Earlier this month, Sydney-based reggae band Black Bird Hum turned down an invitation from Fairfax to play at the company’s popular Night Noodle Markets event.
In a Facebook post, they wrote: “We’re flattered to be on the radar of a company with an annual ‘Total Group Revenue of $1,830 million’ (FY2016). We have, however, decided to decline the invitation to perform at the event on account of you deciding not to pay us.”
“In October alone, we will have performed 15 gigs across three states as Black Bird Hum. We will have been paid for all of these gigs, often by companies with annual total group revenues probably less than 0.1% of your company’s.
“So to you, and any other corporation perpetuating the line that it’s ok to have musicians work for free – don’t call us. We don’t want to work with you.”
Now Elanor Watt, a journalist writing for The Advocate, a Tasmanian regional newspaper owned by Fairfax, has written an opinion piece slamming the band for its decision not to take part in the event and turning down all the “exposure” it would bring them. The piece initially called them “entitled” and “ungrateful” for turning down the offer, but has since been edited and softened online, following backlash.
“The real question is, how strong is your passion and what are you willing to do to achieve your goals.
“I assume most musicians love making and performing music, it is not one of those jobs that you simply decide to do as you don’t have any other choice, it is considerably passion related much like writing or sports.
“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.”
According to MusicFeeds, the following passages were also originally in the article (although they’ve been deleted since):
“The band seems ungrateful to a potentially amazing opportunity that has been given to them … Dismissing events like this makes me wonder where this band will be in several years time, if they consistently have in their heads they are too good to be even approached for an unpaid gig, what has made them so entitled.
“Hundreds of people would be honoured to play at such an event that draws in thousands of people, but hey, obviously royalties are more important to some people.”
But as the band pointed out, these offers to work for “exposure” are all too frequent in the music business, and seem to apply only to musicians:
“We’re guessing that the sound tech who ran the PA on the night was paid; as were the graphic designers and marketing companies that did the event website, promo and marketing material; and the companies that supplied the lighting, tables, chairs and umbrellas; and the cleaners. And so on.
“We’re guessing no one else was offered the chance to work on the event in exchange for ‘exposure’.
“We’re guessing you made a decision to pay everyone who worked on your event in ‘real money’ except the musicians.”