What's a Gig?

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This one will ruffle some feathers ...

The discussion below is taken from a thread launched by "Uncle Dave" on the Synth Zone General Arranger forum. Click here to go to the original thread.

Uncle Dave
11-22-2002 05:41 AM

I have to say it again: I hate the word "gig." Somehow, it just takes a little of the seriousness of the art away. Maybe years ago, in smoky bars and jazz clubs, it was "hip" to use the expression. But in today's market of expanded potential, it seems more logical to call work "work." This is a viable way to earn a living and should be treated as such.

*** Disclaimer ***

This is not directed at anyone here, or anyone's usage of the word. I just think, like many traditions (good and bad), this one should fade away. It makes me feel like it's "less" of a job, somehow.

The Pro
11-22-2002 05:46 AM

What's the matter Dave, not enough gigs lately ?

cam8neel
11-22-2002 06:01 AM

UD, I tend to agree with you. When anyone asks what I'm doing for the weekend, and I tell them I'm going to work, they almost always answer, "Work? That's not work!" It aggravates me to no end! The "layman" seems to think our equipment gets setup and broken down by some 'imaginary roadies,' and all we do is show up, sing, get paid, then go home. Ughhhh!!! -- Angelo

Uncle Dave
11-22-2002 06:17 AM

The Pro: not enough gigs lately ?

No time for "gigs." I work too much! This years total is almost 300 already, and I'm just getting into the busiest season. It's just hard to take a "gig" serious. It's an OK expression as a nickname once in a while, but let's face it, work is serious. I like to take pride in my work, and ever since it became a full time living (after college), it's been harder to take a casual attitude towards it.

No big deal -- just wanted to let off some steam. I occasionallydo use the word, but it sounds funny coming from my own mouth. Who really cares anyway? Just idle thoughts as I prepare for my getaway with my redhead ! Tomorrow can't get here soon enough !

tony mads usa
11-22-2002 06:22 AM

Pro, don't worry about UD -- he could give US some!

I fully realize that it takes a great amount of work for us to be able to go out and play. I've always said that I get paid for the learning, practice, rehearsals, setting up, and breaking down, but not for the playing and singing. Even with all that goes into it, I never want to consider "playing a gig" work because that would change the whole concept for me. As far as I'm concerned, the only difference between me and a "star" is that I also have to be the roadie, the sound guy, the lighting guy, etc., etc. And let's be honest. When doing private parties, we have a good time feeding our egos while we are playing/singing. We get fed, sometimes have a drink, we (often) take a break every hour (I know, that depends on the gig, the crowd, etc.), and at the end of the night, WE get paid. As far as work goes, it sure beats a lot of other things we could be doing.

Many years ago, I was having a discussion with a friend about income and he stated that many people had to work a second job to make ends meet. I stated that I hoped I never had to do that. He said, "You already have a second job. You work weekends as a musician don't you?" I didn't consider it a "second job" then, and I don't now. AND, I like to feel that if I had to get paid for my talent, no one could afford me, or I would have to work underpaid!!! -- T.

PS: Anyone know the origin of the word gig?

Uncle Dave
11-22-2002 06:27 AM

Get In(the) Groove ??????

Going Insane Gradually ???????

and the winner is ....

Gettin' Into Girls!

Gosh, I'm Good

Tony W
11-22-2002 06:35 AM

I, too, wondered where the word came from and, according to Wiltons word & Phrase origins, you Americans invented the word. (So, UD, you only have yourselves to blame.)

"This brings us to the most common sense, that of a musician's engagement or job. The musical sense dates to 1926 and first arose as jazz slang in the US. But the origin is not in music. The use of gig to mean a nonmusical job or occupation dates to 1908, and the sense of a business affair or event is a year older than that. The origin is unknown, but it may come from the slang term gag. This dates to 1890 and means business method, practice, or behavior. All these sense are American slang usages."

Best wishes, -- Tony W

Uncle Dave
11-22-2002 06:40 AM


Tony W: All these are American slang usages

My point exactly! It's slang. It's informal. It's too casual. I've heard people refer to many other jobs as "gig" but always in an informal manner, almost jokingly. Those old jazz cats were too cool for their own careers, and I guess a "gig" had more romance and pizzazz than real job.

I'll work my "jobs" and collect my pay, and occasionally, I'll even play a "gig" but not with the same attitude as I take to work with me!

BTW, for those of you who may not know, "Music IS my real job." (Says so right on my business card!)

msutliff
11-22-2002 06:42 AM

Here's what Merriam-Webster Online has to say:

gig. Function: intransitive verb. Inflected Form(s): gigged; gig·ging. Date: 1939 .... to work as a musician.

Eight different meanings for the word gig. I had to go to number 7 to find the one that deals with music. I like the "pronged spear for catching fish" one myself. -- mike

Scottyee
11-22-2002 06:44 AM

Dictionary Definition of 'gig'. 10 most popular Internet sites with the word 'gig':

Frankly, I don't care what people want to call it as long as I'm getting paid. If/when people give me the line, "Work? You call that work?!", I don't let it bother me at all because I realize they're probably just saying it out of "envy" because they hate their boring 9-5 routine so much. -- Scott

The Pro
11-22-2002 08:42 AM

Maybe you guys work. For me, work is what I do to prepare for the gig. But once the gig starts, I just play.

Starkeeper
11-22-2002 08:56 AM

I read some interesting research concerning hobby/work: People who normally totally enjoyed their hobby would dabble every chance they had. They would stop enjoying their hobby once they wore paid to do it. Does that apply to you working musicians? Do you play music, just for the fun of it, when you're not being paid? -- Starkeeper

kbrkr
11-22-2002 09:22 AM

Obviously, you guys have much too much time on your hands not gigging to open up a conversation on gigging or the art of working on gigs. If you are not having any fun with your music, then it is work. If it is fun, then it's a gig. -- Al

tony mads usa
11-22-2002 10:10 AM

Starkeeper: Do you play music, just for the fun of it, when you're not being paid?

A lot! I love to have other musicians come over to my house and just jam. In fact, we were doing that on a weekly basis for over a year when our different careers and interests got in the way. (We'll have to get back to that.) During the week, I'll sit at the keyboard, headset on or off depending on the time and situation, and just play for a couple of hours or longer. And, unlike some musicians, I have no problem if I'm invited to a party and am asked if I would mind bringing the keyboard. To me, that's not a problem; it's a compliment. -- t.

cam8neel
11-22-2002 10:30 AM

kbrkr: If you are not having any fun with your music, then it is work, if it is fun then it's a gig.

I don't know many performers who don't have trouble separating the two. Very difficult to not have those two worlds collide (fun/work). -- Angelo

brickboo
11-22-2002 12:10 PM

I always thought "Gig" gave celebrity status to playing music and entertaining with music in general. Bricklayers don't do gigs; they have a real bad environment to slave (work) in.
I thought gigs separated the celebrity entertainer from the common lay person. Gigs are also performed by vocalist that do not know an "F" from a "Bb" -- so, I call them entertainer vocalists, not musicians.

Take my word for it, playing music is much more glamorous and fun than working from 8 to 5 in 97 degrees with 97 percent humidity on any construction site doing any part of construction.

Thus the word "Gig" is cool and is special lingo for musicians and vocalist alike and I want it to stick. Hope Dave still likes me and will continue to help me. I need him. We don't have to agree on everything, do we Dave? I like Brunettes! Ha! Ha!

Pilot
11-22-2002 02:45 PM

UD, I was one of those guys who gigged in smoky bars and jazz clubs in the good old days. Great fun it was, too. I got more money on a gig than I did for a week's wages at my regular job. Played sax and clarinet back then and only sat in on keyboard when the regular piano player didn't turn up.

guitarman
11-22-2002 04:45 PM

I agree with UD. It's like calling girls "chicks," just a little out of place in modern day terminology.
However, "work" is a little too general. You could say you "work" as a musician, but what does that mean. If you practice, that is work, too, but we still say practice for practice (or do we?)
I do not work as a professional musician anymore, but when I did it, sure felt like work to me.
It is fun sometimes, but it is not fun when you are on the road and your sound system breaks down during the first set and the bar owner is trying to run you out of town. But what would be a suitable replacement for Gig? What do union musicians call it when they perform live? Practice?
-- Guitarman

trtjazz
11-22-2002 08:00 PM

And yet more definitions:

carriage: trap, gig, ponycart, dogcart
boat: pinnace, cutter, gig
prostitute: male prostitute, rent-boy, gigolo, gig

gig (gîg) Slang. noun. A job, especially a booking for musicians.

verb, intransitive gigged, gigging, gigs. To work as a musician: "gigging weekends as a piano player in the ski joints" (Joel Oppenheimer).

Personally, I never found gigging to be work. It was always fun for me. Working was something I had to do to pay the rent. Playing music was something I wanted to do for fun and getting paid for it was the icing on the cake.

When my recordings take on the traits of work, I'm quitting the job. I use the term work to describe the art as in this is my "body of work" used as a noun not a verb. I take creating my work very seriously, but it is not work to me.

I agree with it is part of the jargon of musicians, getting paid or not. I, too, like the term. All hobbies and jobs and groups come up with their own slang jargon, so when they are talking to others in the same field it is a common bond of understanding. Jam on, -- Terry

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