Life of a Struggling Musician in Bali!

Anyone who has a passion for music and performing, whether soloist or group, if they don’t already know, will soon discover that the life of a musician is hard and very rarely prosperous. One must be truly dedicated, hard-working, and prepared to struggle if you want to make a living from performing. The music industry is fickle, and being successful is not always about talent, but can rely on music trends, who you know or can connect with, being in the right place at the right time and what exposure you can get.

The genres of music are many as are the tastes of music lovers around the world. Social media can, and does, add to a band’s exposure easier than before the internet, however, it also greatly increases the competition. Social Media platforms often change algorithyms which can mean posts that previously reach a wider audience stop doing so. Sure you can pay to advertise but that is just an added expense many are unable to afford.

Many musicians work two jobs to support themselves and their families. Their equipment needs to be maintained, they need to practice to perfect their art, transport themselves and the equipment to a venue at their own cost. All of this can take them away from their families if they are lucky enough to have one that supports their passion. Let’s be real, some musicians that play at live venues as cover bands, do so for the extra money, for the attention of the crowds and for their egos. But there are many who are passionate about their music, which you can clearly see and feel when you see them perform.

This is no more evident than in countries where musicians, unless nationally famous, are the lowest paid workers. An eight week road-trip around Bali introduced us to some amazingly talented musicians and singers, all with a passion for their art. They bust their butts performing of an evening to entertain an audience that, clearly, enjoy their performance. Who wouldn’t? The frustration, for us, was the lack of appreciation shown by the majority of those present for the hard-work on stage.

Let’s get to the facts. Singers and bands that are hired to entertain you while you are on holidays in the vast majority of venues around Bali get paid the equivalent of $7USD a night per person – for 3 to 4 hours work. They are expected to have a playlist of around 1,000 songs so they can sing your request at the click of a finger. Some venues will provide drinks and food for the band but many do not. How many of us would work for less than $2 an hour, and supply our own equipment, and keep a constant smile on our faces while doing so.

In the major tourist areas in South Bali, between Kuta and Canggu, bands may get more money, however for those of you that love music and only visit those locations you are missing out on some amazing talent and great fun nights. From Candidasa to Amed to Lovina, the talent is amazing, but the bands truly rely on the support from the audience to make a living. Each venue has a tip box for the band for patrons to contribute to the band, some do, but many do not. Maybe they believe the band gets paid well but that is simply not the case.

Just imagine working for 3 to 4 hours for $7USD (Rp 100,000), you break a string on your guitar and a set of strings costs $15USD (Rp200,000), that’s 2 nights work if you can go without food and transport. They need your appreciation and support so they can survive and continue to provide you with music and entertainment. You can spend Rp35,000 on a beer, why not miss one drink and donate that Rp50,000 to a good cause, because they truly deserve it.

As for those that employ the musicians, maybe a rethink is in order. Good music brings in many customers. A good band will keep people entertained and dancing and drinking all night, thereby making more money for the bar. People will go away and tell their friends to go to your bar to see the band so you will get new guest. A good band is a good promotion for your bar.  On the other hand, a bad band will have people leaving and telling people not to go. If you pay musicians better, your businesses will grow. Now is the time to rethink and start paying your musicians better.

So for anyone who truly loves music and is wishing to venture outside of South Bali, visit Candidasa and Amed and see Blue Haze, Yoga, The Four Caleos, and Nonekos who all play a mix of Rock, Blues, Reggae and others.  Then you can drive along the beautiful north coast of Bali to Lovina and again be entertained by Agung Angus & Unlimited for a fun night or some serious blues with Agung Angus & Elevator, or when he sings some spine chilling solo acoustic. You will never regret it.

You can even venture across to Nusa Lembongan, where an amazing group of musicians from Klungkung perform at Decountry each night with the added expense of boat transfers. Music is their life and their greatest joy is when you enjoy it also.

Parkinson Band

The musical talent across East Bali, including Nusa Lembongan and North Bali, is truly amazing, and I am sure there are many more musicians and bands that deserve the same accolades as those I have mentioned here. Any of these bands would be paid top dollar to play in live venues in Australia, for example, as the quality is outstanding, but the money is just not here in Bali, so please, the next time you see some outstanding music please be generous and support them with a donation as they truly, truly deserve it. And they will truly appreciate it.

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