Please Recognise the Worth of Live Performers
There are now a number of athletes who can run a 100 metre sprint in under ten seconds. It used to be the Holy Grail of sprinting, but now the target for the new breed of sprinters is 9 seconds. Many believe that is unachievable, and no doubt if it is eventually achieved it will be accompanied by suspicions of drug enhanced performance. The truth of the matter is that there are some people out there who are actually that good. Usain Bolt took sprinting to another level, and seems to have done that through years of practice, dedication, and hard work.
On the final game of Manchester United’s 1999 treble winning season, Andy Cole scored a magnificent goal against Tottenham Hotspur by bringing down a cross from almost head height with his foot before firing home the winner. He made it look easy, and when he was asked how he managed to perform such a skillful feat, he answered that it was something he practised regularly in training and it happened to come good on the day. Practise, as they say, makes perfect.
Back in the early 1990s I was asked to sit in on a redundancy consultation for a man whose engineering design work was second to none, and had been achieved over a period of 37 years since his apprenticeship. During those discussions, the General Manager of the company actually said to the man “your 37 years of experience count for nothing”. You cannot buy experience like that, yet experience like his has consistently been devalued in the last 30 or more years as our manufacturing industry has been replaced by a service economy. Nobody seems to give a stuff anymore.
Our manufacturing industries back in the day spawned thousands of apprentices. In the 1970s, 26% of the UK’s GDP was accounted for by manufacturing. It is hovering around 10% today. Not all bad news because that’s what happens to developed economies. The best apprentices would become skilled employees: engineers, machinists, toolmaker, printers to name just a few. Experienced trades people would be referred to as ‘time served’, because their experience spanned many years, some decades. Many of these occupations seem easy to the uninitiated, but that’s just how they make it look. The country’s manufacturing reputation was built on these skills. They didn’t grow on trees.
I am currently one of a number of people fighting a campaign to improve the maintenance of a wonderful urban open space. In July 2015 Trafford Council (the ‘Tory Flagship’ of North West England) contracted a public company Amey plc to run their environmental services, amongst other things. Since then, the trained and experienced environmental team has been replaced by a mix of volunteers and blokes who know how to blow leaves off paths with petrol driven machines. I suspect none of the 9.5 people now allocated to Environmental Services is suitably qualified.
While these may seem like a disconnected series of anecdotes, what binds them together is that they tell of ‘dedication’. The dedication that leads to experience has become grossly undervalued in almost every sector over too many years, leaving our economy in an extremely fragile condition. Our experience in so many areas is far too thin, and if you scrape its surface a hole will develop very quickly. There is simply no depth to it any more. A luthier or piano tuner, probably having served an apprenticeship in their youth, will have worked tirelessly to acquire a depth of skill that we lay people can only wonder at. Expertise and experience is not something to be taken lightly and it carries huge value, otherwise all we can ever hope for is second best.
So when you see a musician get up there on stage, and they are playing for you for free, please consider they may have been playing their songs repeatedly and treading the boards for many years without being able to make their music pay. They pay out for instruments, recording, CD printing and distribution, reviews, airplay, promotion, insurance, fuel, and van hire when necessary. The list goes on. It’s called dedication, and it’s what keeps us entertained. Their courage is that they get up on stage when many others would rather not, and they deserve so much more than they get. So please take some time to listen to their music properly, buy their CDs, buy their merchandise, or if you are a venue owner please give musicians a fee for playing in your pub or club, because after all they help you to sell more beer!