Summary of Fair Trade Music Seattle

Summary of Fair Trade Music Seattle

September 9, 2016 Fair Trade Music information 0

Fair Trade Music Seattle


What it is

  • Fair Trade Music Seattle was formed in August 2012 through a large public meeting of musicians.
  • It’s part of a national effort by the American Federation of Musicians, AFL-CIO to bring together union and non-union club musicians to advocate for fair treatment of musicians.


Why musicians formed Fair Trade Music Seattle

  • Musicians often “pay to play” or play for “zero minus expenses” – the venue pays nothing, but musicians must cover their own costs.
  • There is often no transparency or accountability – pay may be based on the take at the door or the bar/restaurant, but the venue provides no documentation of income or expenses.
  • Everyone else gets paid first, from the dishwasher to the sound tech – the musicians get what’s left over, even though they’re the draw.
  • A lack of enforceable written agreements leads to last-minute changes in pay, sometimes literally after the set is over.
  • There’s often no place to park when loading and unloading, meaning that musicians risk parking tickets, pay for expensive parking that takes up most of their pay for the gig or have to lug heavy instruments or equipment long distances.
  • Many clubs have poor sound systems run by inexperienced sound techs.
  • There’s a general lack of communication and common understanding between venue owners and musicians.

What Fair Trade Music Seattle has accomplished

  • Working with venue owners and the City of Seattle Office of Film and Music, the Seattle Music Commission and area venue owners, we helped to establish Seattle’s first seven Musician Loading Zones to facilitate loading and unloading at some of the busiest clubs. Also in collaboration with the City, we conducted a survey of musicians to help evaluate the loading zones, and identify additional potential sites.
  • We’ve developed templates for musicians’ performance agreements (as well as a template for an exploratory email to establish terms) so that venues and musicians can reach quick and reliable agreements. Some venues have adopted the template to provide to musicians.
  • We have conducted successful classes for musicians on how to negotiate and enforce a fair agreement.
  • We have obtained funding from the Musician’s Local, the national Musicians union and the Washington State Labor Council to provide free diagnostic and tune-up services for sound systems in Fair Trade Music venues, or free piano tuning service.
  • We’ve established basic Fair Trade Music standards for area clubs to sign on to, and have signed on 33 venues: 88 Keys (Pioneer Square), Barboza (Capitol Hill), Blue Moon Tavern (University District, Capitol Cider (Capitol Hill), Chop Suey (Capitol Hill), Columbia City Theater (Columbia City), Couth Buzzard (Greenwood), The Crocodile (Belltown), Egan’s Ballard Jam House (Ballard), Fiddler’s Inn (Wedgwood), Flights Pub (Everett), Highway 99 Blues Club (Seattle Waterfront), Hopvine Pub (Capitol Hill), J&M Café (Pioneer Square), Latona Pub (Green Lake), The Moore (downtown Seattle), Nectar Lounge (Fremont), Neptune (University District), Neumos (Capitol Hill), The Paramount (downtown Seattle), Pies and Pints (Roosevelt), Re-bar (Denny), Royal Room (Columbia City), Sea Monster (Wallingford), Showbox (Downtown), Showbox SoDo (SoDo), Skylark Café (West Seattle), Sound Check (Lynnwood), Stone Way Café), Tula’s (Belltown), Vito’s (First Hill), Watershed Pub & Kitchen (Northgate) and Waving Tree Winery (Kirkland). Seattle Theatre Group, which owns The Moore, The Neptune and The Paramount, and produces shows at about 20 other area venues, has also signed on.
  • As a result of Fair Trade Music Seattle, musicians have taken up similar projects, including a class for new musicians at Dusty Strings, and a campaign by harpists to assure fair treatment in wedding performances.
  • Seattle City Council declared a “Fair Trade Music Day” in Seattle on May 20, 2015.
  • On our initiative, Seattle City Council amended the Admissions Tax to make it more reflective of realities for Seattle music venues, and less difficult for venues to comply.
  • We produced a report on the impact of the music industry on the area economy, attracting wide media attention and spurring the Music Commission to seek funding for a follow-up comprehensive census of those working in the industry.
  • We were active participants in legislative efforts in Olympia to regulate or eliminate “non-compete clauses,” which for musicians are blackout dates.


What we’re planning for 2016

  • We’re continuing to expand the number of venues committee to Fair Trade Music standards.
  • We’re planning bi-monthly classes on performance agreements, as well as developing an on-line agreement which venues and musicians can sign electronically.
  • We will continue to work for a solution to unfair blackout date clauses which prohibit musicians from practicing their craft for a period of weeks before and after playing some festivals or clubs.
  • We’re working with buskers to ensure their right to perform in public spaces, consistent with existing Seattle law.
  • We’re working with the Music Commission and the Office of Film + Music to ensure that Seattle clubs meet their legal obligation to have transparency and accountability on door receipts.


Seattle City Councilmembers and the Mayor

  • We’ve asked Councilmembers to show personal solidarity by signing our support pledge. All Councilmembers, as well as Mayor Murray and Office of Film + Music Director Kate Becker, have signed that pledge.
  • We are working with the Council and the Music Commission to develop City standards for fair treatment of musicians, particularly in any event receiving City funds.
  • We are exploring with the Council possible action to limit or eliminate blackout dates, safeguard buskers’ rights, guarantee transparency and accountability at the door, and develop community standards that protect the rights of performing artists..


Fair Trade Music Seattle

c/o Musicians Association of Seattle

American Federation of Musicians Local 76-493

3209 Eastlake Avenue E • Seattle, WA  98102

206-441-7600 •