The kids and I walked into a subway car earlier this week, and a gentleman was singing something soulful and sad. I checked my pocket for change – 30 cents. But he wasn’t asking for donations, he just kept singing, walking around the train car, looking lost. He was good. At the next stop, two guys walked in with three congas, and sat down to play. “Good luck playin’ here, I didn’t make a cent in this car,” he warned them. “Well, we’re gonna try to turn the energy around.” The conga guys were fabulous – in two minutes, they won the car over. After that, one of them walked the car and asked for change. Checked my wallet – I had $1. I gave them $1, and as we were all exiting, I quietly gave the singing guy 30 cents. He took it — but a few seconds later, he threw the coins back at me. “F#C* you, man, you gave THEM a DOLLAR”, as he dashed into the next car.
I understand that the guy was probably depressed, angry, etc. — but he taught me a lesson, probably not the one he was hoping.
He was angry at me because I gave more money to the conga guys — but there were two conga guys and he was alone. They were great, and they *ASKED* to be supported, whereas he didn’t ask for anything at all. He thought I gave too little — but I was the only person in the car to contribute.
We musicians do this all too often, online and in real life. We give away music for free (or near free) and feel ashamed to ask to be supported in return. We get depressed when colleagues are more successful, not realizing the value of our own contributions.
Keep playing, and don’t forget to ask for support.