Shooting the messenger

Last year's Town Jubilee

In the last 24 hours, I’ve been called “reckless” and “anti-Floyd.” I’ve been accused of “trying to kill” the upcoming Floyd Town Jubilee and tagged “an enemy of efforts to save Floyd.”

And that’s just the comments that aren’t laced with threats of lost business or endless obscenities.

Strong reactions and controversy come with the territory, especially when you make your primary living toiling away in a profession that asks questions that some don’t want to be asked or write articles that try to be more than Chamber of Commerce pabulum.

I’ve been told I don’t understand the music business and that I have caused “permanent damage” to this year’s Town Jubilee because I reported on the concern of some area musicians that they are being being treated differently than out-of-town acts, especially when it comes to performance fees.

“Your contempt for efforts to improve Floyd is obvious,” said one email. “Your reckless behavior could destroy the upcoming festival and ruin all the hard work of those who are only trying to make Floyd a better place to live.”

Wow. Didn’t know I had such power. I seriously doubt that I do.

Legendary Chicago Journalist Findey Peter Dunne once wrote that it is the role of a newpaperman to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”

Jim Echols, city editor of The Roanoke Times, told me when I went to work there in 1965 that “you have six months to piss off at least half of the people in this town. If you don’t, I’ll fire your ass and find someone who will.” I spent five years with The Times.

Elmer Broz, city editor of The Alton Telegraph, where I worked later in my career, said “a good newspaperman has more enemies than friends. If people aren’t mad at you at a regular basis then you’re not going your job.” I lasted 11 years at that paper.

I’ve had a number of controversies since returning to Floyd in 2004. Some, like exposing the questionable business practices of the promoters of a promised data center in the county’s commerce park, performed a public service. Others, like the local musician who delivered a pubic tirade from the stage of the Floyd County Store and claiming I was trying to destroy from the Friday Night Jamboree, are just plain silly.

The central issue in this latest controversy is a preliminary budget for the upcoming town Jubilee. The budget was presented to the County Board of Supervisors at their regular monthly meeting Tuesday and showed a wide disparity between what event organizers proposed paying local musicians and regional and national acts.

Some involved in planning for the jubilee felt the proposed budget was a public document but it became one when county supervisors asked for it and used the budget as part of their rejection of a request for financial support of the event.

Some local musicians are unhappy with differences in fees. To date, I’ve talked with or had email exchanges with more than 20 Floyd County musicians and they express the same sentiment: The situation is not good and needs to be addressed.

Area music venues have varying policies when it comes to paying for entertainment. Musicians appearing at the Friday Night Jamboree played for free for many years but when Woody and Jackie Crenshaw bought the Floyd Country Store they began paying a stipend to musicians who appear on stage at the Jamboree and also book local, regional and national acts for Saturday night concerts.

The Pine Tavern pays acts that appear for their summer series of concerts. Oddfellas Cantina depends on contributions from diners to pay musicians.  Zion Lutheran Church recruits sponsors to cover performer fees for their series of summertime concerts in Oak Grove Pavilion and solicits donations during the concert for area charities.

Some have suggested that by publishing the proposed fees for the upcoming jubilee “generates bad feeling” among area musicians when they see that some get higher fees than others.

That may be true but isn’t the difference in fees one of the key issues of the concern of local musicians?

Promoters say higher fees are necessary for regional and national acts that provide drawing power that bring more people to Floyd.

Organizers of the jubilee asked for contributions from both the Town of Floyd and the Floyd County Board of Supervisors. When public money becomes part of an event, the use of such money also becomes a public issue.

It takes a lot of hard work by volunteers to put an event like the Town Jubilee together and the efforts by those who stage such an event should be applauded. Much of what happens in this area comes from long hours by the same group of people who end up serving on multiple committees.

Most of the musicians who are also complaining have donated their time to local charities or played at reduced rates for good causes that benefits the area.

I didn’t create the issue that boiled over this week. Floyd Town Manager Korene Thompson told me Wednesday that she is aware of concerns from local musicians that date back to last year’s Jubilee.

The issue was already there. I just reported it.

Some suggest that I like creating controversy. I don’t. I came back here to relax. Controversies get in the way of that relaxation. Nasty emails add nothing to the quality of rural life. Angry Tea Party advocates who take a swing at me on a public streets disrupt the harmony of everyday life.

I’d love to just ride my Harley and enjoy life but these damn brouhahas keep screwing things up. :}

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16 thoughts on “Shooting the messenger”

  1. Doug….naturally I don’t always agree with you on every issue; however, I check your site at least twice a day in an effort to get a real feel of the happenings in and around Floyd. Keep up the good work!!!!

  2. Doug,
    Having been a “working musician”, where my sole income was from performing music for 7 years as a much younger me, I empathize with our local group of artists. We do have a wealth of talent but as one poster said in your “Some musicians singing the blues” post, “anyone’s value (not as a person but from a business standpoint) is what someone is willing to pay for” vs. comparable options.

    We have a very small set of venues in Floyd and I am sure “working musicians” have figured out, they can’t make a living staying on the home turf. You have to market yourself and be willing to travel in order to build a following, or “draw”. When you’ve “paid your dues” as they say and have a following, you start bringing something to the table to negotiate with promoters and club owners. That’s the way it works. Not much different than any profession! Think Annie Leibovitz might get paid more for a shoot than Doug Thompson? (no slight intended) So, if a known act gets paid more to play at a venue it is because that is what they are worth and what the promoter is willing to pay.

    As far as big opportunities to book local talent, look at Floyd Fest. I can think of only one or 2 Floyd County acts that have been booked there in the last 5 years. Should we roast the promoters? They have to hire acts that draw in and keep a crowd in order to have a chance of selling tickets at festival prices and hopefully making some money to live on and fund the next one. I think Festivals have their own price structure which seems far beyond what a group might normally get to play a club, etc. but that is reality. It would be nice to have a “local stage” at Floyd Fest but that is the promoters decision.

    On the other hand, we are a small town celebration. We are FREE. We have to raise money in order to hire acts and still those acts need to draw so that the stores, restaurants, vendors and musicians (selling CDs) can make money so they are inclined to come back year after year. We sometimes get a “festival” price quote and have to negotiate with a group. Last year was the first Jubilee. We did not approach the local musicians and say “play for nothing”. We offered what we thought we could afford and as it turned out, I believe we either just broke even or had a modest amount left to start this year.

    So to end, a little math. Take a group from Floyd County. They get a gig in Roanoke at a club. There are 4 people in the group and they negotiate a $1200 fee to play from 8 – 11, (3) 45 min sets. That really means they get there an hour early to set up the gear and do a sound check, then they play and then they take about an hour to pack up and leave. Don’t count travel time.

    So, 5 hours. $1200/4 people/5hrs=$60 per person. I can tell you, getting $1200 from a club owner would be pretty big but let’s believe it could happen because we’re from out of town.

    So now, that local Floyd group is offered $200 to play for 45- mins at the Jubilee. They do a 15 minute sound check on a professionally run sound system, play their set and leave. I’d submit that for a lot less hassle, you got to play for as many or more people (more chance to sell CDs) than the club gig, you had a pleasant experience with a well run stage and sound crew and had your home town fans out there to cheer you on. .

    So whereas I do know and agree that too many times musicians have been asked to play for “free” or for tips, the Jubilee is trying to pay what we can while we grow the sponsorship. We are committed to having local groups and musicians as the core of the Jubilee.

    In the meantime, it might be great to have a musician’s group that got together to discuss the best ways to promote our music, build a fan base and create a little leverage when negotiating gigs! We have a bunch of folks around who are doing it, have done it and/or certainly want to do it. Any takers?
    .

    • Sorry, that was $60/person per hour to compare to the hour rate for the Jubilee. Sometimes late afternoon can be a little slooooww!

    • Dave: Every year at FloydFest, numerous local Floyd musicians perform — usually as “filler” acts, but they perform, never the less. Many more than the one or two acts “in the past 5 years,” as you stated in your comment!

  3. Doug: As a journalist, you well know that those who are attempting to treat others unfairly or unjustly would prefer to operae covertly. Thank you for bringing this issue to light.

  4. Doug, Keep up the great work. You’re right on! I check your site at least twice a day to read a real professional write about his local community. You’re such a positive asset for Floyd County. I wish we had an individual of your talent in our county down here in SC.

    Having been involved in a community festival for some 34 years, event finances must be public to secure any long-term credibility. Any successful festival must treat local performers with equity and fairness.

    Take care and ‘”write on!’

  5. Dave…very nicely said. It’s a tough business and there are no black and white answers. But i really appreciate your explaining things and giving your well thought out point of view.

  6. For goodness sake don’t ever shoot the messenger particularly if it’s Doug Thompson. Little do you folks realize he’s the best journalist spokesperson that’s happened for your county probably in the past 100 years. If anything Doug is the equivalent of the “canary in the coal mine” when it comes to common sense and overall analysis of issues of the day for your county among other things. : )

    In my book he’s a good guy with a big heart and has everyone’s best interests at heart. : |

    Carl Nemo **==

    Ridgefield, Washington

  7. Yvonne….please remember that people “treating others unfairly or unjustly” is an opinion.

      • Would you care to elaborate about the unfair and unjust opinion? Musicians aren’t held captive by anyone and perhaps they should start some sort of guild. That sounds better than a union. As far as the going rate for locals and available gigs, the blues musicians should take out a pencil and paper and calculate reality.

        Every income seeking profession requires a business plan and musicians and other artisans are not special. They are free to create their own model.

  8. Yvonne,
    I do understand and appreciate what our local musicians feel, as I am one! Obviously, you are passionate in your support of us. So if you are local, how about volunteering your time and helping us create a positive vibe around the Jubilee and lending that passion to helping the volunteers doing their best to provide a fun, community, free event! I believe we have a meeting Monday afternoon at the Town Manager’s office. Being old and feeble I forget the time but I think it is 3:30 to 4?

    I’ll find out and try to post it here. Also, this is a volunteer group. How about some of the musicians in the community getting involved. It is not a closed group and we need your help!

    Let’s all hope for a beautiful sunny day on the 19th!

  9. Dave: I would love to help and will do so, although I cannot participate during weekday hours due to my job in Roanoke. I’m available to volunteer at other times, however. Please let me know what is needed and when. Thanks.

    • We will need volunteers to help set up, then work the day of the event and then clean up adterwards. I believe you can contact Korene Thompson at townmanager.swva.net and give her your contact info. also, I am sure they are trying to get the website updated.

      Jeffery is right, we are behind in our promotion because we were trying to get a realistic feel for what sponsrship and vendor fees might come to in order to book the acts. I know we have had a very good response from the artisan community in booking vendor booth space and some excellent sponsorship from our business community and Town. Hopefully, we can lock in the acts this week and publish the schedule and crank up the volume on the Second Annual Floyd Town Jubilee.

  10. I think you are in the right place Doug. Emotion collides with reasoning, or lack of. I lost track of the controversy. I think it’s because you exposed some musicians can make more than others. That might be unfair if it had no merit. Whoever is trying to create a destination event is attempting to invite and attract money from other places. The pay rate seems a little low for a traveling musician or band that might have 1000 fans in Richmond or wherever. Will they come to Floyd to hear the folks they can hear at home?

    Why not have the Town or Chamber or the entire county raise money to hire the Rolling Stones? They don’t care where they play, as long as they get paid what they want. What seems to be lacking is promotion of the event itself. It’s not far off and I haven’t read about who will be performing. I’m a local, and if I don’t know, should I assume they are doing a better job in those distant places they are trying to draw money from?

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