Don't get me wrong. I love Paris. Don't we all? Paris is the Capital of Love, after all; the citadel where light is pink and La vie is en Rose. Just choose a favorite bridge and watch the sun setting over Paris, dyeing Notre Dame red. Ah, the bliss. But let me tell you how Paris looks when you're a musician, and new to the city. True story.
We packed up our instruments, my spouse and me, and moved in an 8m2 apartment in Montmartre for 560e/month. 'A large, state-of-the-art kitchen', promised the ad, 'View on the Sacre-Coeur'. Well, the damn apartment was a kitchen, complete with a stow-away table and pull-down bed. You could see twenty inches of Sacre-Coeur, if you leaned out the 'French balcony' dangerously enough and looked up and to the left. But hey, it was Paris, and a lonesome accordionist played a heartfelt rendition of 'April in Paris' under the window.
Two months later, we grew tired of the accordionist's every night concert under our window, and of the rats chewing away on our baguette, and of not having room enough to turn around to go out the door. Let alone the rent. We earned our living by playing in the metro, and 560e/month was hard to come by. We decided to get random jobs to sustain us while getting a bigger place and a more substantial rent, and started inquiring after jobs as a bar musician.
The first bar we ever played in offered us a whooping 15e/night, and whatever we could earn by passing our hat around. Slowly, we moved on to bigger, juicier deals, 30e/night plus two beers. And after four years of painful networking, we found a 'steady' job as piano bar musicians for the grandiose 50e/night, from 22:30 to 04:30, plus whatever tips we could collect in our hat. (That job ended when the bar owner found out he could hire starving artists for only 40e/night.)
Whatever you may think, those good ol' days were the golden days of glory. For nowadays I hear you actually have to pay up to be able to play in Paris. 'Unless you bring fifty people, then we reimburse you.' I learned all that I wanted to learn about being a musician in Paris, then moved away. Tell you what, though. I had lots of laughs. And wouldn't go back for any price. I like to be appreciated for the work that I do. Being a musician is work. Years of education and apprenticeship, professionalism and acquired skill. I mean, does anyone tell a banker 'Oh! I thought this was your hobby! I couldn't imagine you'd want to be payed!'?