Music Matters: Why Aren’t Musicians Being Paid?

Written by Julian Richer

When I first started my band, I had no idea of the pitfalls and exploitation bands continually face on a daily basis even when it came to something as simple as playing a gig.  My expectation was that live performance allowed bands to fund their journey, both in terms of paying for petrol, their instruments and potentially saving a little extra for something like recording (even if they also have a day job which funds their living expenses hopefully). A tour would provide the opportunity to spread the word about their music to people all over the country.

Only when we started playing live did I realise that payment for young bands was pretty much non-existent and instead we were expected to play in return for ‘exposure’.  Take for example a festival performance where potentially 20,000 attend.  It all sounds great until you turn up and realise that your stage time of 12pm means you are playing to a handful of people.  Or a venue where the promoters only pay you if you bring above a certain amount of people.  These venues often have an exclusive contract with these promoters meaning that it is impossible to perform there without being booked by them.

At a venue or festival, there are bar staff, security, sound engineers and many more all being paid for their time. However, the joke is that all the punters are coming to see and hear the musicians….and the problem is that they, the core element are not being paid in a meaningful way for their efforts.  The promise of exposure is great but exposure will never pay the bills!

Of course not all bands are at the stage that they are pulling huge crowds and therefore can’t expect to get paid big money. However, if music is being provided in a venue or festival then in my opinion there should be a model adhered to that provides a ‘minimum wage’ for musicians.

At Richer Unsigned we have been working hard at creating an online platform to give exposure to bands online.  That said, I realise that the true enjoyment of being a musician comes from playing live.  Only then can you truly gauge if your music is connecting with your audience.

As such we are creating the Richer Unsigned ‘Minimum wage for performers’.  This will mean that every band member will receive £10 an hour for their time at any event we put on (this time being much more than their playing time to include in addition to performing; loading/unloading, setting up, dismantling, sound check, waiting around etc as well as an extra hour towards their travel time).  The RU minimum wage applies to all our live events; from Record Store Day and special event gigs, through to our monthly Richer Unsigned Sessions.

We are interested to hear of your live musical experiences.  Do you play regularly?  Do you find that you are paid fairly for your time?  Have you experienced being ripped off/exploited whilst performing?  Do you like the idea of an artist’s minimum wage? We’d love to hear your thoughts in order to better shape Richer Unsigned.