In the new issue of The Village Voice, Michael J. Agovino wraps three years of observing the bassist Linda Oh into a 4,000-word article about what it takes these days for a leading musician to practice the profession in the world’s jazz capital. Here’s an excerpt:
Exposure is great, and Oh’s has only increased, but is this any way to make a living?
‘It depends on what people define as a living,’ she says. In her experience, a sideman can make $100–$200 a night for a regular gig, depending. (Others told me $50 a night is not uncommon.) But if you’re the leader, you have to see to it that your musicians are paid, even if you get nothing — even if you lose money on the deal. ‘What I define as a living is not what other people, who earn six figures, do. I have health insurance, but it’s the lowest tier you can get, and I’m still reluctant to even have it.’ She laughs. ‘I don’t have enough money to buy anything. If I choose to have kids, I don’t know how much money I’d have for college. It’s enough to live and be happy and get by…but it’s something I’m really going to have to think about. So much money I save gets invested back in the work.’
Agovino investigates all aspects of Ms. Oh’s professional life—club dates, recording, teaching, everything it takes to survive with dignity.
She’s serious, warm, and gracious. She’s a musician, but she’s not going to do a song-and-dance for you. She doesn’t do shtick.
Agovino’s long piece is full of insight and worth your time. To read all of it, go here.
For a Rifftides review of Linda Oh’s debut recording, go here.