has a post on his website entitled, “Seattle’s Live Music Business Model is Broken,” which he says, “is about informing the live music audience of the realities behind putting on these shows and what I see as an unsustainable situation, and trying to move past the usual finger-pointing and complaining so we can have a constructive, open discussion about what is fair and why.”
Every few months the Seattle musician community erupts with outrage over a particularly awful night at one of the city’s many live music venues. For whatever reason there was a breakdown in communication between the musicians and venue, who each had different expectations about the cover, room fee, sound situation, promotion, set times, etc. We all quietly piss and moan to each other after last call, rarely letting our audience know what happened for fear of burning bridges. The fervor dies down and a few weeks later we’re back to where we started, playing the same venues with crowds none the wiser, waiting for the next time one of us gets a raw deal so we can repeat the cycle.
There have been a few solutions thrown out there, all basically centered around some kind of union. Musicians would organize and collectively decide on a set of acceptable terms for playing these venues. The problem I see is that I can’t tell another musician what they’re worth. If someone wants to play for less than ideal terms for exposure or getting more playing experience, that’s their choice. Everyone has their own idea of what they need to be happy and I can’t change that.
If we want fairness in this system, we need to let our audience know where to go, where not to go, and why. Tell them what you think is fair, let them know which venues meet those standards, which ones don’t, and let them make the decision. I’m willing to bet your audience will make the choice to support the venues that treat their musicians right.
In that spirit, here are three issues that I think cause the most problems between musicians and venues, and what I think is fair.