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Jon Hiseman and the end of bands
Jon Hiseman to Dave Gelly in the April 2011 issue of Jazz Journal
“When everything’s free, who’s going to pay a musician to be professional? When I started, in the 60s, you bought a record and, at the end of a long chain, a band got a few bob. That record was the only way you could hear the music you wanted, when you wanted, and that remained true throughout the CD era. Now you can download it with a click, and if you pay anything at all it’s only small change. I started out doing a day job, practising and playing in the evenings and at weekends, until I was ready to turn professional. Now it’s the other way round. Young musicians make whatever music they make, don’t get paid, live with their parents until the situation becomes intolerable, then look for a day job. That’s more or less the story of the last 40 years.
“We got jobs and worked at getting good enough to perform in front of paying audiences. Now they waste their youth taking courses in fun subjects like ‘media’ and ‘performing arts’, which I suspect are laid on to keep the unemployment figures down. Nowadays, you don’t tell people what to do and how to do it, you encourage them. So they all play for themselves.
“In 1974, Colosseum II got £60,000 (that’s roughly £200,000 in today’s money) for each album we made. They cost very little to make and the remainder went on wages and other costs. In effect we were subsidised by the record company in expectation of bigger things to come. That was the way it had been done for years, but it all came to an end soon after that. Nowadays there are grants from the Arts Council, the PRS and so on for ‘new music’, but what do they get for it? An under-rehearsed band, a gig or two and maybe a broadcast. There just isn’t enough time to get anything serious together.
“If, at the age of about 18, I’d had a vision of my ideal future, it would have been the life Barbara and I have lived. It’s been great for us, but the future now is for amateurs.”
Pictured: Jon Hiseman (left) with the legendary (and possibly mutually inspirational) Ollie Halsall and Allan Holdsworth (centre)