The year a federal court ruling reinterpreted labor law to define musicians as independent contractors, thus freeing clubs from having to pay them anything at all. This set in motion over thirty years of steady, systemic devaluation of live music and musicians.  


Someone with a hobby.  Amateurs are not simply people who “don’t need the money” and therefore “can just do it for the love;” those people are Weekend Warriors. By definition, amateurs don't perform provide services in places of business; those people are professionals.   


Authentic, genuine, personal expression in music, poetry, sculpture, performance, etc. etc.  Art takes preparation and time, and, since artists require food and shelter like everybody else, money.  Doing something for free doesn’t mean it’s art. Getting paid doesn’t mean it isn’t. See also doing it for the love. 

Bad Food Analogy:

People are less likely to comment on and remember a good meal at a restaurant than they are a bad one.  After getting a bad meal, people will often avoid going to that restaurant for years, even after it’s changed management, etc, and in the meantime, they’re likely to tell all their friends that they had a bad meal there.   In much this way, people still tell bad stories about the Musicians' Union that are decades old and no longer relevant. See also Myths and Rumors. 


A recognizable mark widely associated with particular consumer experience. 

One of the goals of the Fair Trade Music campaign is to create a brand of quality music.


Potentially the best ‘ exposure’ opportunity, and 100% of the proceeds go to the musicians. See also Dysfunctional Allure, The, pdxbusk. 



Simply put, it’s a business agreement, better if in writing (email works.)   For some reason contracts between club musicians are customarily verbal only.  This is a shame -- contracts, of course, protect both parties’ business interests, and make sure everybody does their jobs. As the bands usually have the most to lose and the clubs the most to gain, they’re rare, even if they are a good idea.  Fair Trade Music encourages the use of simple contracts, and, as it happens, the American Federation of Musicians provides free legal contract enforcement for contracts filed by its members. 


Originally funds charged by a venue solely to help ‘cover’ the cost (the guarantee) of the band. See also ‘Last to be paid.’  According to Ezra “Ace” Caraeff, former long-time music writer at the Portland Mercury,  cover fees have not risen relative to inflation in almost twenty years; if they had, they’d now be $12.  



A club employee that’s guaranteed a minimum hourly wage regardless of how much alcohol is sold, how many fans are in attendance.  Unlike musicians, dishwashers are not required to pay other employees, bring their own equipment, rehearse, practice, or advertise for the club on their own time and their own expense.   These facts suggest that monetarily, our culture values dishwashers more than musicians.



Weekend Warriors,” e.g. hobbyist musicians who don’t derive an income from performing tend to forget two important things. First, see service below. Second, whether or not they need money from performance, others do, and by performing, e.g. providing services for low or no wages, they not only devalue themselves and every other musician in that market, they also displace performers that would have gained work at that venue on that evening. See also “Same bathtub.” 


Double Whammy, The

The effects of short-sighted, no-risk, no-investment Race to the Bottom business model.  

Musicians, faced with low pay and poor working conditions, move on to the next club.  If they’ve worked to build their following and the club has not, that club loses all of those customers when the band leaves. 

The Double Whammy is the opposite of the synergy that can be gained from sustainable partnerships,



The number of customers a band brings to a club they perform at.  If a performer asks a booking agent at a club for a show, the first question asked in return is "What's your draw?"  The perspective framing that question, and the term, is: 1) the club shall assume none of the inherent financial risk involved  and 2) it is primarily the performer's responsibility to bring customers to the bar. Naturally, the next question the musician asks should be “what’s YOURS?” See also following.


Dysfunctional Allure, the:

Widespread and self-destructive belief that performing in a bar somehow consummates a musical product.   

The prestige may have something to do with the fact that the bar is a Business or Public Place, presumably becuase such places are more discerning.  Sadly, the truth is that many of these businesses are concerned with how many friends the band is bringing, and they may only be in business becuase they depend on bands working for zero guarantees.   

Natural antidotes are Busking, House parties, and  Self-Value.


Perjorative term lobbed at artists who perform for pay, by artists who don’t feel as if they can or should.  See also ‘mercenary.’  


Loaded political word meaning, essentially, “The work and services you do are not valued by me, and therefore you are whiny to think that they are.” Based on the assumption that performing music is always a hobby, regardless of the context.   



Distributed evenly. Currently, it’s considered the musicians’ primary responsibility to bring a majority of the club’s customers. With zero money guarantee, the majority of the financial risk of an evening’s entertainment falls upon the musicians.  Since the club covers its costs first and pays musicians later, it takes on far less risk.  Fair trade music would ameliorate all three of these inequitable situations by eliminating deductions and guaranteeing musicians at least State of Oregon minimum wage. 



An intangible benefit of dubious real value that preys upon commonplace fantasies of fame and fortune. The idea is that the reason the musician is currently struggling financially is because not enough people have heard their music yet, and, once they do, they'll start building a fan base, selling product, and be able to move up.   This is true in a few very rare cases - those where the audience is guaranteed, and comprised of appreciative, attentive music fans with disposable income.   Fortunately, this rarity is easy to catch: "exposure" is as ubiquitous as it is free, so venue owners will, without thinking,  tout the "Excellent exposure" of their venue, yet readily contradict this by mentioning that the band has to bring their fans. This means they know their venue doesn't have its own clientele, so the 'exposure' is to your own fans that you brought and thus is unlikely to help further build your fanbase.   Exposure is a myth. See also Four Things Every Musician Must Know. 


Fair Trade Music Agreement:

A community agreement signed by participating venues and Fair Trade Music which is its functional essence. In it, FTM agrees to promote the venue aggressively through its networks as a good community member and home of quality live music, and the venue agrees to pay the musicians no less than our minimums, which vary depending on cover charge and/or the size and liquor license.  


The agreement specifically has no legal consequences for either party -- if a venue decides to withdraw, FTM simply pulls the logos and stops the publicity.

More info in this blog entry.  


Financial Risk:

Independent contractors like most club musicians incur time costs and hard expenses when preparing for a performance.  The time cost includes promotion, travel and two sets of load in/load out and setup/teardown before a single note is sounded, promotional expenses, instrument and equipment repair and maintenance, and so on. In other words, it costs both money and time to make music, but, under the current model, musicians’ time and hard costs are dismissed as those necessary to pursue a hobby



Ostensibly the number of people that regularly come to any given group's shows, it really translates to "Draw." The assumption is that it's entirely up to the band to bring customers, a bar is not expected to have regulars. 


Free Culture:

In this Mp3 / ipod / napster culture where massive quantities of recorded music can be automatically downloaded, copied, bit-torrented, ripped, and shared, and software like ableton, max, digital performer, etc.  can make someone with little or no rhythm or pitch ability a performer,  the efforts of those that perform music with their hands are cast in an entirely different context.  Musicians are expected to perform ‘for the love,’ or strictly as a hobby. This relegates the career to that of a hobbyist, ultimately degrading the quality. The bottom line: fans lose. Gillian Welch's brilliant and bittersweet anthem "Everything is Free" addresses Free Culture head-on. 


Fresh Meat:

A steady stream of 'up and coming' young musicians willing to "play" for "exposure."  This steady stream guarantees that there will always be someone who doesn't know what they're worth willing to do it "For The Love." Unfortunately, Fresh Meat's devaluing of itself also devalues other musicians in two ways: First, they're not getting the gig that Fresh Meat has agreed to do for two drinks and a tip jar, and it lowers average rates at other venues as well.Fresh Meat performs at Race to the Bottom venues and, more importantly, advertises for and brings them customers for little to no pay. 



Money that would have to be paid to performers regardless of the draw.  A guarantee would make the club partially responsible for financial risk. New bands that demand a guarantee, even one below minimum wage,  will usually be replaced with Fresh Meat, as perpetually supplied by the  ever-compelling myth of exposure.


Hobby Mentality:

The all-too common notion, held by an alarming number of both fans and musicians themselves, that music is neither service nor profession, and that, as such, it does not have value and should not be compensated.  This mentality relegates music to a sub-optimal level of artistry.  See also hobby, service, and ‘For The Love.’ 



Activity that one does purely for enjoyment. A hobby doesn’t have to be engaged in at a specific time or at a specific location, isn’t required to be  high quality,  and is not generally done in a place of business for the profit of that business.  See also ‘Service, ’ as well as Four Things Every Musician Must Know



Usually food and drainks offered in lieu of compensation. It’s nice to get drink tickets and be fed, but you can’t pay your rent with PBRs and Buffalo wings. Hospitality should be accepted gracefully and gratefully, but not in lieu of real compensation. See also tip jar. 


House Concert:

A way for a band to garner exposure and work on their chops without getting ripped off, as well as a way to connect more closely with fans. Fair Trade Music’s first action guide was how to put on a house concert. See also Busking, Dysfunctional Allure, The.   


Independent Contractor:

Someone brought in to do one job -- not a regular employee. Contractors have to pay for all of their overhead, including insurance, transportation, tools, and training, so their rates are usually at least $30 an hour and are almost always many times higher. Federal labor law does not protect wages for independent contractors, including musicians. 


Insult to Injury:

Common practice of guaranteeing a band zero, yet requiring them to guarantee payment to sound, door, and other club personnel, potentially out-of-pocket.  See 'zero minus expenses.' 



A financial commitment that eventually, over time, involves a greater return over time. “You have to spend money to make money.”  Fair Trade Music compliant clubs would agree to investing in providing quality music in their clubs, with the return being that the FTM sticker will continue to augment their establishment’s image as the brand becomes better known, and that this augmented image will eventually translate to better sales - and better music. 


Last to be Paid:

See also cover. Money taken from the door is now used by the club to cover the costs of its employees involved with the performance, and the band gets what, if anything, is left over, with zero guarantee



Term used to label musicians who feel they have value by those who feel that music should be a hobby for everybody.  The implication is that if you require a minimum, you are a heartless, ruthless businessperson who’s sold their soul and hates art


Merch Table:


A band’s table with t-shirts, stickers, CD’s, and other ephemera for sale.  Since the clubs aren’t usually paying much, It’s common for a group to generate a large portion of its revenue from such sales. Fair Trade Music stickers, buttons, and pamphlets make a great addition to any merch table. 




The concept that better performers should be paid more.  Most assume that the current zero minus expenses arrangement is meritocratic, but it isn’t, not in a musical sense: it rewards bands who bring large numbers of people, not bands that perform well. 


In most contexts, meritocracy does not require that the minimum be zero minus expenses, although for some reason that’s expected in most/many music clubs. 

Contrary to popular belief, Fair Trade Music is not anti-meritocracy: bringing the minimum up from zero minus expenses does not breed complacency: we’ve never met a musician who would be content to perform for minimum wage. Additionally, nobody wants to play to an empty house; bands are unlikely to stop promoting their shows.


Minimum Wage:

The lowest amount of money per hour permissible by law. As employees, it’s illegal to pay Dishwashers and Janitors below this amount, but independent contractors like musicians can not only legally be paid less, they can be (and usually are) saddled with additional responsibilities.  


Musicians’ Union:

AKA the AFM, or American Federation of Musicians (of the USA and Canada.) An organization made up of its members that works to promote musicians and their craft. Although Portland’s Local 99 sponsors Fair Trade Music PDX, union membership is not required, either to participate or to perform at participating venues. Fair Trade Music is for all musicians.  No dues are collected, and there’s no hard sell for membership. 


Myths and Rumors: (regarding the AFM)

During the first few years of this campaign, all you had to do was say “union” and even the reddest maoist hipster would start involuntarily regurgitating perfect reagan-era anti-union propaganda. Fortunately, that’s died down, at least on Craigslist. However, mention the Musician’s Union to musicians and it’s common to hear horror stories about someone’s uncle who got fined in 1974 for playing too many gigs below scale, or someone else’s dad who got invited to a boot party in the alley in 1946 for hiring nonunion musicians and pocketing the difference. These days, the AFM doesn’t beat people up and fines are extremely rare.   See also Bad food analogy.



A specialization that helps define a stable, consistent customer base for a venue. Smart venues interested in long term, e.g. sustainable success work to find and develop a niche, perhaps catering to fans of a specific kind of music, demographic, neighborhood, crowd, aesthetic, etc.  They may also choose to distinguish themselves with a specific kind of food or drink, for example.. anything to bring customers in.  Smart venues do this in addition to hiring great talent; synergy is far preferable to The Double Whammy. 


Old Ghosts:

see myths and rumors, bad food analogy, musicians’ union. 


More accurately descriptive term for presenting your music in public. 



A misleading term used to describe performing music; it implies that it's a game. English is one of the only Western languages that use 'play' for music.  When fans see a band smiling on stage, they see people enjoying the performance. They do not see the roughly four hours of preparation that goes into each hour of performing, including publicity, rehearsal, travel, and multiple load in/load out/set up/teardowns. Being an entertainer is rarely entertaining. 


Playing / Doing it For the ‘Love’

The absurd notion that if one loves their work, it's necessary to do it for free. Sadly, this phrase is used by both club owners, who might avoid paying all of their employees if they could,  and musicians who have non-musical sources of income and thus believe that they are hobbyists, despite the level of service they may be providing. There's a difference between love and getting screwed: If everyone’s working for free, and no money is being made,  that’s love.  If others are getting paid and making money but musicians are not, they’re getting screwed. See also Four Things Every Musician Must Know



see also ‘services.’ someone who provides a service in a place of business. Should also mean someone who derives a living from those services, and for every other trade, it does.  For some reason, musicians are expected to provide professional services at amateur wages. 


 You get what you pay for.  One of Fair Trade Music’s goals is building a brand of quality music, so that when people see the logo next to a club in the Mercury, on the venue’s website or window, they know “This place invests in its music and actually cares about fairly compensating the musicians who perform there.” 

Quality music means that patrons are likely to stay longer and come back both sooner and more often. 


More free advertising for the venue.  More musicians splitting what's left of the door take after the house covers its costs.  


Race to the Bottom (RTB:)

1) with reference to venues:

A business model that embraces several hallmarks of music's involvement in running a club: the triumph of quantity over quality, the relegation of musicians to being sole, volunteer advertisers and friend-bringers, and the club's sole reliance on near-free, zero-risk talent services to turn a profit. 

It works like this:  Find several bands - any bands - that will have a draw of, say,  fifteen people.  Guarantee them absolutely zero payment, dangling a carrot that says they'll get paid decently if they promote aggressively.  Four bands, five people - twenty free  advertising employees! The bands all put up flyers, myspace, email, phone calls, etc.  on their own time and their own expense, and bring their friends and fans to the bar.  The bar gets customers, and supposedly the bands get "exposure."  The bands' friends pay cover (minus guest lists.) Deduct money for the sound engineer and the door person, possibly other 'house fees,' and give what's left to those twenty musicians-almost always a fraction of minimum wage. 

2) With reference to bands and musicians: 

Musicians with no sense of communty connection or solidarity,  
frantically competing with each other to see who can charge the lowest rates for their services
To the point that musicians will assume all financial risk and promotional responsibility for a show,
or even  pay for the "privilege" of performing 

Repetitive Brute Force:

How thirty years of steady, systemic devaluation have convinced musicians to stop valuing themselves etc. 


Same Bathtub:

Whether or not musicians are aware of it, like it, or want to do anything about it, the music markets they work in are generally very small and, thus interconnected: as Aron from The Slants put it, “We’re all in the same bathtub.” Thus, when performers choose to provide services for low or no wages, they devalue the work of all. 


Saying "No"

Massively underrated.  Taking a bad gig puts $15 in your pocket now,  takes $25 out of your pocket next month, and $50 out of someone else’s this month and next - working for less than what you’re worth, below minimum wage guarantees, for cruel myths like the tip jar, hospitality, the merch table, and the most insidious of them, exposure, devalues not only you but every other musician in your market for now and the future.  Saying ‘no’ to poorly paying gigs is not only okay, it’s crucial. Value yourself, and encourage your musician friends to do the same.  See also The Tough Choice, also Four Things Every Musician Must Know



It’s currently more fashionable to be self-effacing, than to show that one values one’s self. Perhaps this is why self-value is a difficult concept for many musicians. However, humility is very different from low self-value: It is possible to be humble without accepting zero minus expenses as wages.  It’s also entirely possible to ask for a minimum without being a megalomaniac. Author Eckhardt Tolle said it wisely: “We must all realize that we are neither better nor worse than everybody else.” 



Starts at a specific time in a specific place (e.g. a place of business) for a specific duration, and has to pass quality standards. Services have real value and cannot be discounted without devaluing all other workers in that market. See hobby, Professional, Same Bathtub,  Four Things Every Musician Must Know



A typical kind of show for Race to the Bottom-type venues that maximizes bar sales while minimizing compensation for musicians.  Despite these, showcases do provide cross-pollination of musicians' fan bases, so the Fair Trade Music Venue Agreement does provide specifics for one "new band night" per week. 


Slow Build

Building an audience for either a band or a venue takes consistency over time. Building a brand of quality music, too, will take time, for word of mouth to spread, for people’s habits to change, for marketing and advertising to have an effect.  Marketers say that prospects will ignore printed advertising the first six or seven times they see it; that number is even higher for electronic media. See also synergy, sustainable



An incredibly useful word for a concept that seems central to being human: mutual aid: “We’re all in this together, we’ll help each other out, we’ll raise each other up. I’ve got your back,” and even the hallowed union slogan “An Injury to One is an Injury to All.”  Sadly, this last slogan, like the word ‘Solidarity,’ is as unfashionable as the labor movement; it’s much more punk-rock and badass to believe the myth of “Your Own Bootstraps.” Then again, the sudden popularity of the messaging in the 99% movement may indicate that this is beginning to change.  See also Four Things Every Musician Must Know, #3



An incredibly useful word for a concept that seems central to being human: mutual aid: “We’re all in this together, we’ll help each other out, we’ll raise each other up. I’ve got your back,” and even the hallowed union slogan “An Injury to One is an Injury to All.”  Sadly, this last slogan, like the word ‘Solidarity,’ is as unfashionable as the labor movement; it’s much more punk-rock and badass to believe the myth of “Your Own Bootstraps.” Then again, the sudden popularity of the messaging in the 99% movement may indicate that this is beginning to change.  See also Four Things Every Musician Must Know, #3



In the music world, the word "Support" seems to mean to clap, smile, dance, and enjoy. Everybody "supports the arts" and "supports musicians," because it feels good to say it.

Although appreciated, this limited definition of support does not enable musicians to pay their bills or devote their full attention to developing their craft.  In fact, musicians, especially those who work in clubs, are commonly expected to have other jobs in order to support themselves, often at menial jobs.

Perhaps the saddest part of this is that experienced, talented musicians are forced to stop performing, while a new crop of amateur, startup (e.g. free) groups parade through every few years -- aka Fresh Meat.

Supporting the Arts:

Everybody loves art and music, and everybody supports “the arts,” including music. Oh wait, do they support musicians? uh, sure why not?   Does that mean they pay them? What? No! Those people need day jobs - music is a hobby!  An administrator with a local large classical music organization said recently “Portlanders are great at saying they support musicians, and lousy at paying them.” One venue we met with, whose motto is “Long Live Art,” told us that Fair Trade Music “deeply and personally offended” them.  



In order for a slow build to happen, a venue and a band must make a commitment to working with each other consistently and equitably over time.  If a venue invests some resources in developing its own crowd, and provides a good workplace for musicians (adequate sound system, engineer, and acoustic treatments, for example,) the band is more likely to stay, and a state of synergy becomes much more likely. Moreover, if the band does move on, the venue, having won over some of the patrons, is not starting at zero again.  See also Double Whammy, The.



The product of a slow, sustainable build, wherein the sum of the promotional efforts by the musicians and the club are not only greater than the sum of their parts, but also are more stable, resistant to the capricious whims of trends and fashion, and thus an excellent goal for anyone who wishes to remain in the business for a while. 


The Elite:

Moderately successful musicians who feel that the difference between service and hobby has to do with musical quality, talent or hard work, and therefore the minimums should remain at zero minus expenses. Furthermore, they do not understand the concepts of Fresh Meat or Solidarity.  Instead, many believe that Fair Trade Music would negate the concept of meritocracy, despite meritocracy's existence in the non-music world, where service workers' minimum wages are the law.    


The Tough Choice:

Many/most indie musicians frequently have to decide between performing for low or no wages or not perform at all. Enter House Concerts and/or busking


Tip Jar:

Another myth like ‘ exposure.’  Venues, particularly coffeehouses and small restaurants, like to try to convince musicians that getting fed, selling merch, and the tip jar, all of which cost venues next to nothing, should be sufficient compensation. Tip jars almost never provide even minimum wage for anyone other than street performers whose skillset is primarily geared toward maximizing tips - you really have to hit the crowd over the head to get them to cough anything up.  Like exposure, hospitality, or the merch table, the tip jar is largely a myth. Don’t buy it. 



Naïve or Inexperienced musicians unaware of what constitutes 'professional' or 'a service,' of the value of their own services, and caught up in the ever-compelling myth of exposure.  See also Fresh Meat.


In the patois of monetary negotiations between musicians and clubs, ‘versus’ means something like ‘whichever is greater.’ For example, option B of our Fair Trade Music agreement allows the club and band to mutually choose to pay the band a guarantee of minimum wage per hour per person, with an additional hour for travel/setup/teardown, versus 100% of the door, minimum $3 cover per person.  


Weekend Warrior:

A musician who has a separate day job, which, to them, justifies their performing for low or no wages. Weekend Warriors understand neither the difference between a service and a hobby  nor what makes an amateur versus a professional, nor displacement, nor that we’re all in the same bathtub.   Those who consider themselves amateurs should perform at non-commercial venues (house concerts, busking) if they wish to avoid devaluing all other musicians in that market. 


Your Own Bootstraps:

Basically, an anti-community sentiment popularized in the popular post-civil war rags-to-riches  stories of Horatio Alger. The implication (at least regarding the current narrative) is that your success is entirely controlled by your own actions, and if you need anyone else to help you, you’re weak, a filthy, commie Red, or both.  It’s been so widely discredited for so long by so many social theorists that it’s practically a joke in those circles, but it remains a common and popular ideological antidote to the natural, human concept of getting together with your friends to help each other out.   Sadly, many musicians feel as if they owe nothing to anybody except themselves.    


Zero minus expenses:

The current financial ‘ guarantee’ for most musicians in clubs: They are expected to pay the sound and door people, who have minimum guarantees, out of the money fans pay at the door.  Thus, the only financial certainty many musicians have regarding an evening’s work is that they’re in the red somewhere between $100 and $1000 before they’ve played a note. This necessitates that they do more advertising, shifting time away from making great music, aka ‘Insult to Injury.’ 


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