green


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