#irespectmusic: Tish Hinojosa Speaks Out on Fair Pay for Musicians at Live Music Venues

The great artist Tish Hinojosa wrote a must-read opinion piece for her home town paper, the Austin American-Statesman, about the realities of gigging in a “no cover”/”tip jar” reality that is all too common at live music venues across the country.

In her post “Austin venues, patrons can do more to pay musicians fairly,” Tish lays bare the ugly truth that we experience every day–wage stagnation for musicians produces the “you’re lucky to have a job” mentality with many venues:

I am finding that even Austin’s best-known and talented support — aka “side” — musicians and singer-songwriters are playing for peanuts, meaning, for the same or less than we were earning in the 1980s. In the meantime, the cost of living in this city has grown tremendously — and so has the city’s pocketbook. That Austin’s reliable, hard-working, talented and diligent musicians can’t even afford to live in the city is a shame, especially considering that they are the backbone of the “Live Music Capitol Of The World.”

Too many Austin venues are taking advantage of good musicians who just need to work and are offering those artists “this or nothing deals” like: “Do you know how many of you would be happy just to say they play here?”

Tish’s post links to another Statesman story about the findings of the 2015 Austin Music Census which confirmed Tish’s concerns about the music community.  The City of Austin commissioned the Austin Music Census, the only study of its kind, that surveyed 4,000 members of the Austin music community and identified the “no cover” issue as a major problem that needs to be addressed.

In her must-read post, Tish gives the human side from an artist’s perspective on the ground.  Wherever you live, we believe that you’ve probably experienced the exact same take-it-or-leave-it deals that amount to “pay to play” enforced the old fashioned way–by intimidation.

Thanks to Tish for speaking out.

2 thoughts on “#irespectmusic: Tish Hinojosa Speaks Out on Fair Pay for Musicians at Live Music Venues

  1. As a person who has been going to see live music for several decades, I have a comment on this. I began going to see live local shows in the late 70’s and early 80’s. At that time I recall it was common to pay a cover of around $5 to $7 to see a single local band. Into the early 90’s that was still pretty common. And in those days $5 to $7 was worth a lot more than today. Some places charged less for covers, but would charge about twice normal drink charges. The places were full, and I remember few complained of the covers or higher drink costs when they had the opportunity to see live music.

    By the year 2000 I began to see a big change in attitude of venue clients. Suddenly a $4 cover to see three bands was excessive. At the same time I commonly noted that the same people who complained of $4 covers had no problems spending $50 or more on drinks once inside. Places began to reduce or eliminate their covers to cater to this new attitude.

    After some time I came to my own explanation as to why this change in attitude occurred. Up until the year 2000, recorded music was paid for. After about 2000 – we entered the “music is free” era. People came to understand that musicians were people that willingly provided their money and labor to create music in the recording studio. With that being so, why should they not be willing to provide their time and money creating music for the live venue?

    At the same time I also noted a general change in respect shown to musicians. Could it be that people who appear to willingly provide their money and labor to create something that others enjoy while asking nothing in return are seen as not worthy of respect?

  2. It doesn’t help when we have a market that is overwhelmed with bands and musicians that will perform for beer. And as the ole saying goes… “Ya get what ya pay for”…

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