Will sing for food
Regular reader Montana Man brings up a good point about personnel changes that is worth bearing down a little harder on:
Speaking of money … How much are we speaking about? $400 a week is $20,800 a year … $500 a week is $26,000 annually, $600 a week is $31,200. And how many groups are paying more than that? Somebody mentioned “benefits” such as health insurance, retirement. How common are such benefits? Do non-owners get any share of CD sales? Are singers treated as independent contractors who pay their own social security? The poverty level for a family of four is somewhere around $29,000, I think (haven’t checked that recently), so you might be on the road with a gospel group and qualifying for food stamps. So much for stardom.
Just so. When you’re making this kind of money, the fantasy of stardom, however paltry it may be, is sometimes the only benefits package available. It also makes what most of us might consider fairly modest differences in earning potential between one group and another seem too good to pass up.
So now put yourself in Jeremy Lile’s place: you’re sticking it out with a group you may very well believe in but with whom the magic of those first exciting, “getting by on White Castles and a prayer” days have given way to the ordinary work of everyday travel. Clearly, the dreamed-off success that helped launch the quartet to begin with will take years to achieve. On top of impinging realities like this, you’re making a barely livable wage. And though a single 24-year-old guy can live on far less than most and still be quite happy, the $100 a week more that BFA offered Lile (I’m not just speculating here) – combined with the visions of sugarplums and grand acclaim that were no doubt dangled before eyes that had not sparkled quite that expectantly since Crystal River’s hopeful debut – obviously was one too many enticements to be resisted.
One might speculate that Lile will burn up a lot of that raise fueling his car for the 3-hour drive he’ll now have to make to catch the BFA bus in Atlanta. But the fact that young, talented people like Lile are willing to do this in the first place – and consider it a promotion – suggests that to talk of “loyalty” in southern gospel misses the point entirely.
As with any bidness, in southern gospel music you get pretty much what you pay for or are willing to be paid, and you agree to pay or earn pretty much what it takes to get what you want. In gospel music, it just so happens that the going rates are pretty crappy and the fringe benefits pretty illusory for all but the most starry eyed, lazy, committed, or powerful.
When people say that gospel music “gets in your blood,” one thing they could be said to mean is that there will always be a new crop of kids willing to work for less (or at least no more) than the last guy.
Update: a comment worth promoting from the discussion thread:
I sing with a well known sg group and I’m making less than 450/week. I’m an independent contractor and have NO benefits. If it wasn’t for my spouse’s job I couldn’t afford insurance nor could I afford to cover my taxes.
So why’s he do it? Read the rest here.Email this Post