An Open Letter to An Angry Reader

Since it’s launch, MusicianWages has been well received by the musician community. Dave Hahn and I have been very pleased to see our pet project grow into an informative hub for all types of musicians. We believe this growth is due to our commitment to integrity and quality content, and as long as we find the articles on our site useful, you will too.

Sometimes, though, people get upset and send nasty emails. Most of them are ignored, but I felt this recent one deserved a response. The author is upset because we’re selling some contact lists from the Chronicles of a Cruise Ship Musician blog. Since he didn’t include a valid email address, prohibiting us from writing him back, we decided to respond publicly.

These lists are the first products we have ever sold from the site, and perhaps all our readers deserve an explanation of why we’ve opened the MusicianWages Shop after four years of giving away all our information for free.

Here is the email from “Joe” and our response.

You suck. I have been at your site before and you were all cushy cushy with all the agents. I thought your site was a cool idea at first. But you really don’t have a clue as to what real musicians wages in the real world are. I’ve been pro for 25+ years and know a lot of musicians. And now I see you are selling the list of cruise ship agents. Well there goes any respect I have for you. Obviously your not making enough money as a musician. You’re going to end up working for an agent before too long. Sad. Last time I visit the site.

Well Joe, sorry you feel that way. I hope you’ll read this response and have a better understanding of what Dave and I do, what MusicianWages is all about, and why we’re selling these lists.

Dave and I keep very busy working as full time musicians. Dave plays keyboards and conducts on Broadway, which is one of the best paying steady gigs a musician can get these days. I’m a freelance guitarist playing with different bands, subbing on musicals, and earning income from my own recordings (sales, royalties, licensing, etc.). We’re both members of our local AFM chapter and are well aware of union and non-union wages for a variety of musician jobs.

While continually building our careers, Dave and I have written extensively on everything we know about being musicians. We’ve shared all this information for free, on MusicianWages. We are the only people that run the site, and we do it for the love of sharing practical advice and helping others.

The website does generate some money, but not very much. We are far better professional musicians than we are professional bloggers! For the last several years we’ve basically been breaking even, making enough to cover monthly maintenance costs and hire professionals to help us with things beyond our skill set. However, we aren’t trying to make a living from this website, we’re trying to make a community of musicians.

When the two of us started MusicianWages four years ago, Dave’s articles about working as a cruise ship musician were a central part of the website’s launch. He had written extensively about the gig while playing on ships in 2004 because before he got the gig, there was simply no information online to prepare him for life as a cruise ship musician. His articles filled a void, which has made them very popular, and everybody researching cruise ship gigs finds MusicianWages in the top of their search results.

Dave’s only experiences on ships, though, were contracts in 2004 and 2007. I’ve never played on ships. We really don’t have any new information on the scene, with the exception of some contributions by other cruise ship musicians. Nonetheless, that section of the site has always been popular and we regularly receive emails from people wanting to know how to get a gig on a cruise ship.

In response to the many emails asking us, “How do I get do I get a cruise ship gig?” and all the resumes and links we receive from readers thinking we can place them on a ship, we decided to create these lists.

The Cruise Ship Talent Agency Directory and The Cruise Line Entertainment Department Directory were both created through time intensive research. The How Do I Get A Cruise Ship Musician Job eBook is a collection of articles from our website compiling answers to the 30 most asked questions about the cruise ship gig.

All of the information in these resources is freely available online for those who take the time to do their own research. Because we invested our own time and money compiling the information and presenting it in clean, easy to read eBooks, we decided to make them our first products to sell. We are charging for the convenience, for the time we’re saving you, not for exclusive information.

No agents, agency, or cruise lines were involved in or benefit from the creation and sales of these lists. We receive no commission on any cruise contracts signed by anybody that buys these lists. Most of the money we make from these lists goes back into the site or helps us develop other projects that we hope will help us and our fellow musician.

The musician industry isn’t the only place you’ll find these kinds of resources. After college my wife was applying for a very specific job in an industry where she had little experience. She bought a book that taught her about the industry, the position she wanted, and how to prepare for the interview. She studied the book cover to cover, tidied up her resume, nailed the interview, and got the job.

Similarly, we believe these lists are a very valuable resource for talented musicians that have everything it takes to play the gig, but don’t know much about it.

If you don’t want to work on a cruise ship there are plenty of other ways to make a living as a musician. Dave and I both have steady careers on land, as do many of the site’s contributors. We strive to keep MusicianWages full of pragmatic, useful information culled from the experience of professional musicians. This information will always be available for free.


Published by

Cameron Mizell

New York guitarist Cameron Mizell is involved in a wide variety of musical projects. He has released many of his own albums independently, including his latest, Tributary. Cameron's experiences as a musician and former record label employee give him a unique perspective on the musician industry, which he enjoys sharing on MusicianWages. Connect with him on Facebook and Twitter.

24 thoughts on “An Open Letter to An Angry Reader”

  1. I am amazed at the ingratitude of some people. I built Small Time Musician as a “Charity’ project to help musicians get gigs from a ‘self employment’ aspect. All of the income from this website only totals enough to keep it operational.

    ALL of my time is volunteer work. I for one, think you guys have done an incredible job and I send musicians to your website all the time because of the fantastic wealth of information you have collected.

    I’m sure if people understood our commitment to musician’s success and how much energy we put into delivering good, solid information then they would never write a letter like this. You, Dave and myself all have busy lives yet are committed to helping others in the best way we can.

    You guys are special so don’t get discouraged although I know it’s easy to do. Just focus in on all the musicians you have helped over the years and continue to do what is in your heart to do. Musician Wages ROCKS!!

  2. I can see both sides of the coin. If I were the one compiling and presenting the info, I’d probably want some recompense for my labours. And, like you said, it’s all out there for free anyway, all you gotta do is look for it.

    One question: Why does your site trigger Java exploit alerts? I’ve tried to direct my musician friends to your site several times, and they’ve ALL said the same thing. So I ran a scan on my PC and found the exploit they’re talking about. And I’ve had to remove it 3 times after visiting your site. You might want to look into that.

    1. Yes, this is a good example of what Cam’s talking about, actually. We’ve had complaints on an off for a few months about these warnings, but we can’t recreate them on our machines. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist – and my sincere apologies for any harm we’ve caused – but it does mean that we don’t know enough about this stuff.

      So, in reaction to you comment, we’ve contacted a professional and we’re going to pay him to help us clean and secure the site. We take this stuff very seriously and we’re going to make sure that we get things in order. I’m going to keep your email address and let you know how things progress.

      That said – this is the kind of thing that costs money. It would be one thing if we had a few dozen people visiting this site, but once we got over 50k+ a month we started to incur a lot more expenses. And to continue to grow this resource we’ll incur much more.

      I gotta say, though, that I really don’t see both sides of the coin. This is a site about making a living as a musician – we talk all the time about how our time and knowledge and expertise are valuable and we all deserve to get paid real wages. I know for a fact that the content we’ve written and curated on this site has made real, tangible, financial impacts to musicians’ careers. I know some of these musicians personally, I get emails from others all the time.

      I just can’t understand it when our readers, then, come down on us for trying to get paid for our valuable time, knowledge and expertise as musicians. How is that a reasonable argument?

      1. Thanks for your reply, David. The only reason I see both sides is because people were accustomed to receiving your info at no charge. Maybe they felt it betrayed their sense of solidarity. What was done as a favor suddenly turned into a paid service. In other words, they took it for granted that it was free.

        That said, as musicians we ALL know the line you have to draw between ‘labor of love’ and ‘paying job’. People are always trying to underpay you for your work, as if you love doing it so much that getting paid shouldn’t be important to you.

        Like you said in your email, you now have 50k visitors a month and you have to pay out of pocket for things like getting your web security handled by a pro. So even though it began as a labor of love- sort of a community service for musicians- now you have to start treating it more like a business. And sometimes people don’t like it when their little community turns into a business.

        When I was just getting into cruise ship work, I would’ve LOVED a site like yours, but it wasn’t there yet. And if I didn’t have a friend in the business, I probably would’ve spent the 10 bucks and got the list too.

        Keep up the good work, you’re providing a valuable service and I’m glad it’s here. Does you list provide the agents that book the hotel gigs in Asia? Cause I’d pay for that list.

        Take care,

        1. Hi A.J., thanks for writing and the candid response.

          I want to point out that everything that was available for free on our site before we started selling these lists is still available for free. We will never take anything away from the site, and we’ll keep adding as we have more to share from our own careers.

          Anything we sell will have added value because we took the time to compile, organize, or do some other time consuming work for you, adding convenience to the information already available throughout the site.

          And finally, to answer your question, some of Talent Agencies on the list book entertainment in venues other than cruise ships, including hotels around the world. I don’t know how many book hotels in Asia, though, and wouldn’t recommend the list for that purpose.

          1. Oh, I apologize, I read the article too fast. I thought the list used to be free and now it’s not. Well in that case I can’t understand what the guy’s bitching about, lol.

            Oh, and thanks for answering my question too.

            Take care,

            1. No, from what I can tell all the contact info has been taken out of the “how to get a cruise ship gig” article. Just a link to buy.

              1. Once again Joe, I don’t appreciate you implying that I’m a liar. As I stated, no info was removed from that article, or any article.

                We only change information on the site if it is outdated or erroneous.

                1. Not going to beat a dead horse here so this is my last post on this subject. The original article was written by David. It mentioned Proship, Oceanbound, a few other agents and contacts. I remember the article vividly so yes, all that info was removed in order to put up the buy links. Not implying anything. Good day to ya.

                  1. The article still mentions Proship and the other major agencies, which you can google if you’re not lazy:

                    “The largest talent agency in North America is Proship Entertainment, headquartered in Montreal, Canada. Other major agencies include Landau Music, Oceanbound and Stilleto.

                    The easiest way to get a job would be to apply to one of these agencies, complete an audition and take a gig. But The Cruise Ship Talent Agency Directory allows you to really do some research and shop around if you feel like it.”

                    Read the article, Joe. That’s a pretty soft sell.

                    Cameron is a lot more diplomatic that me, which is why he handled this. Here’s my response: Screw you, Joe. We built this website from literally nothing and we’ve spent 4 years making it as big as it is. Over 500 articles that contain every single bit of useful, relevant information that we or our friends have ever come across in our music careers. That’s hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of hours of work. I coded this website by hand for the first 2 years. Cam and I have written over 300 articles just between the two of us. We’ve connected people and organizations and unlocked doors for musicians that they couldn’t even find before. We have created a positive, open economic cluster in the musician community where there wasn’t one before.

                    And after all that we spend our own money hiring a researcher and a graphic designer to help us put together a pair of PDF lists that would allow musicians to take control of their own careers – and potentially not have to pay the $3,000 that you claim to have paid to a talent agent. And we decide to sell these valuable lists for a perfectly reasonable $15.

                    Then we get an asshole like you to come to our house and tell us that we’re being immoral? You can go to hell, Joe. What have you done for our community? How have you helped musicians? I KNOW that I have made a difference in musician’s lives. I refuse to have all that work invalidated because we made a valuable product that we ask people to pay for. That’s ridiculous.

                    In your original email you said that would be the last time you visit the site. Keep your promise, Joe.

                    1. I wish I could “like” this post like on Facebook!

                      A major pet peeve of mine, and is growing all around us, but seems to have always been more present with musicians than in any other career choice, is the expectation for someone else to do all the work for you at no cost to yourself.

                      This is the very same argument that people try to use that musicians should volunteer their time at a church, that it’s wrong to make money doing what you love to do. SCREW THAT!

                      Earning a living as a musician is extremely hard work. You have to network, study, do your own taxes, and thousands of other little things while still finding time to practice for the gigs. I make my bread with a juggling act of performing on five different instruments, writing music (whether mine or someone else’s), and teaching students and classes. I bust my butt to make a living, and Debbie Downer will always come around the corner and say it’s just not possible unless I’m being underhanded. Problem is, Debbie Downer only plays trumpet at a mediocre level, and expects that to be all he should need to do.

                      Like Dave and Cameron said, they spent the time, effort, and money into putting those books together. They decide to sell the book. Some kid comes along and says “hey, that’s wrong, because I want it for free!”

                      Fifteen dollars. You’re complaining about fifteen dollars.

                      Here’s the facts.

                      We live in the United States. It’s a capitalist country. This means people can create any product they want (provided it’s safe) and charge what they want. You, as the consumer, can buy it if you want or need it, or not. It’s up to you.

                      You want the product? Buy it. Do you walk into a music store and demand a set of strings for free because you’re an out-of-work musician?

                      My father is a very successful lawn maintenance man in Florida. He works harder than any other person in the landscaping business in my hometown, and makes close to 100k a year, and is taking it easy at 58 years old. I learned what hard work is from him, and still can’t bust my ass as hard as he can. And I learned that if you treat music like a white-collar job, you get nowhere.

                      If you want that information for free, you can put in all the hard work Dave and Cam did and get the same information. If you don’t want to spend the time (which is a measurable cost), then you can pay for it. Honestly, it’s going to take you more than three hours to get all that information together, and if we figure minimum wage from around 2002, you’d be putting much more time than that in for the information.

                      And just because your morals follow a certain belief, doesn’t mean it’s right. Doesn’t mean it’s wrong, either. It’s YOUR belief, and you’re entitled to it. As are the rest of us in believing that we work hard to feed and shelter ourselves and our families, not to be fools and give away our goods and services for free.

                      Either way, good luck. But I don’t need to be wishing you that, since you SHOULD have learned that’s not really what you need. Instead, I wish you hard work.

  3. I thought the Cruise Ship contact information was a great idea. If I were interested in doing those, I would have certainly purchased the offer.

    Some people just need a reason to get angry. What’s it to ‘Joe’ if you make a mint selling lists, or anything else you set your mind to do.


  4. Maybe he was just venting about something else? Hard to believe somebody, a musician no less, would get so upset over somebody else trying one new thing to get compensated for their work. Maybe similar to ripping an album with one song that you didn’t like, even though the rest are great. If something doesn’t suit your pallet, move on and don’t worry about it. oh well, can’t please everybody all the time. I like the site, appreciate all the information being shared and discussed!

  5. The directories are an incredibly valuable resource that is easily worth whatever you pay for them. It saves you a ton of time tracking down information that is basically only known by people who have worked for cruise lines. I worked for Carnival for a few contracts and I would have paid double for these lists and the opportunity they present. Anyone who complains about making an investment in their career should probably rethink what they want to do with their lives. Great job guys!

  6. Hi, Joe here. Its a moral issue. To me it has always seemed wrong to make money to get others employment. I’ve seen these lists selling on other websites as well and it has always left a bad taste in my mouth. Its the reason I hate agents. Yeah I know its the way of the world. I once had to pay an agent $3000 over the course of a contract. For what? A few phone calls? It just seems morally wrong to make money off others to get employment. So when I saw you selling this list it peed me off. Yes you are right, you can find most of the info searching the net. And I agree you probably are just breaking even on this site. Still, I hate to see people making money on the misfortune of others unemployed. Maybe I am wrong here, but I think you should be able to get hired direct without a middle man trying to make money off of you. Seems morally wrong to me. Sorry for being so harsh in my email but I get that way when I see something I feel is wrong. I just don’t see that you need to sell this.

  7. PS, I suggest selling ads or putting up a donate via paypal button to cover your expenses. I’d be more than happy to donate. It would make this site more of a “for musicians run by musicians” type of site. Just my opinion.

    1. Hi Joe,

      Thanks for finding this and I appreciate your response. I understand it’s a moral issue, and that was something that Dave and I debated for some time before selling the lists.

      MusicianWages is really not a middle man in this process. I explained how all of this works above, so I think you understand the difference between agents and what we’re selling. I think your anger was misguided, perhaps, and so I felt the need to post this open response.

      I also felt the need to respond because you attacked us personally without having any real knowledge of who we are or what we do. There’s not a lot of information about myself or Dave on the site (because this site isn’t about us), but you could have gone to our personal websites or Googled us to learn more about the guys you think “suck” and “don’t have a clue as to what real musicians wages in the real world are.”

      I took offense to your choice of words, and frankly you’re wrong. I think we’re pretty cool guys that work really hard and know a lot about the musician industry from our own experience and talking with our musician friends.

      If you’d really like to donate, we have an active Paypal button from a previous campaign to raise some funds for the site:

      Of course, you don’t have to, you can still visit the site, use the information, and express your opinions. We are listening, though, and don’t appreciate the negativity and insults.

  8. Yes my choice of words were wrong and I did apologize. It’s not personal because I don’t even know you. I’m sure you are nice guys. Selling the list was a big turn off to me(and I don’t even need the list). I just couldn’t ever see myself selling a list like this to fellow musicians, but that’s just me. Best of luck to ya.

  9. Wow, I’m just totally shocked. Mainly, because my feeling about you guys and this site is one of deep gratitude and awe – you are so generous and have helped me soooooo much. For me, life is one big first-time-for-everything these days and your fabulous posts, plus the lively dialogues that follow, have really bouyed me through, from hesitancy about the possibility of recording at home to thinking, yeah man, I can do this. Thank you so much.

    I came to the site today, actually, because I’m building my own website and, wanting to emulate your open, conversational blog style, came to see what I could learn from the way you have your blog set up. It’s pretty straightforward, I must say – the secret seems to be to write great content.

    The spirit of your blog reminds me of a sign over at Harrell’s Hardware, an old-time hardware store here in Austin, that reads:

    Together, we can do it yourself

    Thanks again for everything!

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