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.  


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.  



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. 


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.

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. 


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. 


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.   


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.  

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