Talking to the folks who have been playing bluegrass in Oregon for a long time, one gets a really different picture of what it means to be in a working band.

In the 70s and 80s, it was possible for a local band to play at a club on a Friday night and actually make some money — maybe $200 to $400 apiece for the evening.

Compare that to today, where if you’re not playing just for tips, you’re lucky to pull down $100 or $150 for an entire bands. And that’s if they don’t ask you to turn down the volume.

The situation for professionals isn’t much better. Now, it’s practically pay to play: a touring band has to guarantee an auditorium a certain amount of money, instead of vice versa.

What’s the deal? And is there anything we can do about it?

As someone who’s been hosting house concerts for many years, I’ve known that there were fewer and fewer venues for bluegrass and acoustic musicians. Now it seems like house concerts are the only way to go for musicians who aren’t being played on country or pop radio.

Just ask Abbie (featured in the most recent OBA Express) why she’s inundated with requests for the hundreds of house concerts she puts on — and why she has to turn down so many super talented performers.

It’s not just bluegrass: it’s folk, alt-country, celtic and any kind of non-commercial music.

Are people going out less? Are clubs not willing to charge a cover? Are bands just willing to believe the bumper sticker that “Real Musicians Have Day Jobs?”

Any ideas about this and how we can change things for hard-working musicians?