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#1137284 - 10/09/08 01:42 PM Being Replaced by a Machine
Piano Girl RMG Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/24/07
Posts: 702
Loc: Germany
Have any of you lost a job to a "player piano" machine? The the Hilton Hotel in New York City[/b] , located right smack in the American center of culture, recently fired several musicians who had been playing there for quite some time. In spite of union protests, they will be replaced by a device on the grand piano that makes the piano play by itself. I'm on a mission to create some noise about this kind of mindless action.

Pianists! Music-lovers! Let's speak up!

Jobs are so scarce these days. Hotel and restaurant prices are going up—why should guests be subjected to fake music? Does hotel management really think their guests are so stupid that they don't notice the difference?

There are so few places where people can hear live music. When we lose our connection to art, we lose our humanity.
_________________________
Robin Meloy Goldsby
www.goldsby.de
Author of PIANO GIRL: A Memoir
RHYTHM: A Novel
RMG is a Steinway Artist

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Piano & Music Accessories
#1137285 - 10/09/08 01:56 PM Re: Being Replaced by a Machine
Johnny-Boy Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/06
Posts: 661
Loc: PA
Yeah, I've seen these pianos. Often they're placed in lobbies. I saw one in the lobby of a hospital.

It’s definitely not the same as watching a real pianist play. In fact, most people walk right pass these pianos without even stopping. Kind of like piped-in-music; no one really listens or cares.

John
_________________________
Stop analyzing; just compose the damn thing!

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#1137286 - 10/09/08 02:19 PM Re: Being Replaced by a Machine
BearLake Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/16/08
Posts: 144
Loc: SE Idaho
The lobby of the Pioneer Memorial theatre in Salt Lake City used to have a pianist play before the performance and during intermissions. Then it became a player piano which drew some interest for the novelty of it. Currently, the piano sits dormant with a "do not touch sign." I'm very disappointed. I would be happy to support your mission.

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#1137287 - 10/09/08 02:25 PM Re: Being Replaced by a Machine
Piano Girl RMG Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/24/07
Posts: 702
Loc: Germany
Other than boycotting these places I'm not sure what we can do, but I honestly believe that if people speak up and complain about these things, then management will eventually pay attention.

What a shame about the theater in SLC. I performed at the International Jazz Festival there two years ago and was knocked out by the town, the attention paid to arts by Mayor Rocky Anderson, the crowds that showed up at all the events.

And a player piano in a hospital? There's a really bad joke there somewhere. Let's keep this thread going.
_________________________
Robin Meloy Goldsby
www.goldsby.de
Author of PIANO GIRL: A Memoir
RHYTHM: A Novel
RMG is a Steinway Artist

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#1137288 - 10/09/08 02:52 PM Re: Being Replaced by a Machine
Elssa Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/15/05
Posts: 1567
Loc: NY
Hi Robin:

I agree, there's just nothing that can compare to the live music. \:\)

Here's something about a group I recently joined. http://jazz.meetup.com/165/
Northern Westchester Jazz Meetup Group:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/18/nyregi...gin&oref=slogin

“There is no sound system or iPod that can replace the feeling the audience gets when they experience live music. ” Christine Sotmary

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#1137289 - 10/09/08 02:57 PM Re: Being Replaced by a Machine
Piano Girl RMG Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/24/07
Posts: 702
Loc: Germany
Thanks for the link, Elssa. Swinging Set sounds like a great team organization.

Here's something we CAN do. Whenever any one of us goes to a place with live music, let's make it a point to tell management what a difference it makes.

Or let's try to always patronize places with live music. Easier said than done these days.

And let's complain about those machines!
_________________________
Robin Meloy Goldsby
www.goldsby.de
Author of PIANO GIRL: A Memoir
RHYTHM: A Novel
RMG is a Steinway Artist

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#1137290 - 10/09/08 03:29 PM Re: Being Replaced by a Machine
Studio Joe Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/28/07
Posts: 1803
Loc: Decatur, Texas
Same principle in night clubs that employ DJs and Karaoke singers instead of bands in order to save money.
_________________________
Joe Whitehead ------ Texas Trax

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#1137291 - 10/09/08 03:30 PM Re: Being Replaced by a Machine
bitWrangler Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/14/07
Posts: 1789
Loc: Central TX
A little bit of devils advocate here:

 Quote:
Originally posted by Elssa:
I agree, there's just nothing that can compare to the live music. \:\)
....
“There is no sound system or iPod that can replace the feeling the audience gets when they experience live music. ” Christine Sotmary [/b]
It is "live", it's a player system running a real piano. Depending on the quality of the player system and the quality of the performer who was recorded, it can be superiour to many folks I've seen/heard playing in various non performance venues.

 Quote:
Originally posted by Piano Girl RMG:
Jobs are so scarce these days. Hotel and restaurant prices are going up—why should guests be subjected to fake music? Does hotel management really think their guests are so stupid that they don't notice the difference?[/b]
Actually yes, I do think the vast majority of customers will not notice. Usually the whole point of having the piano playing is to set a mood, not to be the focal point. Why are jobs scarce, because business's are seeing revenue drop. When that occurs they cut expenses, jobs being one of them, live piano players being another. Having a player system allows them to play whatever they want, 24/7, no performers calling in sick, no unions to fight, etc, etc. I can completely see how a hotel or restaurant would consider these benefits. If the hotel polled people and said that they could provide a live musician if they paid an extra $20 per room or a restaurant an extra $5 per plate, how many folks do you think would vote yes?

With the economy the way it is, I can see many establishments questioning the value in having a real piano at all (and whether it truly makes a difference to business). There will always be places that do see this value, but I would venture to guess that many won't.

All that said, I too enjoy having a live person there that you can make requests to or chat with (heck, even our local Fry's has a pianist in occasional to play the S&S B they have sitting in the middle of the store). Do ping the management at these establishments and tell them how much you enjoy having a real person playing a real instrument. As has been mentioned, this is the way for consumers to provide feedback (other than talking with their dollars, though you force the management to have to make assumptions as to why business is dropping off). Just don't be too surprised if you are in the minority and the cost/benefit calculation doesn't go the way benefiting the performer.

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#1137292 - 10/09/08 04:25 PM Re: Being Replaced by a Machine
Bob Newbie Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/02/06
Posts: 1549
what a shame!...you might as well just ride up and down in an elevator listening to muzak piped in music..than a player piano! \:\(

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#1137293 - 10/09/08 04:32 PM Re: Being Replaced by a Machine
erad1948 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/14/07
Posts: 70
Loc: Brooklyn, New York
Too bad the private sector is not like the Roman Catholic Church. The liturgical directives forbid the use of mechanical or canned music because the organist is a "minister of sacred music".... you cannot have sacred music produced by a machine... you need a live person to fulfill that ministry! On that note, however, I must say that these player pianos might offer so-called "live" piano music in places where there are no pianists available...a restaurant in a small town, or in a senior citizen residence ... or if there is a pianist available, he/she might not be very competent... then my question is: Is anyone (of competence) being put out of work?

By the way, the live person playing the piano does allow for personal interaction... for requesting certain songs to be played, etc.

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#1137294 - 10/10/08 03:49 AM Re: Being Replaced by a Machine
Piano Girl RMG Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/24/07
Posts: 702
Loc: Germany
Bitwrangler—I think you have a future as a hotel food and beverage director.

Yes, there is a HUGE difference. A machine like this can sound good, wonderful even, in a private home, where it is not abused, and one person is in charge of turning it on and off. These machines, particularly when playing the work of an accomplished pianist, are valuable educational tools, and many teachers use them with great success.

BUT, in a hotel or restaurant setting, the machines (and the pianos!) are battered beyond belief—they are set up and turned on and off by frazzled wait staff, angry managers, people who know nothing about the care of a piano or how to properly maintain the machine. The piano is played CONSTANTLY, never giving the instrument—or the customer for that matter—a moment of silence. Silence is an important part of music, you know. Those twenty minute breaks give the musician a chance to rest, but also give the customer a chance to appreciate his/her return.

Of course you have a point about the economy. But I completely disagree with your argument that people WON'T NOTICE the difference. This is like saying that people won't notice the difference between canned soup and the real thing, prepared with care by a trained chef. Sure the restaurant could save money by firing the chef, but no one is recommending that. At least not yet. Why not replace the china with paper plates, the real flowers with plastic, the waiters with an automat?

As far as quality of sound goes, a beautiful piano recording played over a good stereo system is much better than one of these machines. I had to deal with the Oscar Peterson recording on the player piano installed during my seven-year tenure at the Marriott flagship hotel in Manhattan. No one is a bigger fan of Oscar's than I am, but the sustain pedal mechanism on the machine never worked, and the recording sounded awful. Really, just awful.

Believe me, everyone noticed. It made me feel sad for the guests, embarrassed for the management, and sorry for Mr. Peterson, whose beautiful music was being brutalized by a machine that was never intended to play 24/7 without proper maintenance. And our poor piano was never the same.

Erad, I appreciate your point, but you know, there is ALWAYS someone in any community who can play. I'll bet there are tons of players on this very forum who would leap at the chance to play in public.

But the latest bad guy in the case I sited (the Hilton) is in Manhattan, in the heart of the Broadway theater district. The union in NYC, Local 802) has fought very valiantly to keep Broadway from using canned music. In my mind, this is the same thing.
_________________________
Robin Meloy Goldsby
www.goldsby.de
Author of PIANO GIRL: A Memoir
RHYTHM: A Novel
RMG is a Steinway Artist

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#1137295 - 10/10/08 04:32 PM Re: Being Replaced by a Machine
bitWrangler Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/14/07
Posts: 1789
Loc: Central TX
PG RMG, having a future in anything these days is a big plus ;\)

I hear what you are saying about rampant piano abuse, but it happens too with pianos that real folks play. Agreed that at least with a person there is someone who can say "hey, this thing is playing/sounding like crap, get a tech to do something", though just like in your case, knowing and acting are two different things.

I think your comment about switching plates or going to canned soup are misplaced. I go to a restaurant to eat, so the food and the plates are an integral part of my expectations. There are relatively few eateries where a person playing a piano is an integral part of the dinner. Perhaps a closer analogy might be the difference between having the chef prepare the meal vs having an underling prepare the meal based on the chefs directions (your examples seem more akin to having an intermediate piano player playing on a $60 Walmart keyboard).

Also, your personal example speaks for the importance of keeping the instrument in good shape and choosing wisely. Of course a great stereo system can blow away a crappy player system recording being reproduced by a lousy malfunctioning piano. You'd be hard pressed to find a stereo system regardless of cost that will outdo a good player recording played on say a nice S&S or Bosie (and it would probably cost more than the piano). Why blame the instrument (player piano) when the issue is with those are charged with maintaining it?

Anyway, I agree that there are places and situations where having a live performer works best. However, I also feel that there are even more situations where for the majority of customers, having a decent player system on a decently maintained piano is more than adequate. You're in the industry, I'd fully expect for you to disagree, but this is coming more from a "customers" perspective rather than a musicians.

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#1137296 - 10/11/08 03:11 AM Re: Being Replaced by a Machine
Piano Girl RMG Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/24/07
Posts: 702
Loc: Germany
So, Bitwrangler, we agree on some points and disagree on others. Such is life.

Many thanks to you for this thoughtful discussion. Are you in sales? It's good to know the other side of the discussion, and you make some good arguments. But you know, I'm a musician, and these machines have hurt us. I feel like I have speak up.

If you can figure out how to get management to properly maintain a piano, please let me know. Usually it's the musician who has to beg, plead, and whine to have the piano tuned. If there's no musician there to defend the instrument, it's almost certain that piano maintenance will be ignored. A piano played 16 hours a day by a machine needs way more maintenance that an instrument played several hours a day by a musician.

How right you are—everyone in the hotel/restaurant industry is in trouble right now—not just the musicians.

I'm going to post a chapter from my book PIANO GIRL. It deals with this subject, and you'll see why I'm so sensitive about the machine thing!

CRASH TEST
(From the book PIANO GIRL: A Memoir)
Reprinted with permission

My dad always warned me that I’d eventually be fired from every job.

But I’ve been playing at the Marriott Marquis for six years, and I’ve developed a false sense of security. I’ve got a loyal set of fans. Okay, some of them are nuts, but at least they spend money in the lounge on a regular basis. And I have a good relationship with my co-workers. I’m reliable. For over six years I’ve covered every single shift, five hours a day, five days a week. That’s 7,800 hours of music. I should be awarded a framed certificate and a Purple Heart. But the Marriotts have other rewards in mind.

It all starts with the cocktail nuts. When management changes the bar snacks, I don’t need Voice of Doom to tell me that the end is near. Overnight, we go from expensive smoked almonds to pretzel nubs. Then the waitresses get new uniforms—also a bad sign, although the new uniform is a big improvement over the old hooker-in-Las Vegas model. They remove the vases of fresh flowers from the cocktail tables and replace them with Chia-pet centerpieces.

They’re out to get you, says Voice of Doom. You’re a goner. Dead meat.

Don’t be silly, Voice of Reason argues back. You’ve been playing here for six years and everybody loves you. Of course they’ll be faithful to you!

Pigeon Man has moved to the corporate office, which means he can make music-policy decisions without having to argue with me. Life is calm for a few months and then—WHAM!

“Look at ze new machine,” says the room manager, an Austrian guy named Sebastian. He has cleats on his shoes. “You just flick zis little svitch und voila! The piano plays by itself.”

I give you another two months on this gig, says VOD.

“Sebastian,” I say, trying really hard to remain calm. “This sounds terrible.” The piano is playing, all by itself, “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning.” The device is not connected to the sustain pedal, so the music sounds staccato, disconnected, almost march-like.

In - - - the - - - wee - - - small - - -hou - -rs - - -of - - - the - - - morn - - - ing.

“Ah, no,” says Sebastian. “It’s great! Now ve have ze musik all day long, even ven you’re not here, even ven you take ze break! If you can’t come to vork, no problem! Ve just turn on ze machine! Look, ze customers love it!”

There are two five-years-olds standing next to the piano, laughing and pointing. Everyone else is seated as far away from the piano as possible.

“Turn that thing off; it’s giving me a friggin' headache,” says Joy the waitress.

I know about these machines. I saw one in California several years ago, but it seemed so, well, California-ish, that I never imagined that one would surface in the lobby of a five-star hotel in Manhattan the middle of the Broadway Theater District. I am stunned.

I run to the bank of pay phones. I call my agent. I call Robin Spielberg, another pianist. They both listen sympathetically as I rant about this being the beginning of the end.

“Hey, think about it,” says my agent. “This is Manhattan. A hotel like the Marriott would never replace live music with a player-piano machine.”

“You’ll see,” says Robin Spielberg. “It’ll be a novelty for a while, and then they’ll get sick of the thing.” I detect a note of doubt in her voice. “I mean, they can hear the difference between that thing and a real musician, can’t they?”

They notice.

Everybody hates the machine: the customers—tourists and New Yorkers alike—and the staff who must deal with the customer complaints, mess around with the volume—or the dynamic sensitivity knob, as the salesman called it. I’m embarrassed to sit down at a piano that’s already playing itself. Every so often when I start to play, someone asks me if I’m really playing; they think I’m a model who has been hired to sit there and pretend.

You watch, says VOD. Your days are seriously numbered.

The axe falls, of course. The four pianists playing in the Atrium Lounge are given six weeks notice, and then—presto!—without a word of thanks from management, an apology, or even a patronizing pat on the back, we vanish. That beautiful Yamaha, struggling to play Cole Porter songs at march tempos, retaliates like it has a bad case of the hiccups, spitting and regurgitating the automated music, longing for the touch of a human hand.

Usually I’m a good sport about being fired. I’ve been replaced by better musicians and worse musicians. I’ve been replaced by a table for four because management decided the piano is taking up too much room. I’ve been fired because the hotel or restaurant runs out of money, because new management wants to try something different, or because the general manager of the hotel has a girlfriend who sings a little. Fine. No problem. There’s always another job. Usually a better one. But being replaced by a machine is a different. I can’t get over it, hard as I try.

Two weeks after I leave, I get a call from one of my former Marriott fans.

“You’ve gotta see this,” says Max. Max is a cute little guy who came into the hotel every week for six years. “They’ve got a dummy at the piano.”

“What?” I say. “A dummy?”

“Yeah. You know. Like a big stuffed man in a tuxedo.”

“You’re kidding.”

“No. You can’t make this stuff up. You gotta go see it. If it weren’t for the tuxedo and the moustache, he’d look like one of those dummies they use for crash testing.”

I grab my camera and get to Midtown in twenty minutes. As the glass elevator doors open on the eighth floor of the hotel I think, No, Max must be wrong. There’s a person at the piano. I guess they hired someone new. Wonder who it is.

From a distance it looks like Earl or Howard or . . .

But the person sitting at the piano isn’t moving. I hear the uneven clatter of the machine as it extorts sound out of the abused instrument. There, sitting in my place on the piano bench, is a dummy.

This is a real slap in the face.

Wow, says VOD. This is even worse than I predicted.

Oh, shut up, says VOR. At least it’s not a girl dummy.

I take a couple of pictures and a couple of deep breaths, say hello to the waitresses, and leave.

One week after the dummy sighting I take a trip to Hawaii, a tactic I would recommend to any unemployed woman who is trying to pretend that she is not unemployed. When I get back to the city my head is clear. So I do what I always do when I need to think. I write. I compose a long editorial for Allegro, the monthly newspaper published by Local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians. Six months after the dummy takes my place on the piano bench in the Atrium Lounge, Local 802 prints my article, along with a photo of the dummy. A writer from Billboard magazine sees my article and writes an editorial of his own, describing the dummy and the Pianocorder. He suggests that live-music trade shows and conventions take their business elsewhere, to a hotel that employs real musicians. Billboard receives a flurry of letters in support of live music, several in support of “modern technology,” and one from the manufacturer of the dummy—claiming that I am out of touch with the wave of the future and that the Marriott Corporation is on the cutting edge of the dummy field by choosing to place a dummy in its Broadway Theater District flagship hotel.

Live music returns to the Marriott a month later. What prompts the decision—whether it’s the bad press, complaints from customers, threats from trade-show organizers, or just declining revenues in the Atrium Lounge—I’ll never know. But several new pianists are engaged, and the lobby once again reverberates with the glorious sound of live piano music. I move to another piano job in another hotel. Score one for the humans.

The dummy disappears from the lobby and never returns. Perhaps he has been kidnapped. Maybe the dummy has donned a bordeaux jacket and an earpiece and taken a job with the Highly Trained Security Team positioned by the bank of television monitors at the entrance to the hotel. Perhaps he has been given a position in the corporate Food and Beverage Department working as an assistant for Pigeon Man, or maybe he just rides in the passenger seat of Pigeon Man’s car so they can travel to work in the commuter lane. Hopefully, the dummy has gone someplace where he’s being appreciated for a job well done.
_________________________
Robin Meloy Goldsby
www.goldsby.de
Author of PIANO GIRL: A Memoir
RHYTHM: A Novel
RMG is a Steinway Artist

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#1137297 - 10/11/08 12:46 PM Re: Being Replaced by a Machine
Elssa Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/15/05
Posts: 1567
Loc: NY
Thanks for posting that from your wonderful book. \:\)

Up With People! Down With Dummies! \:\(

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#1137298 - 10/11/08 04:56 PM Re: Being Replaced by a Machine
Elssa Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/15/05
Posts: 1567
Loc: NY
P.S. Whatever anyone says, I know for a fact that "regular people" as well as musicians really appreciate and enjoy having musicians playing instead of machines anytime, without a doubt.

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#1137299 - 10/13/08 10:04 AM Re: Being Replaced by a Machine
Piano Girl RMG Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/24/07
Posts: 702
Loc: Germany
Thanks, Elssa!

And you're right. People NOTICE. Big time. Human beings may have been numbed-out and dumbed-down over the decades, but at least we haven't gotten to the point where we don't appreciate the real thing.
_________________________
Robin Meloy Goldsby
www.goldsby.de
Author of PIANO GIRL: A Memoir
RHYTHM: A Novel
RMG is a Steinway Artist

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#1137300 - 10/13/08 11:04 AM Re: Being Replaced by a Machine
izaldu Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/18/08
Posts: 1250
Loc:
Apart from the sentimental side of this discussion, and the fact that a machine will never beat a professional pianist, if i was a guest at the Hilton in NYC , supposedly a high standing hotel, i would find it CHEAP to have a player piano and not a professional pianist. Same as if i ordered a rhum and coke and the waiter came with one of those bottled mixes.
Sign of the times, though.

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#1137301 - 10/13/08 11:38 AM Re: Being Replaced by a Machine
Piano Girl RMG Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/24/07
Posts: 702
Loc: Germany
Well-said, izaldu.

Thanks for speaking up.
_________________________
Robin Meloy Goldsby
www.goldsby.de
Author of PIANO GIRL: A Memoir
RHYTHM: A Novel
RMG is a Steinway Artist

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#1137302 - 10/13/08 01:57 PM Re: Being Replaced by a Machine
Elssa Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/15/05
Posts: 1567
Loc: NY
Hi Robin:

I know personally what it's like to be replaced by modern technology. I've been a medical transcriptionist for over 20 years. About a decade or so ago, they started developing the VR (Voice Recognition) systems and it was predicted that all medical transcriptionists in hospitals and doctors' offices would soon not be needed at all. My main account, a large group of cardiologists for whom I had been working loyally for many years (in the last few years from home), and who always raved about my work, one day had their receptionist call and tell me I was no longer needed.. They had bought one of those very expensive EMR (electronic medical records) systems with VR. Knowing what lousy dictators most of them were, I knew it wouldn't work, and sure enough when I called the office a month or so later to see how things were going, the receptionist told me that the doctors were unable to use the VR system at all and were instead using the slow point-and-click method that also came with the EMR (choosing sentences from a screen and pasting them together, which takes about three times as long as dictating reports). HAH! All that money (over $100,000.00) wasted! Doctors are cheap and always trying to save money, but machines can never replace humans. When the doctors dictate "The patient had a CABG (dictated as "cabbage"), the dumb system spits out the word as it was pronounced - "cabbage" - rather than "coronary artery bypass graft". These aggressive VR salesmen have now sold these systems to most hospitals, and these hospitals have all then had to hire back full-time medical transcriptionists/editors to edit and correct every report these systems produce. We must go over everything, because when these awful dictators speak (most doctors dictate like their pants are on fire and/or have thick accents), the printed report from the VR comes out mostly as nonsense - completely different than what was dictated. It takes a human to know what was actually being said! I work as a medical editor as well as transcriptionist now, but the editing drives me nuts..I basically have to redo the whole report produced by VR - but for half the pay. Anyway, rant over, that's my story.. I can really relate to what's happening in the music business these days!

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#1137303 - 10/13/08 02:50 PM Re: Being Replaced by a Machine
wavelength Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 340
Loc: Vermont, USA
Oh, gosh. Live music is being replaced by canned music in so many ways, that the player piano thing is a drop in the ocean. But somehow it hits closer to home... and seems like very bad taste.

A few years ago a new jewlery store opened in my town. A friend reported to me that they had a baby grand piano, so I thought I'd investigate and see if they needed anyone to play it. So I shaved, put on some nice clothes, and went to the store. I heard some music playing on the stereo, and I didn't pay it much attention. As I approached the piano, I noticed a video screen on the wall next to it playing concert footage. It was Yanni (yuck). Then I noticed the piano playing itself, and that it was synched to the Yanni video, playing the piano part. I got out of there as fast as I could, and almost lost my lunch.
;\)

As a rule I don't patronize any bar that doesn't hire live music. Restaurants are trickier because it's not always the tasty ones that have the music. I can't afford hotels anyway, so that's not an issue ;\)
Live Music: use it or lose it!

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#1137304 - 10/13/08 04:28 PM Re: Being Replaced by a Machine
bitWrangler Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/14/07
Posts: 1789
Loc: Central TX
 Quote:
Originally posted by Piano Girl RMG:
Many thanks to you for this thoughtful discussion. Are you in sales? It's good to know the other side of the discussion, and you make some good arguments. But you know, I'm a musician, and these machines have hurt us. I feel like I have speak up.[/b]
"Are you in sales?" Oh milady, thou hast driven a dagger straight threw my heart ;\) (my apologies to any sales folks out there, I figure I've got the professional musicians ready to string me up, why not go for the sales folks to?)

I'm glad you understand that I'm not simply dissing musicians and live music. Heck, I've spent enough myself on instruments and lessons for the family that live music is obviously quite important to me. And I very much appreciate a live performer whenever I can get it (stopped to listen to a jazz ensemble at the outdoor mall just this Sat., kids wanted to get home, it was late, but I wanted to listen and I wanted them to listen). And yes, it wouldn't have even been close having some reproduction (whatever it might have been) to providing the same level of ambiance. BTW, this is a rather upscale mall, so others points about certain venues almost "requiring" live folks certainly valid. Just trying to provide a different POV to the issue.

I wish all musicians out there the best of fortune. It's a tough time for everyone. Though I haven't been "replaced by a machine", I have been through a "downsizing", so I know losing your primary source of income (and for the lucky few, pleasure) pretty much sucks.

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#1137305 - 10/13/08 04:54 PM Re: Being Replaced by a Machine
Elssa Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/15/05
Posts: 1567
Loc: NY
It's such a shame that there are so few venues these days for solo pianists. The only place that still has one that I know of is a Nordstrom's about an hour from me. I know there are places in New York City still, but haven't found anything since moving up here to the burbs. There are a few places with live jazz, but no solo piano.

EDIT: Oh, shoot! I just did a Google search of "Nordstrom, piano players" and found out they just this year discontinued the live piano playing in all their stores!! \:\(

My favorite teacher www.rosscarnegie.com played at Nordstrom for many years.

Nordstrom benching its piano players[/b] http://getsatisfaction.com/nordstrom/topics/nordstrom_benching_its_piano_players

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#1137306 - 10/14/08 03:31 PM Re: Being Replaced by a Machine
Elssa Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/15/05
Posts: 1567
Loc: NY
Here's another article about Nordstrom "benching its piano players":

http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/business/341507_nordstrom29.html

Not that I can afford to shop at Nordstrom, but maybe we should complain? Seems like they're throwing away a grand tradition for no reason except to be more "current" and modern.

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#1137307 - 10/14/08 07:07 PM Re: Being Replaced by a Machine
Mechanical Doll Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/10/07
Posts: 199
Loc: Garden State, USA
"The company claims most customers prefer the piped-in contemporary music to the classic jazzy tunes played live on a baby grand."

This strikes me at best as abnormal, at worst as an outright lie. I'd love to hear what questions they asked their customers - if they surveyed them at all - to reach the conclusion that piped-in contemporary music (which would either be a single CD on repeat all day, everyday, or a music station complete with COMMERCIALS) would be preferable to a live musician.
_________________________
Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without. ~Confucius

Music is moonlight in the gloomy night of life. ~Jean Paul Richter

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#1137308 - 10/14/08 07:11 PM Re: Being Replaced by a Machine
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
It is bottom line for reducing expenses.

Perhaps Nordstrom has to also pay ASCAP fees or other fees because music is being played on the premises - I'm not the least bit informed about what it costs to do public performances, but:

Barbershop groups, men and women, pay fees for using the music in their shows,

Community theater performances also have fees to pay

Etc....

And, I'm sure they would charge for the air you are breathing in their spaces if they could.

Nothing is a casual performance these days.....maybe you didn't know that. This could have led to their bottom line decisions.

I am really sorry to have read this year about so many changes in what used to be accessible live music in public places.

For many years, the church pianos in sanctuaries I have used for recitals have an insurance policy to buy, facility fees, tuning fees (sometimes), and kitchen use fees (if you bring cookies and beverage). Plus some churches put your request for usage for a piano recital through the church committee a month in advance for permission, and even then on the contract there is a clause: church may cancel within 24 hours if there is a need for the church premises during the time "user" is scheduled for.

Now, if you are a member of the church, no special contract is needed, just schedule it and do it.

What do you think of all these apples that make it hard to find "public pianos that play well" for the "little guy"?

It's not as free as it looks to the audience!

Betty

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#1137309 - 10/14/08 07:47 PM Re: Being Replaced by a Machine
currawong Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/15/07
Posts: 5946
Loc: Down Under
Very interesting thread!

[1] I used to have a job as a restaurant pianist - great job, people, ambience, food. Then moved out of the area for a few years. When I came back not only that particular restaurant but others were just using canned music. And others which had had pianos no longer had them. Many places now where I am have guitarist/singers - well at least it's live music.

[2] My nearest big city is Sydney. The classiest of the department stores in the central business district has had a live pianist playing a Steinway for as long as I can remember (probably not the same pianist however \:\) ). If I remember rightly they tried to ditch this a few years ago and the public protest was such that they changed their minds!
However, in another classy shopping venue in the same area is a player grand, with a chilling sign on it which says DO NOT PLAY THE PIANO (I guess they just mean that piano, and not a general directive \:\) ) I used to hear it playing Chopin, and other lighter things, but it has been sitting there silently for a couple of years at least now, with its sign.

[3] I work as an accompanist, and do a lot of accompanying singers for exams, for which a live accompanist used to be the requirement. Our local exam board has now put out a new series of books complete with accompaniment CD which can now be used in the exam. Now this will really mean being replaced by a machine. Many will begrudge the rehearsal and performance fees and opt for the convenience of the CD.

I suppose this thread has just encouraged me to make my views on these things known to those in power. Thanks!
_________________________
Du holde Kunst...

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#1137310 - 10/14/08 08:55 PM Re: Being Replaced by a Machine
Elssa Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/15/05
Posts: 1567
Loc: NY
I called the Nordstrom store that's about an hour from me (White Plains, New York) and asked what was going on with the live piano music. I was told that the piano is still there. I then asked if they still had their usual professional pianist(s), and she said "No, just the manager plays it sometimes now"! \:\( I think it's all about money, though you wouldn't think what they pay (apparently just $15.00 an hour for a professional pianist) would break the bank for Nordstrom.

Story: http://getsatisfaction.com/nordstrom/topics/nordstrom_benching_its_piano_players

"Nordstrom benching its piano players":[/b]
Nordstrom has announced it plans to discontinue the tradition of live piano music starting next year. The company claims most customers prefer the piped-in contemporary music to the classic jazzy tunes played live on a baby grand.

I, for one, am shocked that Nordstrom has decided to do this. For me, live piano playing is the hallmark of the Nordstrom brand. Without it, I might as well shop at Macy's.

I have questions for Nordstrom:

First, I would like to know where and how you received this customer "intelligence": Customer surveys? Focus groups? Video-surveilled customer tracking (another wonderful detail in the brave new world of offline shopping)?

Second, I wonder whether your best and most loyal in-store customers have been polled on the subject. I will bet that the vast majority will be disappointed, if not outright shocked.

Third, I wonder if your $15.00 per hour pianists are simply scapegoats for Nordstrom's less than stellar financial projections going forward. Benching your "piano men" is not going to help existing customer dissatisfaction. How much are you saving here in exchange for silencing a wonderful tradition?"

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#1137311 - 10/15/08 04:11 AM Re: Being Replaced by a Machine
Piano Girl RMG Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/24/07
Posts: 702
Loc: Germany
GO ELSSA GO!

Please send this letter to Nordstrom's. Send it to the editor of the local newspaper, and send it to the CEO of Nordstrom's. Print out a copy of this forum and send it to the store, along with stats about how many people read these threads.

Having been in the biz for a billion years, I know that management listens to complaints. They listen even more to compliments, since it's rare that a customer raves about something, so make sure to speak up when in the presence of live music.

And you, Currawong, your post sums up the situation so beautifully. PLEASE DO NOT PLAY. Good grief, what irony there is in that sign being placed next to a player piano.

Any New Yorkers on board here? I got a letter from a woman who read my Piano Girl book and then went on a tour of all the places I talked about in the book (sort of like a Davinci Code Paris tour, except for piano lovers). Not a single hotel still had live music.

The Waldorf still has two wonderful pianists (Emilee Floor and Debbie Andrews) working in Peacock Alley, but last spring they discontinued live music in the lobby bar, where Daryl Sherman, arguably the BEST singer-player on the circuit had been playing COLE PORTER'S piano for the last decade. Even the New York Times ran an article about her tenure there, and the shame of a place like the Waldorf cutting out music.

http://movies.nytimes.com/2008/05/03/nyregion/03waldorf.html?scp=1&sq=daryl+sherman&st=nyt

I'm sure the Waldorf management (HILTON!) had a moment of remorse, but I know how these hotels are—they hope people forget, or even worse, that they'll never know what they're missing.
_________________________
Robin Meloy Goldsby
www.goldsby.de
Author of PIANO GIRL: A Memoir
RHYTHM: A Novel
RMG is a Steinway Artist

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#1137312 - 10/16/08 02:51 PM Re: Being Replaced by a Machine
Elssa Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/15/05
Posts: 1567
Loc: NY
Here's the contact info:

Blake Nordstrom, CEO
Corporate Offices
Nordstrom Direct Inquiries
1700 Seventh Avenue, Suite 300
Seattle, WA 98101
(206) 303-6000

BTW, would love to know why the CEO, Blake Nordstrom, reportedly earns over 5 million dollars a year as CEO but doesn't think they can afford the $15.00 an hour for pianists anymore. I'm sure they didn't even conduct a legitimate poll of customers...It's all about the money. \:\(

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#1137313 - 10/16/08 03:00 PM Re: Being Replaced by a Machine
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
Does the union represent any of the pianists who play in public entertainment?

Why is renumeration so cheap at $15 per hour?

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