Music, News & Commentary

Comments of the week: on Fairfax’s ‘pay the musos’ fiasco

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The story, Fairfax journo slams musicians for refusing to work for free (at Fairfax event) about the Sydney reggae band, Black Bird Hum (pictured above), who turned down an invitation to play at the company’s popular Night Noodle Markets event for exposure, rather than payment, struck a nerve with readers who shared dozens of comments on the story.

Most of the reader ire was directed at the Fairfax journalist, who in a column for Tasmanian regional newspaper The Advocate defending Fairfax’s offer, added fuel to the fire by questioning the band’s commitment to their art form.

“The real question is, how strong is your passion and what are you willing to do to achieve your goals… If someone was really passionate about getting their music out there, and enjoyed performing then they would take up any opportunity given to them, especially if it means expanding their audiences, drawing in a larger fan base, because we have all seen the movies, anything can happen,” Elanor Watt wrote in The Advocate.

Rich C. comments:

For the exposure you say? Elanor my dear – you are referring to artists whose livelihood depends on their chosen profession, just like journos and bankers.

Fortunately for us, many artists are passionate about their art. Enough so that they, for the most part, sacrifice the security and blessings of a decent pay cheque in order to do what they do or otherwise sacrifice social and familial connections by working a ‘real’ job to support their art in their ‘spare’ time.

As a filmmaker, I often hear the ‘do it for the exposure’ catch cry. I’ve seen it erode vast chasms in the creative world and we all end up suffering. Passion is almost impossible to sustain when you’re doing it tough financially. New blood and ideas whither away, and culture turns flat, and unquestioningly dull.

Black Bird Hum did the right thing, morally, ethically and professionally. And as far as the whine about arrogance and exposure – it holds as much weight as the insolence of a spoiled, self-entitled child without much of a clue as to the real world. Good call Black Bird hum – I’ll shell out my hard earned cash any day to support hard working people.

Vlad comments:

The band absolutely should be paid for their work, but it is false to assume nobody else had to fight for that as well. The sound tech, marketing, rentals, etc. The kind of promoters that don’t like to pay people, do not discriminate against musicians. They don’t like to pay anybody.

As a sound engineer and owner of a production company, I constantly get requests to do shows for nothing or nearly nothing. Sometimes it’s “this is a fundraiser, and if we pay you, we won’t make anything for our cause”.

Sometime’s it’s “we’re a small band and took the gig for $100 plus a percentage of liquor sales, if enough people come, so we don’t have any money for you”. Sometimes a shady promoter tries a “I really need this event to go well on a tight budget, if you can take care of me, I’ll throw a lot more good paying work your way in the future”.

All of these things get the same response: Not my problem. My costs are fixed, so my price is too. I take good care of my repeat customers when they need something extra, and have an annual budget for in-kind donations for good causes. But if you’re not one of those exceptions, there is nothing else to talk about. Good on the band for sticking to their guns.

2 responses to “Comments of the week: on Fairfax’s ‘pay the musos’ fiasco

  1. Remember it was Malcolm Turnbull who called artists “viciously ungrateful” so the entire business world believes artist should work for free BUT their wages get higher and higher. If all artists and creators refused to work for nothing maybe things would change….maybe. But it would take Solidarity and artists aren’t like that unfortunately.

  2. I have just asked my bank to be generous and stop charging fees as I’m an artist and I could give them exposure. They said “no.” Isn’t that odd?

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