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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: 1566
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: 1566
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: 1566
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: 1566
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: 1566
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: 1566
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: 5936
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!
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Du holde Kunst...

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#1137310 - 10/14/08 08:55 PM Re: Being Replaced by a Machine
Elssa Offline
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Registered: 01/15/05
Posts: 1566
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: 1566
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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#1137314 - 10/16/08 03:10 PM Re: Being Replaced by a Machine
currawong Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/15/07
Posts: 5936
Loc: Down Under
 Quote:
Originally posted by Betty Patnude:
Does the union represent any of the pianists who play in public entertainment?
Why is renumeration so cheap at $15 per hour? [/b]
Yes, I wondered that too. The job I mentioned that I had was over 20 years ago and even then I was getting more than three times that. (Different country, I know, but ...)

Of course that's just the point - they don't want to pay, so the machine seems to be a better option.
_________________________
Du holde Kunst...

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#1137315 - 10/16/08 05:32 PM Re: Being Replaced by a Machine
Elssa Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/15/05
Posts: 1566
Loc: NY
"Why is renumeration so cheap at $15 per hour?"

Apparently, from the articles I've been reading, the pianists were also given some benefits, including health insurance...Bet that's the real reason they were let go. It's all about saving money, though their CEO there seems to be doing quite well at a salary of 5 million a year:

http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/metro/20071130-9999-1n30piano.html

"But the Nordstrom in Horton Plaza and the one in Escondido have done away with what has long been a signature of the department store chain.

Yesterday, instead of piano music, the Rolling Stones' “Beast of Burden” drifted through the Horton Plaza store.

Some say the switch from live music to recordings is a shame, regardless. “It takes away the human touch,” said Joan Kurland, who played the piano at local Nordstrom stores in the late 1980s. “I had people come up all the time and tell me how much they enjoyed it.”

Kurland had some memorable experiences as a Nordstrom pianist. A young person once came down the escalator, saw her playing and shouted out: “How about some Led Zeppelin!” She was able to accommodate him, she said with pride. One of the heavy metal group's songs, “Stairway to Heaven,” sounds just fine on the piano.

Most of the time, though, Kurland played show tunes. Customers especially appreciated the “Charlie Brown Theme.”

“I remember seeing people spend an hour just listening,” she said. “Some people came in just to listen.”

Nordstrom is aware that many customers will be disappointed by the change from live music to recorded pop and alternative hits. “We know there are feelings on both sides, White said [Brook White, a national spokeswoman for Nordstrom]. White emphasized that the music that is replacing the piano is of high quality. “It's great,” she said.

But, for some, even the best recording pales in comparison to the sound produced by a grand piano, with a pianist bent over the keys.

Kristin Gibbs, who was visiting Horton Plaza from Porterville, joked that the piano music at Nordstrom helped her husband weather her shopping trips. “It's nice to hear real instruments,” she said. Loyd Brown, another shopper, agreed.

“I always prefer live music,” he said. “If you think about it, who wouldn't?”[/b]

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#1137316 - 10/16/08 09:17 PM Re: Being Replaced by a Machine
Lostinidlewonder Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/06/08
Posts: 31
Loc: West Australia
Hotel or cocktail lounge type gigs are a dying art form. Only because the public no longer really care to listen to it. They are so used to recorded music that hearing music played for real has little effect on them. Also I think that the overall standard of "cocktail performers" has gone downhill.

That the piano gets replaced by a computer playing probably will not effect 95% of people who go there. It will effect those who love piano music, but unfortunately that is not a large part of the population. Musicians who get the boot better find a better musical career. Playing your whole life for an audience who isn't really listening to it, its so depressing in my mind.
_________________________
"The biggest risk in life is to take no risk at all"

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#1137317 - 10/17/08 07:05 AM Re: Being Replaced by a Machine
Piano Girl RMG Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/24/07
Posts: 702
Loc: Germany
Dear Lost----
I play for myself, and anyone who cares to listen.

I can't repeat this often enough: A machine is different from a live musician. A machine is the opposite of real.

People notice. Maybe they can't articulate the dismay they feel by having one more beautiful thing stripped away from their lives, but they notice.

I can understand, to some degree, your cynicism. But human beings deserve more credit than what you're giving them. I honestly believe that all of us deserve and desire as much beauty as the world has to offer.

Here is a passage from one of my books. The woman quoted in this passage is pianist Robin Spielberg:

*********************************************************

“There are real people out there,” she reminds me, “individual customers and workers—unique human beings with uncommon desires—each of whom deserves ten minutes of beautiful music.”

“That’s why we’re musicians,” she says. “You never know who is listening. It might be someone who really needs the music you play. Maybe the person who needs it most is you. But that counts, right?” I can’t listen to her and stay cynical. Her enthusiasm gets under my skin, and, before I know it, I adopt her philosophy and claim it as my own. I don’t know where she stops and I start.

She gives me a reason to keep playing.

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

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#1137318 - 10/17/08 09:06 AM Re: Being Replaced by a Machine
Arabesque Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/16/05
Posts: 552
Loc: Japan
May I take the soapbox?
_________________________
It don't mean a ting if it don't have dat swing

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#1137319 - 10/17/08 11:54 AM Re: Being Replaced by a Machine
Betty Patnude Offline
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Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
And we didn't know we were an endangered species!

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#1137320 - 10/17/08 03:07 PM Re: Being Replaced by a Machine
Elssa Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/15/05
Posts: 1566
Loc: NY
I remember the days when organs (with pedals) were popular, and I used to perform on that.. The malls always had a keyboardist/organist playing at the music store. That was the most popular store in the mall! Everybody loved to just sit there and listen and then some would try out the organs. It gave the mall such a nice warm feeling, unlike the feeling of the cold canned music today.

I got a reply to my e-mail letter of complaint to Nordstrom's, and they stated that money was not the issue for cutting out the pianists. I don't believe it.. I think the health insurance and other benefits given to the pianists was a main reason (even though they obviously could afford that, since they're paying their CEO, Blake Nordstrom, over 5 million a year).

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#1137321 - 10/17/08 03:34 PM Re: Being Replaced by a Machine
Piano Girl RMG Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/24/07
Posts: 702
Loc: Germany
Elssa—

Good for you for following though with that letter.

Artists have always been endangered. We need to protect each other and hope that people understand how much we contribute. I choose to believe they do.
_________________________
Robin Meloy Goldsby
www.goldsby.de
Author of PIANO GIRL: A Memoir
RHYTHM: A Novel
RMG is a Steinway Artist

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#1137322 - 10/17/08 03:52 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 Elssa:
I got a reply to my e-mail letter of complaint to Nordstrom's, and they stated that money was not the issue for cutting out the pianists. I don't believe it.. I think the health insurance and other benefits given to the pianists was a main reason (even though they obviously could afford that, since they're paying their CEO, Blake Nordstrom, over 5 million a year). [/b]
I would have thought the performers were contracted, not actively employed? I'll hold my tongue on the CEO comment \:\)

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#1137323 - 10/17/08 04:14 PM Re: Being Replaced by a Machine
Elssa Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/15/05
Posts: 1566
Loc: NY
Here's another article:

"Nordstrom's three newest stores, in the Detroit area, Denver and Natick, Mass., opened this year without pianists. And by next year, three of five Nordstrom stores in Oregon will go without live piano performances. White noted that most Nordstrom pianists in Washington state play for no more than five hours daily.

Still, doing away with live piano music is a store-by-store decision and not part of some directive by Seattle headquarters, she said...

That's some consolation to Joel Baker, who played the piano at the Tukwila store from 1988 to 2003. He described it as one of the few daytime jobs for pianists that paid well — $15 an hour in his last year — and offered such benefits as a 401(k) and health insurance.

"Once in a while, a shopper would sit by the piano, or say they really liked a tune when I didn't think anyone was listening," said Baker, 40, who now performs at restaurants in Palm Springs, Calif. "I don't think the shoppers were going in just to hear the music, but I do think the piano was one of the things that made Nordstrom unique."

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#1137324 - 10/17/08 08:51 PM Re: Being Replaced by a Machine
Lostinidlewonder Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/06/08
Posts: 31
Loc: West Australia
I agree a machine cannot replace a real performer. I find when I play cocktail lounge music it is always different. We choose different fill ins every time, you can be very creative.

http://www.pianostreet.com/smf/index.php/topic,19860.0.html

Just for fun here is a recording of some cocktail lounge music that I like to play ;\) I just don't think that machines can emulate this, they play much more measured and exact.
_________________________
"The biggest risk in life is to take no risk at all"

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#1137325 - 10/17/08 10:50 PM Re: Being Replaced by a Machine
Late Beginner Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/06/08
Posts: 588
Loc: West Australia
Hi,

I am a 100% enthusiast for, and a daily practitioner of live music.

However, I don't believe that there's much to be gained from moaning about technology. After all, there is a certain irony in the fact that I'm sitting here typing this on a computer rather than discussing it downstairs with my wife... \:\) I think there's room for both.

When it comes to music I thank technology for many things. We have something like 1000 Cds of wonderful music, most of which I couldn't afford to hear any other way. I simply don't have either the time or the money to get to more than a handful of live concerts, and many of the performers no longer play that repertoire anyway - either through boredom or onset of deadness.... Undoubtedly, it would be pleasant to have a live pianist playing while I type this, but a CD is more affordable and more practical.

I also use technology for my own music - to provide backing tracks (either recorded from an instrument or played artificially using midi). If I'm writing a song, I don't have the skills to play every instrument in the line up, or the money to pay for a room full of studio musicians. So I construct it with software while I slowly learn to play each track myself. And so on...

When it comes to listening to live music in public then I think that it's up to us to try and promote whatever we believe in. But it pays to do it in a positive way by trying to attract people to share our enthusiasm. If we have to resort to complaining, that often seems to mean that the battle is already mostly lost and bitching about something can reinforce that and make it easier for the naysayers to dismiss our case.

There's no shortage of music where I live. But it just isn't live cocktail piano. Much of it's canned (supermarkets, lifts, DJs at clubs etc) but a lot is live too. But it's mostly bands or other forms of guitar based music. Keyboards usually means some kind of digital synth. That's fine by me, and it's also fine by most of the other punters it seems. Pubs used to have pianos, now they have bands. I liked the pianos a lot, but both the interest in that kind of music, and the number of people willing and able to play it in that setting both dwindled to almost nil. The publicans got rid of the pianos, not out of fiscal bastardry, but because nobody had played them for so long.

(EDIT: STOP PRESS - Short live discussion interlude did just take place, involving real world wife and actual cups of tea..... we're now taking you back to the computer.... )

I'd like to be able to hear more live piano, but the bottom line is that the only way that will translate into an actual local job is if somebody performs in an appealing enough way to attract enough paying customers to cover their wages. So in the meantime I either play it myself, or enjoy the playing of more competent friends.

If enough people see us enjoying ourselves and want to be part of the experience, then audiences will grow and the economics become viable. If not then the jobs disappear and we can only continue to enjoy our preferences as amateurs. There's nothing special about music in this regard, the same applies to numerous other trades, professions, arts and crafts.

Maybe cocktail piano has largely had it's day as a viable format? I certainly hope not, but in most aspects of life there's really only three basic choices - move with the times, be energetic enough to help shape them, or else resign yourself to being sidelined and accepting whatever crumbs come your way.

I've never had much luck with simply telling other people that they 'ought' to like this or that, or convincing them to be prepared to pay for it just because I think it's worthwhile. One way or another they have to discover what's in it for them.

Good luck with your efforts to promote your particular craft. I agree 100% that it's a wonderful addition to the landscape and should be encouraged and supported. But if it has to be 'preserved' like a museum exhibit, then unfortunately support may continue to dwindle.

Cheers,

Chris
_________________________
Who needs feet of clay? I can get into enough trouble with feet made of regular foot stuff...

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#1137326 - 10/17/08 11:21 PM Re: Being Replaced by a Machine
Piano World Online   blank



Registered: 05/24/01
Posts: 5598
Loc: Parsonsfield, ME (orig. Nahant...
I have nothing against player pianos ... as entertainment in someones home while everyone is talking, or even in a restaurant or hotel, while the REAL piano player is on break.

Beyond that, I like to be able to request songs/pieces, and interact with a real person

If you're only going to play canned music, you might as well have a juke box or CD player.

I tend to ignore canned music, but I automatically gravitate to live musicians.
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#1137327 - 10/18/08 12:43 AM Re: Being Replaced by a Machine
Elssa Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/15/05
Posts: 1566
Loc: NY
I used to play (and perform on) the electric organ (with pedals), but at least we were playing these instruments... electric or acoustic, you still need a human being playing it, at any level or style. \:\) Just my 2 cents. :p

Ethel Smith: (amazing videos from way back)
Tico-Tico:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TA9qlWyk-7Q

The Breeze and I:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dd1fn0qwHvY&feature=related

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#1137328 - 10/18/08 03:21 AM Re: Being Replaced by a Machine
Boira Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/09/07
Posts: 472
Loc: Barcelona
Some years ago, Hotel Hilton-Barcelona used to have a grand in the lobby. There were live music every evening/night, every day of the week. Even during the summer season (quite long here) they used to roll out the piano to the terrace, right on the street and play it there while guests had dinner or a cocktail in the outdoor restaurant.

A friend of mine who works at the Hotel told me that now the piano is stored in a room close to the lobby and nobody plays it anymore. It doesn't even get tuned or serviced.

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#1137329 - 10/18/08 04:42 AM Re: Being Replaced by a Machine
Arabesque Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/16/05
Posts: 552
Loc: Japan
Soapbox:

What a great pity that technology is replacing fine pianists in the world's cultural hub. However, the concept of someone sitting and playing for five hour stretches at $15 an hour is also somewhat unpractical in today's world. Why not encourage those businesses to sponsor artists to perform for given dates and be paid more? About $75 for two hours? The event would attract people and the music would have more quality. If they have a good piano then someone should be using it. Without a doubt, it would fill the seats and keep the waiters busy. It's so dull to have piped music. You can have that any day in a sanatorium. I know that many companies now are into subliminal music to manipulate consumers. It really might explain a lot of the piped music around these stores. They often have it on the shopping streets here coming out of lamposts. I regard it as an ugly environmental pollution.

For live playing, a lot depends on the setting and context. They had an experiment at a Metro Station with Joshua Bell, a violinist who usually sells seats for 100$ a ticket. He played an immaculate recital on a Stradivarius next to a trash basket at the station. People just walked by. There was only one guy, I think, who stopped and recognized him. People just rushed by with a glance in the general direction not even stopping to listen.

I think that a large degree of what we are seeing
in the present day as opposed to the past decades is an isolationism brought by technology.
In turn this leads to a change in society and culture. Social change is also conditioned by economics. This can be seen in the contrast between the 20's which was truly swinging for artists of all genres, and the later 30's when society retreated like a snail with occasional forays into creative innovation. I think what we are seeing now is the technological and economic snail of the early 21st century post September 11th paranoia and suspicion.

I can't remember the details. But a year ago I read that really strict controls were being enforced on live musicians playing in public places in the United Kingdom actually to the point of complete bans. Being of Irish ancestry I grew up with the culture of going to a bar and playing or listening to live music on a casual basis. However, now due to the technological revolution that gives us the CD, MP3 player, the internet music is more easily controlled and marketed. There is also the ubiquitous karaoke industry in Asian countries which nets billions annually. There is a corporate thinking which puts the squeeze on individualism. There is also global standardisation affecting every new business in some way. Think, "Starbucks". This also has the effect of tying large numbers of people to a social behaviourism. An insidious consumer trap.

That social conditioning can also be reversed by a group or individual. The time for a change will come and the artists at the bottom can play a part in revitalising musical traditions more than the staid contracted artists at the top. This should not be like a theme park or folk museum ethos based on nostalgia but a thriving creative impetus that stands up to and defeats the apathy.

Late Beginner is right. We need a new music direction and players to pitch the music to a new public. When Ragtime, Blues, Boogie, Bebop came out it was all new. Now we continue to play the same recycled music but we also need to take it to a new direction. But we need to build on the tradition also so that the movement doesn't wither like a dead branch. This is the way as I see it: creating a sound which stands out from the crowd. Letting this grow out of the disaffection, being elemental and vital, pushing for human values. Nothing wrong with reworking old songs but what is needed is new energy and a certain ‘in your faceness’ that characterizes the successful live music. Then the establishments will swing right back and the real people will answer by coming and hear us play.

By the way, Ethel Smith? Thanks for those. A great musician and performer. Machines? How could anyone even think it?
_________________________
It don't mean a ting if it don't have dat swing

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#1137330 - 10/18/08 09:29 PM Re: Being Replaced by a Machine
Late Beginner Offline
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Posts: 588
Loc: West Australia
 Quote:
Originally posted by Arabesque:


We need a new music direction and players to pitch the music to a new public. When Ragtime, Blues, Boogie, Bebop came out it was all new. Now we continue to play the same recycled music but we also need to take it to a new direction. [/b]
I agree. Unfortunately, we can’t stand still and expect things to stay as they were, there are just too many other entertainments, distractions and attractions, competing for audience attention now. Whether it suits us or not, the world moves relentlessly on, and we have to actively work to retain a share of the action.

I’m fairly old, so I can just remember places such as lobbies and restaurants where it was once fashionable to have a string quartet playing. They were lovely to see and hear too, but they also got replaced by another machine. A mechanical device which could handle the melody and the harmony at the same time, and which needed only one operator instead of four. Much more efficient, not to mention cost effective – you could get rid of three quarters of the musicians' wage bill. And it was also becoming increasingly popular at the time. Who could resist? That machine was, of course, the piano.


Now the piano (which also largely sidelined such things as the harpsichord, clavier, spinet etc as it rose to prominence) is itself being slowly moved aside by other musical machinery, including CD players, synthesizers, guitars, etc. Actually, that's a bit fanciful - in fact in most homes and many public places where piano once ruled the roost it's already been replaced, and for quite some time now. As a fan of pianos, and acoustic instruments in general, I do indeed find this rather sad, but it's perhaps almost inevitable. Possibly the only way to reverse the trend is to somehow refresh people’s interest in this great instrument? As an amateur musician, I don't have an answer except to keep actively trying to encourage others to both play and listen to more live music, and to try and keep things fresh rather than only repeating old repertoire and styles.

As a guitarist I can still get all the opportunities to play live locally, or to listen to other live playing, that I want. However, as an occasional piano player my options are much less now. I don't get to play outside home, and my only regular sighting of a real live pianist in public is the accompanist on choir singing nights. That's still better than no piano though. But the choir also has all its music available as backing tracks on CD. The idea is that non players can practice singing at home, but if we can’t get an accompanist (who we do pay properly) then the CDs get used on choir night instead. It’s simply not the same…. but it works, and it’s clearly cheaper. As a group we are committed to using a live pianist, and as singers we are of course both live musicians and indeed we are our own acoustic instruments. But the only way we can keep that tradition alive seems to be by doing it. I don’t think that we can expect everybody else to share either our musical tastes or our viewpoints unless we keep actively working at convincing them.

Chris
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#1137331 - 10/19/08 12:51 PM Re: Being Replaced by a Machine
Michiyo-Fir Offline
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Registered: 10/12/05
Posts: 172
I have a player piano (Bosendorfer Imperial) but I don't think actual players can be replaced because the playing was sampled from actual people in the first place. How good the player piano system sounds depends on how good the actual performance was in the first place.

In addition with a player piano a song will be played exactly the same way every time and that is quite boring. If you want style or flare then you gotta play it yourself =)

I only use mine for when I don't feel like playing or for songs that I like but don't want to learn. It's also useful as background music when I have guests over and we're eating dinner or such.

But I don't think it will ever be able to replace an actual player.
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#1137332 - 10/19/08 05:15 PM Re: Being Replaced by a Machine
quiescen Offline
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Registered: 12/24/04
Posts: 215
Loc: San Diego
Great post!

While I never was a big fan of the music played by the pianists at Nordstom's, it still beat the piped up in stuff.

And I agree with what others have said here. Part of the allure of going into a Nordstom's was that you know you may hear some live piano music. Sadly, this isn't the case anymore.

---------------
Play New Age Piano
http://www.quiescencemusic.com
_________________________
Edward Weiss
Quiescence Music
http://www.quiescencemusic.com

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#1137333 - 10/19/08 05:32 PM Re: Being Replaced by a Machine
currawong Offline
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Registered: 05/15/07
Posts: 5936
Loc: Down Under
Just to satisfy the curiosity of someone from far across the Pacific \:\) , what kind of store is Nordstrom's? Is it a big department store chain or something?
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#1137334 - 10/19/08 05:55 PM Re: Being Replaced by a Machine
Betty Patnude Offline
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Loc: Puyallup, Washington
High end, elite shopping, clothing, etc.

Elegant surroundings.

Cough.

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#1137335 - 10/19/08 06:02 PM Re: Being Replaced by a Machine
currawong Offline
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Registered: 05/15/07
Posts: 5936
Loc: Down Under
 Quote:
Originally posted by Betty Patnude:
High end, elite shopping, clothing, etc.

Elegant surroundings.

Cough. [/b]
:) You don't pop in and buy a dress there every couple of weeks then I take it, Betty? Ah yes, that makes sense. Sounds a bit like the store in Sydney with the Steinway which I mentioned earlier in the thread.
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#1137336 - 10/19/08 07:22 PM Re: Being Replaced by a Machine
Betty Patnude Offline
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Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
Currawong,

Make that cough, cough!

Once a century frequent shopper.

Sneeze!

:rolleyes:

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#1137337 - 10/24/08 07:50 AM Re: Being Replaced by a Machine
Piano Girl RMG Offline
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Registered: 06/24/07
Posts: 702
Loc: Germany
Hi Everyone,

Sorry I've been absent for a few days. Lots of preparation to do for upcoming concerts and readings. (I'm at Amerika Haus in Berlin on Election night!)

I'm very pleased by the response to this thread and intend to make sure it is seen by the right people. Late Beginner, and Arabesque, I found your essays on the subject quite touching and beautifully written. Bravo, or brava, whichever the case may be.

Frank, you made a couple of great points. But I disagree about using the machine on a pianist's breaks. Having been in that position, I can tell you it's humiliating to finish a set and then turn on a machine. And I also believe that the pianist's break time is good for everyone, customers and musicians alike.

As I noted earlier, the machines can be marvelous educational tools, and yes, they can also be wonderful when used on a properly maintained piano in a private home.

Elssa, I love that you wrote to Nordstrom's!
_________________________
Robin Meloy Goldsby
www.goldsby.de
Author of PIANO GIRL: A Memoir
RHYTHM: A Novel
RMG is a Steinway Artist

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#1137338 - 11/10/08 12:39 PM Re: Being Replaced by a Machine
Bachrocks Offline
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Registered: 01/19/06
Posts: 94
Loc: New England
Being the mother of an alternative-rock drummer, I've always felt bad for live bands who are replaced with DJs for financial reasons. But being replaced by a machine and a dummy (!) has got to be the last straw. Robin, I want to read your book.

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#1137339 - 11/12/08 12:51 PM Re: Being Replaced by a Machine
TimR Online   content
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3207
Loc: Virginia, USA
 Quote:
Originally posted by Betty Patnude:
High end, elite shopping, clothing, etc.

Elegant surroundings.

Cough. [/b]
And why, exactly, is it that Nordstrom's owes us jobs?

Some of the anger in the earlier posts makes me uncomfortable, especially those which suggest some kind of retaliation.

I believe in as free a society as possible, and that Nordstrom's or anyplace else has as much right to choose not to hire us as we have to choose to play piano.

Now, I'm in complete agreement with all of you as to the value of live music, and I vote with my wallet. I buy expensive concert tickets even when I already own a CD of the same music, played and recorded more professionally! I like listening live, I like playing live. I regret that the venues to do both have been decreasing.

But it's arrogant to assume businesses don't have the ability or the right to make business case decisions. If a live piano costs $75 per hour and generates $10 per hour in additional sales, who am I to tell any business they must keep it and subsidize my listening pleasure or my earning potential? If a live piano cost $75 per hour and generated $100 in additional sales, most likely we'd see them everywhere. (and remember part of the reason we got those $75/hr solo pianist gigs in the first place is we underbid the $1000/hr big band and the $10,000/hr orchestra, and they're just as upset as we are)

If the number of live pianist gigs is decreasing, perhaps we should be training fewer live pianists? Perhaps we are? Or if we're going to train as many or more pianists, we need to prove they are worth what they expect to be paid - by earning profit for their employer.
_________________________
gotta go practice

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#1137340 - 11/12/08 01:52 PM Re: Being Replaced by a Machine
Betty Patnude Offline
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Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
Relieving pianists of their performances in public for which they receive income is really no different than:

1) the grocery clerks replaced by do-it-yourself packing of the bags, or using the check out without a clerk in attendance.
2) the 24/y bank machines we all use, no human.
3) the telephones at offices, especially medical offices, that give us canned options to key to, avoiding the use of a real person to answer our questions.
4) the gas station pump it yourself, wash your own window, air your own tires, everyone using credit cards at the point of origin.

Good bye people, you are being replaced by automation.

TimR says: ".....we need to prove they are worth what they expect to be paid - by earning profit for their employer."

Now that is a real business bottom line, and we all know where the economy is these days. All the brilliance of business operations and it's lack of checks and balances and accountability have made it possible and so. Ye Gads!

Let's talk about such musical endeavors where someone alive is creating an arts or entertainment experience for us, and realize that we are not talking about the same values.

People are central to the success of anything.

People are also central to the undermining of cultures and economies.

What is in line for a world that loses it's arts, culture, community spirits?

To me, this is a huge deprivation to consider.

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#1137341 - 11/12/08 03:02 PM Re: Being Replaced by a Machine
TimR Online   content
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Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3207
Loc: Virginia, USA
 Quote:
Originally posted by Betty Patnude:

What is in line for a world that loses it's arts, culture, community spirits?

To me, this is a huge deprivation to consider. [/b]
I agree. And I hope you don't think I was pointing at you when I borrowed your quote (you're welcome to it back - grin -).

I hope you would also agree, upon reflection, that forcing Nordstrom or anybody else to pay for the arts is theft, plain and simple. The efforts to shame or intimidate any business into subsidizing the arts against their will I consider evil.

None of us have an inherent right to a job making live music. We're coming very close to feeling entitled to one in this thread.
_________________________
gotta go practice

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#1137342 - 11/12/08 03:18 PM Re: Being Replaced by a Machine
TimR Online   content
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Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3207
Loc: Virginia, USA
 Quote:
Originally posted by Betty Patnude:
Relieving pianists of their performances in public for which they receive income is really no different than:

[/b]
But this is a gross mischaracterization.

It's not relieving pianists of something they're entitled to. It's simply choosing not to hire them, with private not public funds.

It's not in public. It's within a private business.

And it's not a performance for which they receive income. The pianist is there as part of the advertising campaign, to bring in customers and earn income for the business. If it's not working as well as some other ad, then it will (and should!) be replaced.
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gotta go practice

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#1137343 - 11/12/08 03:28 PM Re: Being Replaced by a Machine
Betty Patnude Offline
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Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
TimR,

I think Nordstrom's was cited because it has been open to having musicians in it's stores for a long time, something that the participants as well as the audience and shopping crowd looked forward to.

I understand that those musicians were most recently paid about $8 per hour for their time and efforts. Far below what union musicians receive, however, so many who played were also piano students and volunteers.

We don't have many places where we can drop in and share any more - paid or unpaid.

It is a loss.

I can agree with you about Nordstrom's rights to run their business as they see fit.

It would be truthful to say that I've been in the store less than 4-5 times in my lifetime, and never purchased a thing. Not that I wouldn't want to, it's that my budget does other things for me to make my life affordable.

That doesn't mean I'm green with envy, I'm content with my lot in life for the most part.

Entitled? Not me! Appreciative, yes! I've volunteered for piano performance in social setting more than I've ever been paid because I feel it's an arts and entertainment encouragement and usually during those times, my students were with me in anything I did like that. Hours and hours of marathons at South Hill Mall in Puyallup in the 1980's up to the mid 1990's.

This is now a by-gone thing of the past when our last playing dates there were in conflict with the overhead music system which they refused to turn off so we could play live for 3 hours.

Have you ever heard cacaphony? It was totally impossible to play our live music. I along with many other teachers had to cease and desist with our entourage of students who had enjoyed bringing their music making to the mall a few times a year.

Tim, please enjoy your practicing for me! What are you practicing for?

Betty

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#1137344 - 11/12/08 04:34 PM Re: Being Replaced by a Machine
TimR Online   content
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3207
Loc: Virginia, USA
 Quote:
Originally posted by Betty Patnude:

Tim, please enjoy your practicing for me! What are you practicing for?

Betty [/b]
JJ (famous jazz trombone pioneer) said, "there'll never come a time when you don't need to practice!" Life should always include the struggle to learn and improve. Sometimes it's fun, more often it's ......ah........rewarding.

Until my recent move I played for a couple of worship services, now I don't have a regular gig. (Those church services were considerably above my performance ability, yet somebody had to do it.) Except I'm directing a handbell choir, now there's a challenge.
_________________________
gotta go practice

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#1137345 - 11/12/08 04:41 PM Re: Being Replaced by a Machine
Betty Patnude Offline
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Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
To Tim,



Enjoy your new networking and establishing yourself in your new location. Having a handbell choir is certainly a unique and worthy challenge. If you are going to be involved with church services, I hope you soon find your niche.

Do you also teach?

Betty

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#1137346 - 11/13/08 07:57 AM Re: Being Replaced by a Machine
TimR Online   content
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Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3207
Loc: Virginia, USA
I know I get carried away sometimes and I don't mean to be offensive.

I feel strongly about live music, but I also feel strongly about civil liberties, coercion, etc.

I support the right of anybody to choose to be a starving artist in any genre no matter how silly it may seem. But having made that choice, if you feel entitled to be supported it rubs me the wrong way.

Regrettably, live music that we like to play has declined somewhat. That's mostly driven by the changing desires of the customer, I think, though the economy has something to do with it.

Popular music is not in trouble, it is a vastly profitable industry. Niche markets (modern jazz, classical piano, zither ensembles, etc.) seem unlikely to be self supporting. My brother has a regular brunch gig at a nice restaurant playing Dixieland. There's a niche market for sure, but he found that spot where it's profitable to the restaurant owner to pay him to play.
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gotta go practice

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#1137347 - 11/14/08 10:34 AM Re: Being Replaced by a Machine
Piano Girl RMG Offline
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Registered: 06/24/07
Posts: 702
Loc: Germany
Hi Betty, Hi Tim!

Excellent discussion, and good points made by both of you. I've been in this business long enough that I've learned to see things through the eyes of management. It's not easy running a restaurant, bar, or hotel. Or department store for that matter.

I've never felt entitled to any job. Never. I still think it's a miracle that people pay me to play the piano. I am grateful for every job I have.

I also feel, very strongly, that customers who pay a fortune for a meal, a drink, a hotel room—these people ARE entitled to quality music. If you go back to the start of this discussion, it was about a musician in a five-star hotel in Manhattan's B'way district being replaced by a machine. Last time I checked, hotel room rates for this particular place were upwards of 350 dollars a night.

I understand it's management's right to say, "hey, I know we raised the rates three times in the last year, but we don't really think you people need live music—just listen to this machine instead."

But it's insulting. Not just to musicians, but to anyone who walks in the doors of that hotel. It's one more jab at humanity to raise the prices on everything else, but cut back on an artistic endeavor like live piano music.

I'm headed out the door to my steady job at a castle here in Germany. It's a 5-star hotel with a Michelin 3 star restaurant. I play every Friday and Saturday for two hours, during the cocktail hour for the fancy-pants restaurant. It is a dream job—great piano, great acoustics, people who listen and appreciate what I do. I've been there for 7 years. I expect, with the economy being in a shambles, that sooner or later, the job will end. Flowers and music are always the first things to go. I also know, that this place will do everything possible to keep me there.

I don't feel entitled, I feel blessed.

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

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#1137348 - 11/14/08 10:36 AM Re: Being Replaced by a Machine
Piano Girl RMG Offline
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Registered: 06/24/07
Posts: 702
Loc: Germany
Thanks, Bachrock!
_________________________
Robin Meloy Goldsby
www.goldsby.de
Author of PIANO GIRL: A Memoir
RHYTHM: A Novel
RMG is a Steinway Artist

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#1137349 - 11/14/08 03:57 PM Re: Being Replaced by a Machine
Pete the bean Online   content
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Posts: 460
Loc: Canada
I rarely play out any more. I have not been replaced by a machine. I have been replaced by musicians willing to work for peanuts. I would rather sell slurpies than practice my art for the low pay.
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#1137350 - 11/14/08 04:04 PM Re: Being Replaced by a Machine
Piano Girl RMG Offline
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Registered: 06/24/07
Posts: 702
Loc: Germany
Yeah, that's a problem.

They get what they pay for. And so do the guests. Not good.
_________________________
Robin Meloy Goldsby
www.goldsby.de
Author of PIANO GIRL: A Memoir
RHYTHM: A Novel
RMG is a Steinway Artist

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#1137351 - 11/14/08 04:33 PM Re: Being Replaced by a Machine
dpvjazz Offline
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Registered: 07/12/05
Posts: 287
Loc: phoenix az
When I started to play gigs in my 20's pay wasn't so bad and that was in the late 70's but things have change since then. Everyone is different and the one thing I knew for sure was that I did not want to be competing for the few gigs out there at 50 with 20 year old musicians that can always do it for less. You are going to spend a lot of time trying to get jobs today and the pay is not that great. But say you spend your time creating a business that supports you and your music. Is it hard to open up a restaurant or coffee shop that supports music? Well yes but if you work hard and succeed your reward will be playing music that you enjoy with people you like. Believe me when I say this path is not for everyone but it has work for me and I AM HAVING THE TIME OF MY LIFE. It is something to consider and it will not be easy but I really did not want to leave the passion I have to play music in someone else's hands. Its my destiny and I want to have control of it not some club or hotel manager. DPVJAZZ

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#1137352 - 11/16/08 01:23 PM Re: Being Replaced by a Machine
Piano Girl RMG Offline
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Registered: 06/24/07
Posts: 702
Loc: Germany
Dear DPVJazz,

Well this the ultimate in taking matters into your own hands. Congratulations. The older I get the more I realize how important it is for artists to create their own opportunities. Please tell us the name of your venue and I'll be sure to show up there and support you if I'm ever in your neighborhood.

Bravo. Brava. Whichever the case may be.
_________________________
Robin Meloy Goldsby
www.goldsby.de
Author of PIANO GIRL: A Memoir
RHYTHM: A Novel
RMG is a Steinway Artist

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#1137353 - 12/07/08 05:31 PM Re: Being Replaced by a Machine
swingal Offline
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Registered: 07/31/05
Posts: 1094
Loc: England
On this forum we have a captive musical appreciation society. This is far from the case in hotels where Joe public have a musical interest of probably 10%. The rest are oblivious of pianists and music. I feel for these guys who play so lovely and I stand and listen and speak to them when able.

On the basis of average I suppose the hotel might just as well have canned music. We, on this website are dedicated lovers of piano. I just think we should let the canned music suffice for background music and possibly give proper recitals in a room, as a feature of the hotel. Like the New York, 'Red Blazer' bar which was really good jazz,when my wife and I went to NY some few years ago.

Alan (swingal)

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#1137354 - 12/08/08 04:22 PM Re: Being Replaced by a Machine
Rob Mullins Offline
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Registered: 02/10/04
Posts: 318
Loc: LA CA
Hi,
Best comment on this thread was by RMG saying that pianists have to create their own opportunities. True dat.
_________________________
Rob Mullins
www.planetmullins.com
28th album on sale now.

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#1137355 - 12/08/08 10:00 PM Re: Being Replaced by a Machine
Bob Newbie Offline
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Registered: 09/02/06
Posts: 1549
It just looks cheesy..a dummy dressed in a tux
at a player piano.. \:D

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#1137356 - 01/02/09 03:16 PM Re: Being Replaced by a Machine
Horwinkle Offline
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Registered: 09/22/08
Posts: 1011
Nice discussion, people. Times are tough, so there's no surprise to see these changes taking place.

The economy will eventually return to normal. But will the live music?

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#1137357 - 01/03/09 04:52 AM Re: Being Replaced by a Machine
Piano Girl RMG Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/24/07
Posts: 702
Loc: Germany
Hi Everyone,

Here is a recent press release from Local 802 of the AFM (New York local). The piece refers to the incident that started this thread.

Press Release about Hilton mechanical piano

Happy New Year to all of you!

Best.

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

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#1137358 - 01/03/09 10:27 AM Re: Being Replaced by a Machine
PhysicsTeacher Offline
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Registered: 01/20/08
Posts: 99
Loc: Texas
I've got to say that while I truly enjoy good piano music, I despise unions, their tactics, and their outright arrogance. "...Your job may be next....Wouldn't you rather that your friends and family stay in a hotel with live music...?" That article is nothing but a bunch of union demagoguery. The fact is that people do not stay in a hotel for the music. They couldn't care less if the music is live, Memorex, or non-existent. These union reps would have us believe that they are all about the music; but in reality all they care about is maintaining a job and their power. I am pretty confident in saying that most union people do not choose hotels based on whether or not there is live music there. I couldn't afford to stay in that hotel if it featured the N.Y. Philharmonic! Most people who belong to a union can't afford to stay there either.

I am all for piano music, but I am 100% against programs like the endowment for the arts and the mentality in this country that we should all be able to do what we want and make a good living doing it. In the end, if we don't produce a product or service that people want and are willing to pay for, then we need to think about doing something else.

Just so I am not accused of being a pot calling the kettle black, I am opposed to unions in teaching (they stand for all of the wrong principals)and I am opposed to public education as we know it today -- it is surely messed up! I am all for privatization of education and a voucher system of some sort. If I am a good teacher and we run a good school, then people will be willing to send their children to my school and send me their money as well. If I am not a good teacher or don't run a good school, then parents and students should be able to go elsewhere and I should find another line of work.

I don't mean to sound cruel or unsupportive, I hate it when people lose their jobs. But I fully respect the rights of business owners to make their own business decisions. I also respect the rights of consumers to make their own choices. But I really doubt if the loss of a live pianist is going to effect the bottom line of these businesses in a negative way.

Let's hope these folks find another job or find a way to make money doing what they love most. Perhaps they can teach, perform at a concert, cut a CD, or find another venue that is willing to pay for their services. They have to find a way reach the niche market that appreciates what they do and are willing to spend money for it. I wish them all well.

I am just curious. How much do you suppose these pianist earned? How many were there? And how hours per week did they play? Any ideas?

Good luck to everyone in 2009!
_________________________
Casio PX-320, Fabers' Adult Piano Adventures 1
"If you drive faster than I do, you are a maniac. If you drive slower than I do, you are are an idiot."

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#1137359 - 01/03/09 11:47 AM Re: Being Replaced by a Machine
DeepElem Offline
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Registered: 04/27/06
Posts: 366
Loc: USA
PhysicsTeacher, this being a union press release obviously struck a nerve. While I am in agreement with much of your political/economic world view (at least as you expressed here) I think that is no reason to dismiss the idea of raising a stink about this move by Hilton.

While fully acknowledging the proprietors right to do this, and probably the economic sense it makes, wouldn't you as a customer (if you could afford to stay there) prefer a live pianist ?

I for one think it is tragic and while I won't be staying at that hotel (I can't afford it either) I will take any opportunity I get to let Hilton know how disappointing that decision is. Maybe I'll talk to their central reservations number to make a reservation at one of their cheaper lines, or maybe I'll attend a conference at one of their hotels, or any number of other ways I may interact with that corporation, and each time I'll make it a point to express my disappointment with this decision to get rid of live piano players. After all, as a customer what is more fundamental then letting a proprietor know what you thought of their goods/services.

So rather than rail against the political/economic/philosophical objections I may I have to union tactics I will choose to let business owners (not just Hilton) know how important live music is to me. That is what is important to me about this thread.
_________________________
-Buck
------
If you knew what you were doing, you'd probably be bored.
- Fresco's Law

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#1137360 - 01/03/09 12:38 PM Re: Being Replaced by a Machine
PhysicsTeacher Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/20/08
Posts: 99
Loc: Texas
Good Points DeepElem. I whole-heartedly agree and support your strategy to make your desires known to the proprietors. That is the way to do it! I believe union rhetoric is actually counterproductive to your efforts. I seldom use terms like "tragic" or "not right" because I see the logic in economic forces and generally disagree with making social or business decisions based on feelings.

In answer to your question, I love live music. My wife and I go to the symphony several times a year and we enjoy going to the local college to hear recitals - they are quite affordable, by the way \:\) ! But no, live music in a hotel lobby is not important to me. When I go to a hotel, I am typically there on business or vacation. In either case, my focus is not on what goes on in the lobby. I pass through the lobby several times a day, but seldom do I stop to listen to the music. And more importantly, when choosing a hotel, having or not having a live pianist in the lobby is not a qualifier or disqualifier for me.

Now if we are talking about evening entertainment, that is a different story. I will choose a nightclub or lounge with live music over a DJ or football game every time.

Good luck in your campaign to get these jobs back. If enough people believe as you do and take action, it will happen.
_________________________
Casio PX-320, Fabers' Adult Piano Adventures 1
"If you drive faster than I do, you are a maniac. If you drive slower than I do, you are are an idiot."

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#1137361 - 01/03/09 01:46 PM Re: Being Replaced by a Machine
Elssa Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/15/05
Posts: 1566
Loc: NY
Hi Robin:

I'm glad the union is making the public aware of what is going on so that we can express our feelings about it if we choose.

At least there are still a few places in New York City that have piano bars:
http://www.lamediterraneeny.com/piano_bar

I took lessons from an awesome piano player/teacher (when I lived in his area a few years ago), "Dr. Joe" Utterback, who I noticed recently played at that restaurant, as well. Here are some other places in NYC where he says he plays: Regents, The Hotel Mark, The Regency Hotel, Il Calcio
www.joeutterback.com

I think if you took a private poll, the vast majority of people would say they prefer the live music to canned and that the live pianist lends a real "touch of class" to any establishment. \:\)

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#1137362 - 01/04/09 08:08 AM Re: Being Replaced by a Machine
Piano Girl RMG Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/24/07
Posts: 702
Loc: Germany
Deep Elm!
I love what you wrote and commend you for your actions. Bravo/Brava, whichever the case may be.

PhyschicsTeacher,
Thank you for your well-written thoughts about unions. I understand and relate to many of your points. Unions make mistakes. They can be arrogant and stubborn and can occasionally lose sight of priorities. That being said, I defend the musicians' union for attempting to hold onto some dignity for its members.

As a former member of Local 802 (I took an honorable discharge in 1994 when I moved to Europe), I can tell you that the benefits—health care and a pension plan—made a huge difference in my life. Maybe for some people these things aren't so important, but they were for me. Without my hotel jobs in Manhattan, and the hard work of the union reps to hold onto the very basic benefit packages offered to NYC musicians at the time, my life and the lives of my children would have been very different.

I am the daughter of a retired drummer (Pittsburgh local) whose AFM pension plan has allowed him to have a decent(not fancy, but decent) retirement.

In answer to your question about salary, give or take a few bucks, musicians (with decent steady jobs) have been making 100 bucks a night for the last 30 years. Private parties pay a lot more.

Elssa, thanks for your research! Spread the word.

Good discussion, this.
_________________________
Robin Meloy Goldsby
www.goldsby.de
Author of PIANO GIRL: A Memoir
RHYTHM: A Novel
RMG is a Steinway Artist

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#1391672 - 03/08/10 09:00 PM Re: Being Replaced by a Machine [Re: Piano Girl RMG]
chris_scotland Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 10/31/06
Posts: 3
Loc: Glasgow, Scotland, UK
Hello. I haven't had the misfortune of being replaced by a player piano, as yet. Maybe because the up-front purchase costs of such an instrument/machine for the venue are so high...whereas I can be paid per gig to play the standard piano which has been there longer than anyone can remember, or can be acquired for much less outlay. I'll have to halt any plans should I catch a hotel manager perusing a Disklavier brochure! It's true that where they are installed they are usually 'on' non stop, not maintained, and therefore wear out quickly.

A great option for non-playing private buyers looking for a home showpiece, but in no way good for public venues. Not for pianists, or even the casual listener.

Robin - I am so pleased that I have stumbled upon your book extracts. You have a sale.
_________________________
Chris Connelly - playing piano at weddings, parties, corporate events, hotels, bars and restaurants in Glasgow, Edinburgh and across Scotland.
http://www.chrisconnelly.co.uk
http://twitter.com/weddingpianist
http://scottishweddingpianist.blogspot.com

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