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Yes, that's right, they don't want to pay. Who is the "they", you may ask? Well, "they" are the organizers of shows and concerts. For decades Dominicans have been of the view that musicians and other performing artistes perform for free because they believe that whatever they do is not 'work'; they are just providing entertainment akin to forming the fool, making people laugh, occupying time while the real event goes on.

Even charitable and fund-raising concerts are organized and 'they' tell you "is for free" because 'they' are trying to raise funds for some honourable purpose. But no one else is being asked to give their services 'for free'.

Here is an infamous list of programmed responses which deny the musician his dues:

  1. "It not ready yet"; that's a popular, insensitive response given without any future commitment

  2. "We will call you when it ready"; of course they never do!

  3. "We never see that bill ner, make a duplicate"

  4. The accountant /the person paying not there/at a meeting/ is on leave

  5. "You will get it, you know; we just doe get the money yet" (You have been waiting for weeks)

  6. "All that ner?"; note that the price was already agreed upon before the engagement.

  7. "Oh, oh the manager just step out, come back later"; he never steps back in.

  8. "Come back later." Later can easily be converted to days or weeks.

But the caterers get paid, the supermarkets get paid, and the owner of the hall or facility gets paid, the radio stations for advertising, everyone else but the musician. To make matters worse after playing "for free" one sometimes still have to beg for a drink or something to eat at the event. Sometimes you even absorb the transportation cost…Why? Is it because the musician is foolish? No, it is because most musicians and performing artistes are endowed with a spirit of giving; they like to share or just want the attention, applause and appreciation.

It is a cultural thing embedded in this country; musicians in the 60's and 70's were said to be lazy strummers of guitars, they don't want to work, they sit whole day smoking ganja. Surely this is not the man you want your daughter to end up with- they are lazy; they have no pension, no gratuity, no future. It is the same reason why they believed calypsonians were 'uneducated' tailors, farmers, and dirty-clothes mechanics amounting to nothing really. Yes, my father was one and that was his story until pharmacist or dispensers of medication, as they were then called, like Mighty Spark and the Saint and others of that ilk entered the arena.

Now we have doctors, lawyers, teachers, priests, bankers, MBAs and all involved but still there is the notion that they don't need to be paid for their intellectual property. May be the other school of thought is that if you already have a job then this is just a pastime or extracurricular activity for which wages are not attached.

Musicians who play music for a livelihood really suffer in this country as many business places ask you for pro forma invoices or confirm a price with you and payment is delayed for weeks and sometimes months; meanwhile, the musician has the expenses as anyone of us. One such business place revealed to me recently that I should not worry because the money is sure. Well, my response was suppose the company you work for tells you that they will pay you for your services two months down the line, is this ok? Well, I am still waiting for a response.

I fondly recall when I played on cruise ships and vessels that dock here and the captain would take out the money before you even put the instruments away and others even ventured to pay you before. That represents the culture of the country from which they originate, respect for artistes, for musicians. However, since the agents have taken over payments, well, it's all old mass. All sorts of red tape and expenses are prioritized while you walk up and down for the pittance owed.

Many musicians, if not all, can identify with this article though I must confess a few more-organized ones have got into copyright and contracts and can no longer or sometimes refuse to be taken for a ride. Most, however, can't do better and have to remain at the mercy of event planners whether it is Government or the private sector.

A musician does not go at Whitchurch or any other business place and stock up with items, by pass the cashier and leave without paying. Persons have been brought before the Court for stealing trivial items such as biscuits, panties and the like, but there is no recourse for musicians who after giving their services are denied payment …yes denied!

"Justice delayed is justice denied" and so is payment delayed!


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