The annual CMJ Music Marathon comes to NYC October 16-20, with panels on the music business promising to “help make sense of the current climate.” But what does it really offer musicians? How does the industry itself, which promotes ideas such as the “super-entrepreneur,” contribute to the difficult conditions musicians face?
Musicians regularly surmount these myriad problems: working for tips, below minimum wage or nothing; misclassification/1099s; inconsistent gigs; multiple employers; a lack of respect for their profession; and a byzantine system of agents, contractors, media and tech companies climbing over each to profit from musicians’ work.
Individually, we make it work because we have to. We have to survive, we have to make a living, we have to perform. The industry leads us to believe that there is no other way to do so. And while so much of our career is social (performing and networking), we are on our own when it comes to the business side. This hardly allows us to see the big picture. Who’s making the money? Why should musicians take on so much of the risk, but little of the reward?
These issues are not unique to the music industry. Many people in professions deemed “entrepreneurial” or “independent” experience similar conditions, including visual artists, taxi drivers, childcare workers, truckers, freelancers, construction workers, domestic workers, writers, and others. How are they addressing these problems?
Join musicians and other workers for a facilitated discussion and strategy session to explore ways we can act together against the systems that keep us isolated and divided.
Image above: The 1942 Recording Ban and the ASCAP/BMI War