From The Side of the Road… can you not be in two places at one time?

When COVID relief has been debated in the past year, there has been some concern in congress that the government might be creating an incentive not to work by paying people too much while they’re idle. For now we’ll just leave aside the thick irony of politicians complaining about other people being paid too much to bother with honest work, but as I thought about this a little longer, I began to take it personally. Isn’t every dollar spent by people on the music they love going to support full time musicians going another year without having to get a real job? Is this not a worthy cause? I realize that many bluegrass musicians have some form of day job, too, so in that case, money spent on their music goes to ensure that they remain stressed out while trying to juggle two careers. This is also a worthy cause, since I can say from experience that those jugglers wouldn’t know any other way to live. 

I will say as a side note, though, that if you can see your way to invest even more money in these particular multi-tasking musicians’ careers, they might eventually quit their day jobs, thereby opening up positions for other deserving workers in traditional musician day job areas like coffee baristahood (not a word), pizza delivery, and personal injury law, which helps in turn to create jobs and stimulate the economy.

The pandemic has taken this all a step further, though, and fundraisers are now happening to support bluegrass music events that aren’t taking place. I don’t just mean livestream versions of events. I mean non-events. I was recently notified about another fundraiser being held for a festival that won’t be happening this year. This former festival will be holding its non-event August 12-15 (it’s expanded to four days this year); make plans now not to be there—tickets and non-campsites are going fast.

Can this approach be taken by bluegrass artists and musicians? In the past year we’ve used the livestream concert as a medium for providing some entertainment, raising some badly needed cash, and showing off our favorite pajamas. Maybe this was the wrong approach. Maybe we simply needed to be holding fundraisers with promises not to perform at various locations where we had previously been scheduled. 

In future years, when live music is once again part of our lives (hallelujah!), we can still raise funds to support our absence at festivals and concerts we would like to have played but weren’t invited to. This will be in essence a promise not to perform, with payment for services not rendered, and it will certainly take the sting out of rejection. 

This would also not preclude actually playing events where we’ve been booked while raising funds for events we aren’t playing on the same dates. This would be a form of double-booking, though, and perhaps it would be wise not to have these twin bookings within a 100 mile radius of each other. Otherwise we’d be in the position of explaining to the promoters that we’re happy to play their show but that we’re also not playing a similar event just 75 miles away.

Just think, next year could be your best year ever, with a calendar that’s simultaneously empty and full. I’m feeling optimistic about the future.

Next week: crowdfunding and album release events for non-recordings.