Many in Seattle and across the northwest have read, shared, and reacted with shock to last weekend’s New Yorker article concerning the large-scale seismic event brewing beneath our region. While skeptics and scientists may quibble over details, one thing remains clear: when the next Really Big One hits, however extensive the devastation, Phish will still be mediocre.
Back in March, I wrote a post about my experience with the business of live music in Seattle, outlining the frustrations many musicians deal with when working with local venues, the terms I think are fair when performing, and the clubs I support and avoid based on the relative fairness of their relationship with musicians. My goal was to let the live music audience in on the actual business of live music and urge them to support venues that give musicians a fair shake. My personal list was met with lots of feedback from other players, venue owners and staff, and people who go out to see music, many of whom agreed generally but had different experiences with the venues I listed.
With that in mind, I distributed a survey to Seattle’s working musicians asking them to list the clubs that do the best and worst job of compensating bands fairly and working with them to put on successful shows. The goal was to get beyond anecdotes and personal opinions to really uncover which venues are musician-friendly and which ones aren’t. The survey was shared on social media and emailed between musicians for about 6 weeks, resulting in 128 responses from what I feel is a group of players that represents accurately the average working musician. Here are the results of that survey:
Question: In your experience, which venue or venues do the BEST/WORST job of working with musicians to put on successful shows and compensate musicians fairly? (See the full survey here) Continue reading Seattle’s Musicians Rate Seattle’s Venues
About a month ago I wrote this, a post about the business models musicians in Seattle have to deal with when performing at one of the city’s many live music venues. I wrote about what I think is fair, what I think isn’t, and listed the venues I think do a good job of working with musicians and the ones I avoid because I think they take advantage of performers.
In the time since, I’ve spoken with owners and employees of a handful of venues and have gotten a clearer picture of their side of the equation. Those conversations have forced me to re-evaluate what I think is fair (more on that to come later), but have also re-enforced my position that the live music attending audience needs to know about the places musicians love and the ones they don’t.
To that end, I’ve created a survey intended to be taken by Seattle’s working musicians. I hope to get it to as many of them as I can, and think that with enough participation some trends will start to emerge. To be sure, there are a lot of venues in town, but from my conversations with players of all genres, I know there are standouts on both ends of the spectrum.
The survey itself is short and should only take a couple of minutes to get through, so please submit your input and share this link with other musicians in town. Thanks in advance for your time and effort.
The survey is closed. Results coming soon.
Disclaimer: This is not about guilting musicians for playing at clubs with bad deals or badmouthing venues for setting what are, in my opinion, ridiculous terms. This is about informing the live music audience of the realities behind putting on these shows and what I see as an unsustainable situation, and trying to move past the usual finger-pointing and complaining so we can have a constructive, open discussion about what is fair and why.
Every few months the Seattle musician community erupts with outrage over a particularly awful night at one of the city’s many live music venues. For whatever reason there was a breakdown in communication between the musicians and venue, who each had different expectations about the cover, room fee, sound situation, promotion, set times, etc. We all quietly piss and moan to each other after last call, rarely letting our audience know what happened for fear of burning bridges. The fervor dies down and a few weeks later we’re back to where we started, playing the same venues with crowds none the wiser, waiting for the next time one of us gets a raw deal so we can repeat the cycle.
There have been a few solutions thrown out there, all basically centered around some kind of union. Musicians would organize and collectively decide on a set of acceptable terms for playing these venues. The problem I see is that I can’t tell another musician what they’re worth. If someone wants to play for less than ideal terms for exposure or getting more playing experience, that’s their choice. Everyone has their own idea of what they need to be happy and I can’t change that.
In my view, the key to a solution to all of this is information and fairness. Continue reading Seattle’s Live Music Business Model is Broken