This is a response to a great comment I got on one of my recent posts: The Independent Fight Below the Belt – How South American Independents are Organizing. I thought this comment brought up an extremely important issue for independent artists that everyone needs to be made aware of.
Dante, South America is not alone in this idea. Here in Portland, OR we have organized a few hundred musicians around this idea through Fair Trade Music. Our goal is slightly different, we are trying to shift the local market of concert venues to actually pay the musicians they hire to promote their business and entertain their customers. At the moment most places that regularly have live music are forcing their employee costs and what little promotion they do on the artists. Keeping the lion’s share of money from ticket sales and considering the artists lucky they get what’s left. The problem Brian mentioned is a HUGE one and as you said it makes the artists not think of themselves as professionals and behave in a professional manner. Imagine if a bar or restaurant made it a condition of their contract with a beer distributor that the distributor pay their bartenders wage. How nice do you think that conversation would be? Have a look at http://www.fairtrademusicpdx.org, I would love to hear your thoughts on the matter.
Hi Graham, thank you so much for bringing this to my attention. I’m sure this is going on all around the country, and it’s main contributor is the problem Brian mentioned, where people’s outlook on the musician as a profession is just dismissive, and insulting. The only way to fight it is it to do exactly what you’re doing and organize.
It’s extremely important that you get the artists to hear about you and the issues, and help you act.
My plan if I were you, would be to create the standard business model proposal for your area that you would wish to see, and get all of the independent artists there to talk about it and agree to it. Then I would have them put pressure on the establishments to agree to abide by the terms, or the musicians will simply not play there. It has to be an organized and united movement.
At first, not playing at an establishment for not agreeing to the model may mean no shows at all, but if the promoter keeps trying to book shows and ALL of the artists turn them down unless they agree to the new terms, they will be forced to agree. The result in the end will mean more money for all artists. It will not work however if some artists do not want to sacrifice a few shows for a better result in the end.
If the promoter can find artists who will play for cheap, and not care about their rights to be taken seriously, the whole thing can fall apart. Every link in the chain matters.
This is an amazing cause you’re fighting for, and I will help you in every way possible. I think this needs to spread much further than just Portland, but even if one city can demonstrate success, it will give indie artists from other regions more of a reason to do the same, and it will give them a draft from which to build their own model for their city.
If I were you, I would start creating the model you would like to see, that would make everyone happy. It won’t be easy, but someone has to do it, and the standards need to be changed. It’s exactly what I’m doing with Beat-Play. I’ve actually taken a break from being a full time lyricist/performer/producer and focused on changing the standard business model in the industry, with the help of the internet, because without these standards being changed, my work is rendered less valuable, to me, and eventually to everyone else.
The system just doesn’t work. We need people that can sacrifice their true calling for a little, while they work to preserve the integrity of their dreams and their field, and secure the future prosperity of their industry, or there may not be any industry left to work in.
We need people like you who are organizing, and doing the work that needs to be done, so that others don’t have to. However, everyone does play a role, and independent artists do have a job in order for the hard work to be appreciated and felt. They need to come together, and agree to support things like a local fair trade music act, that can have tremendous results for themselves and all their peers if they do, and this is a duty which independents share that I cannot stress enough.
It’s our job to search these things out, and make these things known and we need to remember that in these especially hard times. Let me know if you need help drafting the language to make fair trade a strong ordinance in your area that all of the independent artists can agree on. It’s starts with organization, and we need to stick together. Thanks again Graham, for bringing this to my attention. I will do the same for others. And don’t hesitate to email me if you need help. Dante@musicwithoutlabels.com
Written by: Dante Cullari Founder & President Beat-Play, LLC