I’m just gonna say it:
The music industry is as messed up as it gets.
As you can see, I’m a little more than mad. I don’t normally like writing posts that are negative in nature, but I just couldn’t let this one go. Let me dive straight into the reason why I am writing this post…
I was offered an incredible opportunity to open for two famous folk musicians on their July 2017 summer tour. I have been a fan of both of their music since the 2006. That’s a loooong time! So as you can imagine, I was super star struck and honoured that they even asked me. (BTW For legal reasons, I am keeping their names undisclosed).
The details of the tour were minimal in the first few emails, but finally I got the dates and locations, and the notion that I would be the opener for 26 dates. Epic. Alright – I got this! I was sooo excited to hear about this and start seeing the venues and tour schedule.
And then I got the next email….There’s only one catch… Drum roll please:
Surprise surprise. Yet ANOTHER opportunity where I am supposed to accept payment as “exposure”…. Even though, exposure doesn’t pay my grocery bill.
So, my first thought after hearing this was, well ok…No matter what, I have to make this work. There’s no way I could turn this down!! <— As you can see, my feelings were involved and invested at this point. As long as my tour expenses are covered, at least I will have a full month of an incredible learning experience about touring professionally, meet industry contacts, get ‘exposure’ and meet some new fans.
And then the next email came:
Oh and by the way, if you want a spot on the tour bus, it will cost you $1500 per week.
I beg your pardon???
You heard me.
It seems that the booking agent and tour manager had decided that since I don’t have “starpoll” numbers or proof that I can bring a lot of people to these shows, that I do not deserve compensation…. And not only that, but I would have to PAY my own way too. After running some quick calculations, I would have to pay $7500 USD in tour bus, hotel room and gas expenses, additionally I would have to cover my flight to and from the first and end city, and then SOMEHOW at the end of all that, I’d have to find a way to feed myself for 5 weeks. Basically, the tour would cost me over $9000 in expenses, I would have to perform 26 shows and… not…get…paid.
Doesn’t it seem like everyone else would be getting paid on this tour except myself?!… The bus driver. The merch seller. Light crew, manager, booking agent. Would anyone ever ask a booking agent to work 5 weeks for free without pay for ‘exposure’? Absolutely not, because nobody in their right mind would do that unless there was certainty in the investment! Same goes for Doctors, lawyers, Dentists, Teachers, the list goes on. How is this OK!?
My heart hurts.
Something is very wrong here
Why is this art form so undervalued? Why is there so many unethical things that happen behind the scenes that we don’t hear about? I realize (and hope to God) that the two famous folk artists headlining the tour aren’t the ones making this decision. Likely it is the team behind them. Regardless of whoever the heck is behind the financials of the tour, this is incredibly sad to me and it actually feels like a fish slap in the face.
This happens all the time because it can. There’s always going to be an artist who is perhaps just starting out, who gets an opportunity like this that they cannot turn down. So they fork out the cash for this “exposure”, even though, they likely get minimal support/advertising on the actual tour itself since a lot of people are going to see the headliner anyway.
The reason why I am writing this is to bring awareness about the issue. This can’t happen… For goodness sake, we can’t let it!!! I know that I bring a lot of value to the world through my music and I am so thankful every single day for my amazing community of supporters who DO value my work. It’s the fans who WILL pay for my albums and financially support me when I need it the most. It’s the ones that truly allow me to live out my life calling, without having to be a “Starving Artist”. Why should I go hungry, when my work is just as important as anyone else’s?
I know some people will say, well you’re doing something fun. You get to play around on the guitar all day. That’s hardly work…. Well, I lovingly do an incredible amount of work on top of playing guitar and singing. Playing around on the guitar and writing songs accounts for less than 10% of what I actually do as an artist. The rest of the time I am doing promotion, booking, social media, videos, art work, accounting, emails, shows, the list goes on and on! It’s endless, and I love it. That’s why I haven’t given up and why I will not give up.
It’s been a long few crazy weeks full of disappointment, anger and frustration. Just another drop in the bucket of the many things we independent artists have to go through, to stand up for our life’s work and convince the world that we deserve better.
Thanks for listening to my rant.
Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
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