|Earnings and yearnings|
EoIpso: What was the first instrument you played, and when did you start to play it?
Pamelia: It was the piano, and I was about three when I started. I still play it, but not very often.
EoIpso: You seem to be highly music-literate, do you have a theoretical background?
Pamelia: I have not really studied music theory, but I understand it. At Highschool, I learned a little bit about the terminology, but a lot of my understanding is just from playing with different musicians who teach me things along the way and show me new types of music. Listening to Jazz later on when I was around eighteen, that changed a lot of my perception. Wow, this is a different way to make music, all those different types of chords and complex arrangements.
EoIpso: Are you a professional musician, meaning: can you live by making music?
Pamelia: I don't live well, but I manage to live by it. Some months, I starve a little bit, it's up and down. I just try to find cheap rent and live very simply and not go shopping too much. I like shopping, but I can't do it that much.
EoIpso: What's your main source of income? Studio recording sessions?
Pamelia: Well, it depends. There are live performances that are paid well enough, so you can relax for a little while, but sometimes you might do a recording session that is really, really well paid compared to the effort that's put into it. You just show up in the studio, but you have to keep your time available. It's a struggle with keeping your time available, keeping time for your own development, working on things and learning things, and being free to travel if a gig comes up.
I used to have problems in the past when I had regular jobs. I was very devoted to my jobs, and I didn't want to leave them hanging. But you might have great opportunities that come up unpredictably, and if you're working, it can be really difficult, because then you have to decide. Also, you can't put a structure to a creative process. If you have a day off, realistically on that day you may not feel like playing music or writing or recording something. You might end up just cleaning your clothing. I struggle with just trying to keep my time free for opportunites that come up, and it's possible as long as I don't live so extravagantly, because New York's a very expensive city.
EoIpso: Do you find it easy to make a living in New York with its huge music scene?
Pamelia: In New York, it's a pain. That's why I live in Brooklyn. There is a big music scene, but not a great living from it really. There are many clubs and places that don't pay anything. Or, if nobody comes to your concert, then you don't get paid. There's no funding for a club, no sponsorship by the government, at least not that I know of. For a club to be able to bring in music, the first thing they want to know is how many people will come to the show, how much do they have to pay to get in, and if the club may charge ten dollars, the club might take two or three dollars out of it. It's hard to make things happen, unless you find a place that's really good to play in.
One of the really terrible places is the Knitting Factory. It's not the way it used to be, it's so corporate feeling now. I played there with Barbez in the room downstairs. It was sold out, and after our show we were told to clear the room, as the staff had to set up for the next act! That's ridiculous! They have four stages in this club, and that night they had probably twenty or twenty-five groups play there.
If you want to have a drink, you have to go to the main room, which is usually crowded with people. The drinks are very expensive, and if you're an artist, you get just one or two free drinks for the night. But as you're trying to get a drink, there's constantly people moving in and out, loading gear all night. It's not pleasant, it doesn't feel like an atmosphere that's conducive for making music. Especially, when they're like: "You have ten minutes left - hurry up, finish playing!". We had to play twenty minutes after our soundcheck, so there is no time to take a break.
Many clubs are pretty much like that, their only worry is to sell as many tickets and have as many people drinking alcohol as possible. It's a business venture. There are just certain clubs like Tonic, who are really supportive of artists. The people that go to that club are artists themselves or people who really want to go out and see something different and interesting or learn about something new. They have a built-in audience of people who come, and they usually have only two or three acts in one night. So there's time between performances, people can relax, the artists can be much more relaxed, not hurried and rushed. It's really important to find a good place to perform at. Then again, I also have the studio work and other projects, like playing in museums, or teaching. Some of my income is also just from giving private lessons to students.
EoIpso: So it's basically a mix of different sources of income. When you have to rely on earning money by your music, you have to meet other people's expectations, which may not necessarily match your own ideas of how things should be done.
Pamelia: There is always an expectation involved, no matter what you do artistically. People are going to expect something in a certain way, and you always have to deal with people's expectations.
EoIpso: There's also people who expect the unexpected.
Pamelia: That's a nice situation, and one that you hope for!
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