I made a quick stop at one of the more popular New York clubs a few nights ago and caught several songs at the late night jam session. I don't have the opportunity to get out as often as I'd like but when I'm able to, the music is usually inspired, enlightening and often, quite exceptional. Young artists are playing at such a high level these days it's a pleasure and a privilege to hear them when it's done the right way. However, while I heard some fantastic and incredible playing that evening, on the other hand it was heartbreaking to see so many talented young artists (mostly in the audience) scrambling and jockeying to get in their few choruses in such a cramped and unorganized situation. The club was jam packed and I'm sure it was in violation of the occupancy codes. All of the players in there could have easily filled two or three clubs. And what was more striking to me was the realization that those players should have been at their own gigs!
Having cut my teeth in NY when there were literally dozens of daily/nightly sessions in clubs or at musician's apartments - not to mention more actual touring bands, witnessing the chaos that evening offered the sad realization that there now may quite possibly be too many musicians in NY for it's own good. I never thought it possible, but the city is now overflowing with legions of amazingly talented single musicians while there are few actual groups with identifiable concepts and directions. This, combined with the absence of suitable venues leaves me wondering if NY is or should be the desired first destination for eager and enthusiastic young hopefuls anymore. Should players, fresh from universities and conservatories, continue to try their luck in the big city amongst the hoards of other desperate, under served colleagues? Or would it be a far more prudent move for a youngster to travel to a less populated locale where he would be considered more eligible for quality work?
Inflated rents, substandard living conditions, venues shutting their doors, congestion, fierce competition, low (or no) pay for services rendered.. In today's musical climate, it may be wise to consider being a big fish in a smaller pond for a while. At least, until the student loans are paid off.