I’ve been a union member off and on the past few years while working the union gigs this town has to offer. After giving thought to the challenges involved with being a musician in 2018 Seattle, I’ve decided to make my membership permanent. Here’s why:
Musicians create one of the most in-demand products on Earth. We’re surrounded by music constantly. It’s in all of our media, playing in all of our public spaces, and enjoyed almost universally. Every single person I know owns and listens to music. It’s as ubiquitous and beloved as coffee and, like any product of value, requires skill and effort to be made. And musicians produce the supply.
In past decades, the costs of production and distribution were so incredibly high that musicians were in genuine need of partners. Record labels provided the capital for production, promotion, and distribution and, in return, demanded ownership of the product and the lion’s share of profits. Short of already having massive sums of money, musicians had no choice but to acquiesce.
Fast forward to today. Production, promotion, and distribution come at a fraction of the cost, within the grasp of the average group of working musicians. But for some reason we still rely on partners who, with mixed intentions, demand unfavorable terms. Employees of Spotify and the like compile massive libraries of our collective work, pay out fractions of pennies for its use, and enjoy six-figure average salaries. Bars and venues that would otherwise be empty book musicians to draw patrons, cover their own costs first, and pay out what’s left. And because we still believe that we need these partners to be successful, we continue to accept terms no sane business person with an in-demand product ever would. We have almost no leverage when we should have almost all of it. Continue reading Join the Musician’s Union