Fair Trade Music


I am at once very proud and astounded to announce we are the first Fair Trade Music 1000* venue in all of Canada.

Right, I know what you’re thinking – I’ve heard of Fair Trade coffee, chocolate and other stuff, but music? What do you mean?

More and more musicians are risking more and getting paid less to work as folk/roots artists and singer-songwriters. The American Federation of Musicians (AFM) believes – and we agree – that musicians should be paid a fair and just living wage and have a good and safe working environment as a right, not a privilege.

I got lucky early in my career as a marketing/business development consultant. On my second interview with a potential client I was introduced to the concept of playing for tips. The experience changed the way I looked at the art and science of creativity forever.

The potential client was in the household goods marketplace. My interview was with the Chief Executive Officer. He wanted guidance on exploring new markets for their products. He was fully engaged in the conversation.

And then we came to the part about my fee.

He suggested that I provide my services for free for six months and if he “liked what he saw” he’d “pay me a certain amount.”

I was taken aback – and yet – somehow I mustered a reply. I suggested his company could send a semi-trailer full of their products over to our street. Everyone could try their products for six months and if they liked what they saw, they could pay the company a certain amount.

The conversation had definitely taken a turn.

He barked at me, “That’s patently absurd.”

With the proviso that I don’t know anything more about the music business than what I have learned in the past 18 months as a house concert host, I have a very difficult time understanding why anyone with a venue thinks it’s appropriate to ask an artist to play for tips.

Musicians are artists and there’s a price to be paid for their creativity. When we invite artists to perform in our livingroom it is because we enjoy the sound – the tunes – the sweet grooves they are crafting.

We instituted a guaranteed minimum fee because our house is out in the country and there’s always a chance the crowd will be on the sparse side. A share of the gate – or playing for tips – can be pretty tough sledding when there are only a dozen folks who braved the cold or the distance to gather in the livingroom.

There’s a cost for an artist to take a chance on us and travel out to our part of the world. We’re two hours from Montreal QC or Burlington VT. The road which leads to our driveway can be lonely – and yet when you arrive at our driveway, there’s always a warm welcome for both our audience – and our musical guests.

I didn’t take the marketing gig for those folks. I vowed to never work for tips. There’s a price to be paid when my brain is engaged on your behalf.

And so it should be with musical artists. They don’t need ‘exposure.’ They need our support – and they need to earn a living wage so they can craft more tunes.

Thanks for your consideration.

Be well. Practice big medicine.

Hal Newman

The Stanstead House Concerts Network is online at www.stansteadhouseconcerts.net and on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/StansteadHouseConcertsNetwork/

*American Federation of Musicians, Local 1000