Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving Eve

Ah yes...Thanksgiving Eve. The biggest bar night of the year. Almost everyone is off from work on Thursday, so they let loose on Wednesday night and party hard.  Obviously, bar/club owners also LOVE Thanksgiving eve. This is probably their busiest and most profitable night of the year. For bands, Thanksgiving eve was also a great night to play because you would get Holiday pay which is usually considerably more than what you would normally get.

Now, notice how I phrased that sentence about the bands in the past tense? That's because the days of Thanksgiving Eve being an awesome gig night are coming to an end. Yes ladies and gentlemen, strap yourselves in for another rant on getting paid to play gigs!!!!

Why does one open a bar/club/restaurant? (we'll just call it a bar for the rest of this post.) The answer is simple. To make money...a lot of money.  No one goes into the bar business if they think they're going to make a little money. Yet some bars come and go quickly while others seem like they've been around forever. This is because the bar business is a high risk business.  With the markup that bars charge on food and alcohol, they could potentially make a seriously large amount of profit. However, if you have no customers, you will quickly lose your ass and go out of business.  This is the nature of a high risk business.  Excellent profit potential, and moderate probability of failure.

We know that reasons why people like to go bars, but let's look at some of the reasons why people DON'T like to go to certain bars:

Cover Charge

So there you have it.  If a bar sucks, people won't want to go there.  As a bar owner it's important to make sure that all of the elements listed above will appeal to your desired customers.

Now to make my point. I turned down thanksgiving gigs this year because they weren't offering holiday pay. I have nothing against any musician who does a holiday gig for regular pay, but I try to avoid doing that because I don't feel it's fair. So now bar owners don't feel the need to cut the band in on the most lucrative night of the year. As abhorrent as that is, that's still not the point of this post.  I've heard from friends that bar owner's are expecting bands to take a pay cut if they're not satisfied with the customer turnout on Thanksgiving eve.


So, not only are you not paying them what you should, but you want them to make less than a normal gig in the event that your place isn't able to attract customers? This is insane, and more importantly it's wrong. Here's why:

The bar owner stands to make a staggering amount of money on thanksgiving eve. They have agreed to pay you a reduced rate to play on the busiest night of the year.  That should be the end of story, but by them asking you to take a pay cut if the turnout is less than ideal is the same exact thing as them asking you to incur all the risk for their bar.  The bar owner would never ask any of his staff to take a pay cut, but as a musician they now feel that you are responsible for their risk.  This is totally ridiculous and it's completely wrong. If you enter a high risk venture, you don't get to pawn off the risk onto someone else. That takes the risk out of it. It's not like they're saying, "if we have a great night, we'll give you double pay."  They're saying, "if we have a great night, I win.  If we have a bad night, you lose."

This is an unfair business practice and it needs to stop now.  See the list I wrote above?  The one that says Location, Prices, Selection, etc...?  It is the bar owner's responsibility to choose these elements to create his bar.  The band is only a small fraction of the total picture.  Why do they take the brunt of the loss? If they buy beer and nobody drinks it, do they call up their suppliers and ask for a refund?  And on top of that, you can be sure that they don't pay their staff less on a bad night.

One analogy I can think of is a casino. You go to a casino to make money. It's high risk. Your chances of losing are very high, but you can potentially make a lot of money. If you go to a blackjack table and lose all your money, do you ask the dealer to share the loss with you?  Of course you don't.  Do you ask the Pit boss for a refund because you didn't know you were going to lose so much money? No!

As a band, it is not your responsibility to incur the bar owners risks. You are a service that he is hiring to entertain his customers. If the night turns out badly it falls on him. He can then choose not to hire you again, but he may NOT ask you to take a pay reduction. You should make that clear when you book gigs. As it is, local gigs don't really pay that much. This new practice is turning gigging into a gamble. If I'm gonna go out and bust my ass all night, I shouldn't have to gamble on getting paid. People are supposed to get paid for work that they do.

Bar owners, if you don't like handling the risks involved with owning a bar, then you should go into another line of work. Maybe retail, an office job, or even McDonald's. If every night was a winner then I'd open my own bar and do my own gigs there.

One more point I'd like to make, and then I'll shut up.  A DJ would not deal with this sort of thing.  I'm not going to say if a DJ is better than a band or whatever. I'm not going there.  My point is that bar owners generally don't pull this stuff on DJs. They do it to bands because they think that we love playing so much that we don't mind lugging our gear around, getting treated badly and not being paid for it. This needs to stop. I feel like I'm going to have to start renting out spaces and putting on my own shows just so I don't have to deal with this.


Sunday, November 7, 2010

I paid $65 for this?

Why are video games 65 dollars now? They aren't way better than they were when they cost $50.  In fact, I'd say apart from graphics and physics improvements, the games are pretty much the same.  So why this price hike? Why are video games 65 dollars when people have far less disposable income these days?  I tried gamefly, but I had to ditch it.  I'm not a hardcore, 5+ hours a night gamer, so it usually takes me 2 or 3 months to finish a game. The problem with gamefly was that it was 17 bucks a month and I would keep each game for 3 months.  So that comes out to $51 per game. Not really a great deal when you think of it. So now, I usually wait until a game becomes old, used, or DLC priced before I buy it.

There are exceptions. Force Unleashed 2 just came out, and I had to have it, So, I paid the $65 bucks. At first, it was amazing. I was having a blast. Then it was over. I try to savor games and make them last by only playing a little bit at a time, but there was no getting around this.  This game was ridiculously short.

Aside from the length, there were some other glaring problems.

1.  There are 4 levels in this game.  They'll tell you there are 6, but that's nonsense. There's a Dagobah level where there is no action, only cutscenes, so I don't count that. Then, they commit what I consider to be one of the cardinal sins of video game design. They reuse maps. You begin the game in Kamino, and you end the game in Kamino.  I therefore refuse to count that as another level, so there you have it.  4 levels.

2.  Glitches.  A $65 game should have no glitches.  The camera in this game would get stuck during in game dialog sections. You and Darth Vader are crossing swords and screaming at each other amidst an epic battle and all you see his the corner of your shoulder. Or even better, the camera gets stuck inside Vader's helmet where you can see through the actual computer model.

3.  Repetitiveness. Killing stormtroopers is fun. They act unpredictably and that makes things funny. All the other guys you fight do the same attacks every time. You kill them with the same tactics, and the finishing move is the same every time.

4.  Control Problems. Although they fixed most of the big problems from the first game.  Jumping is still a problem.  I personally think the LucasArts Jedi double jump method should be retired.  We never see a Jedi kick off the air in the films, yet this is the way LucasArts has handled force jump for the last 15 years.

So in closing. I paid $65 for a game that is broken, short, and unfinished. It feels like they rushed this one out for a quick buck. The Lucas people have once again successfully conned me out of my money. 

May The Force Be With You