Frequently Asked Questions
Right on! We make each other stronger, that’s how this works.
In Portland, we feel like publishing MINIMUM rates makes them look like flat fees, which weakens musicians' negotiating power.
Other locals or Fair Trade Music chapters, like AFM Local 1000, do publish their rates.
In Portland, there are two options for figuring rates; the choice has to be agreed upon by venue and band before the date of the show.
Option A: flat rate for venues that have cover below $3, or none.
It's a five-tiered system based on capacity and liquor license.
Higher tiers have higher rates.
There's a minimum fee for the first hour, per musician,
and a smaller amount for each additional hour.
Option B: for venues that charge cover over $3
Minimum of $3 cover, set mutually between band and house.
Band is guaranteed minimum wage per musician, for each hour on stage plus one hour for setup, teardown, and travel,
100% of the door. Minimum wage is $8.95 an hour in Oregon right now.
No deductions for house costs like advertising, sound, door, lights, etc.
Every venue is different, so there are usually a few minor tweaks as well.
Short version: No and no. Although Fair Trade Music is sponsored by Local 99 and the American Federation of Musicians (AFM,) the musicians’ union, membership is not a requirement, either to participate or to benefit. So, the AFM is providing infrastructure and context to the campaign for the benefit of all musicians. It’s part of their mission, and we’re all in the same bathtub!
- Although it's true that Portland's music scene is flooded with musicians willing to work for little or no money, that doesn't mean those musicians represent the best that Portland has to offer.
- Do you think it’s best if venues were to always hire the cheapest cooks, bar managers, or other employees? What assurance of professionalism and proficiency do they receive by going to the lowest common denominator?
- Our community is home to many world-class performers and recording artists who choose to live in Portland, but rarely perform here due to abnormally low wage standards. Raising those would enable Portlanders to see them at home more often.
- Whereas building a reputation for hosting the best music is a sound, long-term business strategy, relying solely on the friend-bases of the cheapest musicians you can find is a short-sighted roll of the dice.
Glad you’re ready to pay lip service. A small group of people can accomplish a great deal, but since it took thirty years for musicians to let this slide this far downhill,the question is: do you want this to happen during your lifetime? It’s easy to complain, especially when it’s plain to see the current system is flawed. If you truly support this, step up and walk the talk. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org, or see our ‘get involved’ link, above.
We’re all in a tough spot, with plenty of potential for strong feelings and acrimony.However, hate is a big waste of time.We know how challenging it is to run a venue, and that venues have to thrive in order for musicians to thrive. We are committed to focusing on the positive: promoting stronger partnerships, helping motivate our endorser, supporter, and labor networks to support participating venues, and helping build a recognizable brand of quality music. Despite requests, we will not publish dirt on venues or take negative, adversarial actions unless necessitated by extreme conditions -- you get more flies with honey.
- Hobbyists: can begin and end their activities at the time and place of their leisure; the non-material aspects of their activities aren’t generally aren’t vital parts of business plans.
- Professionals are required to begin and end high-quality services at specific times at specific locations, and those services are part of business’ plans to make money.
- In other words, If you can start and stop whenever you want, wherever you want, and you don’t have to sound good, you are, in fact, a hobbyist, and as such, don’t require compensation.
- If you have to sound good in a place of business that profits from your services, and you have to start and stop at specific times, you’re a professional whether you identify yourself as one or not.
Money is part of it, but not exclusively or primarily. This is about better music through EARS:
- Equitability of financial risk and promotional burden - If musicians aren’t saddled with the lion’s share of both, they’ll have more time to practice
- Advocacy - helping the public understand the value of live music and musicians
- Recognition - publicly championing and promoting participating venues
- Sustainability - ensuring that musicians aren’t forced out of the business by poverty
- We’re not suggesting that everyone be paid identically. We’re setting minimums, not maximums – a meritocracy with a minimum higher than zero is still a meritocracy.
- Bands can and should still work harder to improve their product and negotiate for better pay. The lowliest clerks and burger-flippers get minimum wage; does that breed complacency?
- Our venue agreement is designed to accommodate a broad spectrum of business models employed by Portland clubs. It includes an option for a tiered system based mostly on venue size that would maintain current hierarchical and meritocratic structures.
Absolutely.. sometimes! It depends on the situation:
- If everybody at the venue-caterers, bartenders, the venue owner, the janitor - everybody - is donating their services, it’s all love, baby, perform your heart out.
- If, however, you’re expected to do it “for the love,” or, for “exposure,” when others like the venue owner, booking agent, sound and door personnel, bartender, server, bar-back, and janitor are all being paid, that is not love. You are getting screwed.
- Yes, this is even true for "Benefit" Concerts. We all want to give back to the community, but is it worth devaluing yourself, your craft, your brand, end every other musician in your town? Why are musicians the only ones expected to donate services? - Benefit concerts, by the way, are the least efficient way to make money. - It can still be a benefit if musicians are being paid. In fact, some of the best paying shows are for charities.
- If you’re still confused, see this excellent flow-chart.
- see also Four Things Every Musician's Gotta Know.
House parties would provide creative, genuine, personal DIY alternatives to bad ‘exposure’ gigs, which would, in turn:
- Allow bands to connect better with audiences through more intimate shows
- Maintain fan discovery through audience sharing and cross-pollination
- Make it easier to say ‘no’ to bad gigs
You don’t need a venue to get exposure: a good busking spot is its own promotion, and the artist gets 100% of the proceeds.
You may be right, (certain venues' reputations are as infamous as they are confirmed,) but we're not, not that way.
- We are all in the same bathtub. Building strong relationships is in everybody’s best interest. Adversarial attitudes don’t do that.
- Venues have to thrive for musicians to thrive.
- We are focused on positive solutions, e.g. recognizing venues that are doing things right.
- We walk the middle road between bomb-throwers and musicians terrified of even the gentlest boat-rocking.
- Confrontational tactics are a last resort.
Yes, but good exposure is incredibly rare, and empty promises are everywhere. It's important to know the difference.
- ‘good exposure’ means you are guaranteed a large number of people who are likely to be interested in your music.
- The term is so commonly mis- and over-used that booking agents will try to sell musicians on the great exposure opportunity, then mention that there’s no built-in draw, without even realizing they’ve fully contradicted themselves.
- Good exposure does not mean you shouldn’t be paid. Most of the best exposure gigs pay well.
- Busking can be very valuable for exposure, promotion, and practice, and performers get 100% of the proceeds.
New Chapters of Fair Trade Music sign paperwork where they agree to:
- • Stay in touch with their AFM local (or a suitable proxy)
- • Stay in touch with us here in Portland
- • Gather a core committee of diverse musicians, union and non, working in diverse genres to develop an implement a local plan
- • Sign on venues using agreements that guarantee locally determined rates that are no less than minimum wage.
- • use FTM logos and branding
Contact us if you'd like a copy of the chapter agreemen and related materials.
Many of the musicains involved in this have several part time jobs in addition to rehearsing, promoting, and performing.
So, we've structured our missions such that people can take on as much or as little as they can while maintaining balance in their lives.
No task is too small: everything helps. for example, any of the following take five minutes or less:
- Endorse Fair Trade Music, and encourage your friends, fans, and fellow musicains to do the same.
Send them a short message telling them about the campaign and why you are endorsing it. Include a link, natch.
- Take our Fan Pledge, and forward it to those same folks (maybe a few weeks later.)
- Like/Share the twice-daily posts on our facebook page, maybe a couple a week that you resonate with
- Put our brochures/stickers/buttons on the merch table at your shows (come by Local 99 to pick some up, or we'll send you some)
These are but little drops. Many drops make rain, rain makes rivers, and rivers carve the earth.
All we ask is that you start with one of these - five minutes - a week.
As always, feel free to CC: us and/or share.