The following appears in the current issue (Sept/10) of AFM Local 802′s publication “Allegro”.
Indie Musicians Come Together
Earlier this year, Local 802 sponsored “Indie Musicians Unite!” a panel discussion on the future of indie music in New York City. It was held at University Settlement, on the Lower East Side.
Panelists included musician/activist Marc Ribot, Local 802 Recording Vice President John O’Connor, musician/playwright Hanifah Walidah, union activist Carrie Gleason, musician/producer Ray Chew and Jeremiah Hosea, founder of the art collective Earthdriver.
At the forum, there was a lively discussion about the state of independent music in New York.
Many of the musicians spoke about mistreatment and exploitation by club owners and the difficulty of making a living as a performing musician.
There was also a debate over the pros and cons of new media outlets and the online tools that musicians use to promote themselves, as well as the loss of revenue and control over product that results from the ease of sharing music over the Internet.
Musicians expressed a common sentiment as to how frustrating it can be to be working in a field where many acts work for little or no pay.
In some cases, bands are even required to pay the club in order to perform there, a scenario commonly referred to as “pay to play.”
To conclude the event, Matt Plummer spoke about the Venuology Web site (http://www.venuology.com), which musicians can use to rate local venues.
Users of the site can share info on a number of aspects of shows they have played, including how they were paid, how they were treated by management, and what equipment was available at the club.
This is a great tool for artists to give each other a heads up on bad working conditions, as well as promoting clubs that do right by the performers.
Independent musicians are a routinely marginalized and exploited group of artists, and it is increasingly hard for them to earn a living as the landscape for recording and touring is constantly changing.
This is an important population for Local 802 to work with because there has been little contact between these musicians and the union over the years, and 802 hopes to be a resource and help give voice to this group of struggling artists.
Moving forward, we are developing a core group of activists from these forum events.
This group will hopefully serve as 802’s link to the vast world of indie music, and helping to identify the issues affecting indie musicians. Additionally, tools like Venuology.com should continue to be developed and used by artists to collaborate and share ideas around the ups and downs of performing in NYC clubs.