The bottom line.
Everyone should pay at the door.
I know it’s cool to be let in to the venue like you are one of the cats but if you are really cool, you’ll put some money in the pot.
At The Jazz Gallery, we extend courtesy of free admission to anyone who’s ever led a band on our stage. I know that we are not paying living wages to the musicians and most of the times, leaders dig into their own pockets to pay the bands so that they can present their projects. The Jazz Gallery helps you to work out your ideas in front of the audience and provides opportunities for musicians to be heard. One thing we are not providing…. Is a big fat check at the end of the night. But I’d like to think there is a symbiotic relationship between musicians and The Jazz Gallery. Each has what others need. Free admissions to band-leaders is our way of saying thank you. It’s our way of saying I’m sorry we are not paying enough. It’s our way of showing respect to the work you put into it.
But, really, even then, everyone should pay.
Because that’s how we show that we care and that’s how we ensure that the business we care about continue to exist and that you can continue to present music in an adequate space. That is how we support this music we love. And money is the only real way that you can offer support.
I think I should explain how non-profit arts organization works so that you get why I’m always like, “everyone should pay!!” Most of the funding we receive from government agencies (such as NEA, New York State Council on the Arts, Department of Cultural Affairs of NYC) and private funders (such as Jerome Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, etc.) comes in the form of what is called “project grant.” This means that you propose a project (like The Jazz Gallery Residency Commission, Fellowship, Mentoring Series, etc.) to them and they give you money to do it. And the money comes with all kinds for restrictions. One of my favorite blogs, “Non-profit with Balls” author came up with what he calls the Baker’s Dilemma Game to illustrate the complexity and nonsensical ways the project grants function (or not function?):
“Basically, a group of five siblings want to pool their money together to buy a cake for their parents’ anniversary party, but each has restrictions on what his or her money can be spent on. John will pay up to $7, but his money cannot be used for eggs or electricity, and it will pay for no more than 1 stick of butter. Steven will contribute up to $5, and will pay for anything except flour, but only if another person contributes an equal amount. Sue will pay up to $5, but her money can only be used to buy eggs, sugar, or butter, but not the full amount of either. Etc. Your group, the pastry shop, has to figure out how much each sibling is paying for which ingredient of the cake.”
Project grants will never pay for the 100% of the total project cost. When they give you the grant, they never give you 100% of what you have asked for. This creates a very difficult situation for small organization (like The Jazz Gallery). If we get a grant, even if we are awarded 30% of what is needed to do the project, we have to somehow make it happen. If we can’t come up with the money to fill the gap, getting a grant ends up creating deficit. They money has to be spend according to the guidelines: if we get the money to pay for a chair, we can’t buy a table.
Two things are most important to a presenter like The Jazz Gallery: Space and staff. Without these two things, we can’t operate. And having a performance space incurs so many expenses. We have to have AC. We have to have insurance. We have to keep the place clean. We need electricity and wifi. We need to have our garbage hauled. Things break all the time. If people are playing music in the space, we have to pay music rights organization. The list goes on. It’s really expensive. BUT none of the project grants pay for that. They want to pay for the projects. Not for the space and not for the staff. So what are we to do?
Additionally, none of the expenses are negotiable, EXCEPT for human resources. Rent is not negotiable (We are in NYC!). ConEd is not negotiable. Insurance, no. Contractors, no. So then how do we stretch our budget? We ended up making ends meet by not paying people enough and that goes from top to bottom and that goes for artists. I feel terrible about this ALL THE TIME. But my goal is to keep the door open and to keep doing what we do so that we can keep presenting music. With that goal in mind, I have to negotiate with people I least want to negotiate with: Musicians and Staff.
And this is other reason why we are constantly fundraising through Membership, gala, auction, salons, etc. Because no project grants pay for space and staff. And this is why I’m always like, “everyone pays!” Yes, $15 at the door is not much but at the same time, every dollar counts. The Jazz Gallery is the original crowdfunding and it has been supported by everyone who cares about what we do.
Another thing. If you love this music, then you should pay. We live in a society where we show our love and appreciation by paying for it. And I don’t want to hear you being broke. Everyone who comes into The Gallery has a smartphone. Dude, if you can do that, you can pay our admission. If your family and friends are on stage, then you should pay double. You should show your love to the venue that is supporting your loved ones, and to your loved ones on stage. We all got to put the money where our mouth is.
And if you ever played at The Gallery, you know that money we collect at the door will directly be reflected on how much we pay the band. So show your love and by love, I mean pay.
When you expect to gain free admission (and have not contributed to the cause in any way), you are saying to me, to our staff, and to the musicians on the stage that we should work FREE for you. Should we? What was the last time you walked into a restaurant and said, “Hey. You should feed me free of charge. Because I hang out at a lot of restaurants. I have never paid for anything here, maybe at other places, but I frequent restaurants and I’m kinda trying to be a chef and I go to culinary school with some people who work here. So yeah, I’m gonna eat and you are not gonna charge me. Cause I roll like that.” How does that work? That does not.
The Jazz Gallery offers Membership program. It’s really affordable. Our Student Membership costs $50 annually. 30% of our shows are free to our Members and for the rest, you get $15 discount. It would be stupid not to sign up. Seriously. Show us your love so that we can show you love.