Today I saw a post on the Seattle Mayor’s Office of Film and Music listing a “Performance Opportunity”. This opportunity was for musicians wanting to play for four hours in the lobby of the brand new Maxwell Hotel.
Sounds great, right? But here’s the terms:
There is no monetary compensation, however musicians are encouraged to sell merchandise. The Maxwell Hotel will promote this feature through their social media and website.
Seattle has been trying to position itself as the “City of Music”, and their stated mission is to “enhance the climate for our music industry, and to propel Seattle’s leadership role in music throughout the nation and the world.” I don’t see how this is accomplished by their implicit approval of these types of offers.
I wrote this letter to the director of the office, and will let you know what kind of response I receive:
I have followed the city’s “City of Music” initiative with much interest since it was announced. I attended the launch at the Paramount, I’ve watched the news conferences, followed the appointments to the Music Commission, all the while hoping that much good would be done for the working musicians of Seattle though these programs. You’ve put great folks on the commission and all the talk has been encouraging. Even seeing you accept the job at the Mayor’s office was a good sign, as I’m familiar with all the great work you’ve done for the music community.
All this made it even more discouraging when I saw the blog post on your site today about the “Performance Opportunity” at the Maxwell Hotel (http://seattlefilmandmusic.wordpress.com/2010/06/21/the-maxwell-hotel-seeks-musicians-for-lobby/).
As a working musician I am constantly dealing with the fact that many people in a position to hire me to play have no respect for the fact that they are asking a highly skilled artisan to enhance their establishment. Offers of non-paying gigs with a promise of some sort of “exposure” or ability to sell my product undermine and devalue the service that I would be providing. If the hotel put a want-ad out for a bellman or a front desk clerk or a housekeeper and said “There is no monetary compensation, however the Maxwell Hotel will promote them through their social media and website, and applicants are encouraged to sell merchandise” they’d be laughed out of the industry. This speaks to the overall lack of respect and acknowledgment that the arts receive in our society.
However, I decided long ago that it’s not worth my time and energy to get upset about venues asking artists to play for free. The Maxwell and others have every right to offer whatever sort of deal they see fit. We, as artists, have every right to say no. I find it much more advantageous to ignore these folks and search out those that do get it and do value what I have to offer. There are plenty of paying gigs out there!
But by putting this notice up in your “Performance Opportunity” category you are giving your implicit approval to this type of offer. This is extremely disappointing to me coming from your office which has talked so much about making Seattle the “City of Music” and using your influence to “enhance the climate for our music industry, and to propel Seattle’s leadership role in music throughout the nation and the world.” I can’t see how your approval of musicians playing for free does anything to achieve this goal.
For the city, which is trying to brand itself as the “City of Music”, to put this in your newsletter doesn’t do a lot to show me that you are looking out for our best interests. All the press conferences, flashy logos and marketing opportunities in the world will do nothing to give me confidence that you are truly concerned about musicians making money in this town if you continue to ignore the realities of how we are treated and how live music is viewed.
If I’m missing something here please do let me know. I want to believe that the city has my best interests at heart. I want to support the “City of Music” initiative. I’m left confused and conflicted by this post and would love to hear back from you.