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.


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. 


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. 



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.  



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.



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


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


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. 

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