Nadia Elkharadly: Payin’ the Indie Dues – Singin’ the Indie Blues

Nadia LogoHello, my name is Nadia and I’m a music addict.  The past couple of years I’ve been making it my (side) business to learn about, discover and most of all support local music.  I spend more nights out at bars than I do at home, always going out to listen to this or that band, checking out this singer or this guitarist, all to help nurture the thriving music scene we have right here in Toronto.  In doing so, I’ve gotten to know so many bright and talented musicians and artists, some who are just starting out, and some who have been at it for over a decade.  The dedication and perseverance that everyone I meet possesses is inspiring, and I honestly spend a lot time wondering why all of these great people aren’t wildly famous – many of them certainly deserve to be.

The more time I spend in the indie music scene, the more I realize how tough it really is.  There is so much music out there, and so much of it is really good.  It’s no wonder it’s hard to make it in the music business – not only is the competition incredibly fierce, but the business is one of the most fickle out there.  Fans are fickle; not only is the music consuming public hard to please, but many of them have no clue how hard musicians work, or what it takes to not only create music but to have the courage to put it out there for the world to see.  I mean, if I’m this frustrated about the insanity of the situation, I can’t even imagine how the musicians out there are feeling.  Luckily, a good friend of mine has put pen to paper on some of these very thoughts.

I met Chris Hau a couple of years ago when he was the bassist in The Bloody Five, and at every performance he stole the show.  He’s since broken out on his on as a singer/songwriter, and is really shining on his own.  Check out his first single “Heroes” that he wrote when he was just sixteen years old:

Not only is he a total emerging talent, Chris a hardworking student and aspiring videographer and producer.  He is no stranger to the concept of striving to achieve something, and how much work it takes to do it.  So when he asked me to share some thoughts he and his friend Brendan Mariani had written on one of their main frustrations as musicians, I had to help them spread the word.  So please take some time and read this very honest dissertation on the concept of the starving artist in Toronto.

Chris and Brendan….

Chris HauSomeone recently asked me, “Chris, What bothers you in the world of music?”

I was with a friend (who is also a musician) and after discussing it, this was our response:  the Stereotype of the Starving Musician.

That stereotype affects everything.

Either people think you make no money or lots of money.  It’s in everyone’s head from the beginning.  It’s the starting point from where people think when they think about musicians.  So if someone plans to pay you, or if they pay, they refer to the stereotype first.  This means they often don’t pay you enough. What I have been hearing from other musicians is that some clubs won’t pay because they are offering “exposure”. If the band refuses to play unless they are paid, the club will just find another band who will do it for free. This implies that the musicians aren’t worth anything.

malcolm_gladwell_outliersReally the musicians are offering the establishment a chance to make money off of the audience that they “were expected” to bring.

As Malcolm Gladwell points out, it takes 10,000 hours to become a master of your craft.

Any time an audience hears a live musician; the music they are hearing is a result of hours and hours of practice. I have a friend who practices drums five hours a day, thirty five hours a week, just five hours short of a typically work week. That’s not including moving the equipment and driving time. Imagine that was for another profession. He would be making a killing, even at minimum wage.

This is where the problem starts. Let’s say you’re a local club owner looking for a band and a professional musician quotes you a thousand dollars for a gig. People will turn around and find someone else who is more affordable/free but not of professional quality and get them to play instead. Then the audience sees this amateur band and thinks “Man is music ever shitty these days!” It stops the audience from experience what really good live music is actually like.

bruno-marsThe general public is not excited about live bands making music. We ’re not talking about Bruno Mars coming to the Rogers Centre; we’re talking about live local music!  There’s a culture that is ignorant to a cities’ potential.

There are so many musicians and talent to tip this stereotype in the right direction to a culture that supports music as a profession. The problem is that no one is properly implementing this or believing it. They are ignoring serious musicians and glorifying popular culture.

If a platform existed that musicians could make a good living, then that would mean there would be more and better music.

People always celebrate the music culture in places like New York, New Orleans, or Paris. The grass is always greener on the other side. What’s stopping Toronto from being on this list?

If there was better music, more people would be going out to enjoy it and bars and local establishments would be making more money.

2013 NRJ Music AwardsPeople watch the Grammys and see Taylor Swift with crazy dancers in costumes and thinks this is what music is. That is the entertainment business. If a whole society thinks a musician can’t make money, then there is a serious problem.

The fact that the phrase exists ends up having a negative impact on our culture, society and economy.

So next times you hire a catering company don’t pay them and hand them a tip jar and we’ll see the quality of food and service that you experience.


-Chris Hau and Brendan Mariani

Thank you Chris for the insightful words.  Be sure to check out Chris Hau’s new music, and be sure to respect and support local music.  It just makes everything better.

Until next time,



Nadia’s column appears every Tuesday

Contact us at:

DBAWIS ButtonNadia Elkharadly is a Toronto based writer with a serious addiction to music. Corporate drone by day, renegade rocker by night, writing is her creative outlet.  Nadia writes for the Examiner (.com) on live music in Toronto and Indie Music in Canada.  She has never been in a band but plays an awesome air guitar and also the tambourine.  Check in every Tuesday for musings about music, love, life and whatever else that comes to mind.

3 Responses to “Nadia Elkharadly: Payin’ the Indie Dues – Singin’ the Indie Blues”

  1. Funny. I thought Toronto WAS on the list. But that shows you how many different mental pictures the business creates.

  2. I was in New Orleans last June. The majority of the bars offer bands(many with 7 + members) the chance to play with whats thrown in the bucket at the foot of the stage. Many of the places in Memphis operated the same way. And yet there are an abundance of players waiting in line. Many of the same bands play on the street too. The grass is not grener there. And it’s mostly asphalt.

    Real nice video by the way.

  3. Reblogged this on Leather Studded Kisses and commented:
    Sometimes I write for this awesome website for the intrepid Mr. Robert Segarini. Check out my latest post!

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