Well, I thought I would change it up a bit for this newsletter and have some good ol’ fashion coffee talk with you.
Last week Brandon and I, along with a few other musicians and artists were invited to a private sit down with the Musicians Union and Fair Trade Music. Both are dedicated to raising the standard of living for all working musicians in Seattle. Most recently they succeeded in getting musician loading signs placed in front of several popular venues. You may have seen them around town.
The meeting was a fantastic networking experience, as well as a chance to discuss some ways to bridge the gap between venue/restaurant owners and artists. Free to discuss our experiences, including the good, the bad, and the ugly, we discovered that many bookers and owners don’t exercise consistent and proper etiquette when employing musicians, and many don’t recognize the different roles a musician plays when working at a a restaurant verses a venue!
A venue is a place where multiple bands can share a night of music with each other in order to be seen by new faces and build a broader fan base. It’s also a place where musicians commonly have to ‘pay to play’. Yes, it’s just like it sounds people…we pay them to allow us to play our music. So it’s up to us to sell tickets, handle marketing, and fill the space on our own so that we aren’t blacklisted or forced to pay a lump sum at the end of the night. Hey man…no one ever said this business was easy, right?
Speaking of business, now let’s talk about Restaurant gigs that come with a whole different set of standards. The good ones understand that when a musician plays at a restaurant, we are there to provide a service. Just as a chef who loves to cook is providing the meal, the musician who loves to play is providing the ambience. We know going in that we will be seen as background music and are hired to play anywhere from 2-4 hours at the volume we are told. These types of gigs are designed for what we call ‘paying rent’.
One of the things I took away from our union meeting is this: It is up to the musicians and the music fans to come together to educate the business within our community as to the proper way to treat the musicians they employ.
So here’s what I say…
To musicians, remember that it’s not JUST about your art. It’s a business and it deserves the same compensation that any other business would require in order to survive. Discuss these issues professionally with your booker or restaurant owner so that you can build mutually beneficial long lasting relationships with each other and pave the way for those less ballsy. The good ones will listen and do what they can. And for the bad one’s…STOP SUPPORTING THAT BEHAVIOR. They wont learn until they start to see a decrease in sales due to the quality of music. Hey, they have no problem blacklisting your ass, so do yourself a favor and follow suite.
To music lovers, it’s simple. Just like we’re learning to ask ‘Is this organic?’ or ‘How was that meat processed?’…ask questions! Talk to the musicians you love to support and educate yourselves about which venues and restaurants treat and compensate fairly for the services we provide and support them. Talk to your friends and family and get them on board as well. We all have beautiful voices people! Let’s make some noise and work together to enrich and strengthen this wonderful and artistic community in which we live!
Musicians…any thoughts one this? Music Lovers…what are some of your favorite places in your cities to check out live shows? Shout them out below!
Everyone…Help to get this very conversation going in your own community! Share this post with all your musician buddies!!!