In early 20th Century America, the life of a coloured jazz musician was hard. For one thing, they could be arrested for playing music on the street so instead they often played on the back of trucks. Any time they were asked to play in a more formal setting, they would be paid poorly – with food, or the very odd time, with a dollar bill.
When this happened, they would hold up the bill and say ‘God is good’. And from the initials of this phrase came the word gig.
Life has changed a lot since then, and in the meantime a lot of musicians have played a lot of gigs around the world.
The fundamental principle remains for me though. Every time you get to play a gig – as long as you are treated OK, be grateful.
If you’re not, you need to ask yourself some questions. Why did I take this gig? Do I really want to play with these musicians? Is the fee really worth the hassle?
Early in my music career I was told that there are three reasons to take a gig – mates, money, music. If you’re not taking a gig to play with your friends, to get paid well or because the music excites you, then don’t take it.
However, you must also have balance between the three. Too many gigs for money and you won’t be creatively satisfied. Too many gigs with your mates and soon you’ll be asking them for a loan.
If you can hit all three (like above), then that’s the jackpot, and like the coloured musicians who kept jazz alive so we could hear it, take a moment and be thankful.