Well ya know today was gonna be one of those days where I would post some great photos from the Chesapeake Bay Blues Festival, slot an interview with the folks from PocoNotes about their upcoming “Faces and Voices of the Blues” and get the latest from Kirsten Thien and her travels set up for all to enjoy.
“Thought you should know. You, me, every label, and artist performing at Chicago Blues festival must refuse to sell for 45% commission to Michael Jeffers (Chicago Jazz Magazine). If this 45% merch commission happens at Chicago Blues Festival they will try to make this standard at all festivals.
Best Buy was 25%, and that was to high.
I don’t believe Michael Jeffers – Chicago Jazz Magazine wants the world to know how they intend to rape the blues artist at Chicago Blues Festival…
Let’s spread the word, and let’s prevent this!
We can’t keep the blues alive when a company that did not spend one penny to record the blues wants 45% of sales.
Now I ain’t all that savvy in the ways of the music business, got me some knowledge and learning more from the good people in the industry (artists, labels and alike) but to me this sounded really usury in nature and practice. How would an artist make any money on their work – I asked for substantiation and was sent copies of the agreements and other related documents. With that I started a discussion on FaceBook open to all – even posted and email questions to said magazine and sites for clarification or rebuttal. Like they say in the streets “ya got nuthin”! The lights are on but nobody’s home or they ain’t answering the door.
Now this was the first I had heard of this but someone else was up on it earlier D’Mar MusicOnline: http://dmarmusic.blogspot.com/2012/05/lets-take-stand.html?spref=fb&fb_source=message.
Here he offers reason and rationale as to why this is so wrong in so many ways, and steps the public and artists/labels et al. can take to stop this raping of our artists.
So the conversation on Facebook brought many artists to the table and we have learned that it is not a rare occurrence for artists to refuse to sell their merchandise at these festivals because of the fees charged. And in doing so when people ask why no merch for sale they state the fact that the charges are too high to make it worth their while. I think that most artists will accept less money to play a festival because they know they can make up the difference in merch sales and this is fair – people will only really buy your product if you put on a great show. That CD sale is a direct reward for the artists performance and people at festivals come prepared to spend money on CD’s of artists they like. We all have done this with favorite artists, but it especially is helpful with new artists who we may not really know about.
The discussion has been quite interesting and most educational, here are a few quotes from artists and others related to the industry:
Josh Spence (The Sugar Prophets)
In my opinion it wrong to charge ANY percentage, UNLESS the venue/event is supplying the people selling the merchandise, and even then the percentage should be minimal(less than 10%). We are playing a festival this year that requires 30% commission for all Merch. sales. It’s a take it or leave it proposal and they are not willing to negotiate, I tried. I also firmly let them know our position, and that due to their policy we will not be selling any merch. at their event and will be directing fans to sign-up for our email blast and buy the CD online. I will also give explanation of why we aren’t selling merch. to any and all fans that ask. This practice is absolute b.s. and they know it, however, a band like TSP has to “pay our dues” so to speak, so that we can gain fans and notoriety. Sometimes it’s the merch. sales that gets us the gas to get home or a bit of food in our bellies. It’s not like the venues are paying well for the performance or anything either, unless you are a huge name headliner, which we aren’t, YET.
Vinny Marini (Host of Music On The Couch)
Hate this folks? Spread the word on Twitter and her and other social platforms. As fans we need to revolt, the artists are hard pressed to complain as they could be black-balled…it is the FANS responsibility to stop this injustice. Do it now. Post your disapproval on the @Chicago Jazz Magazines site!
Lucy Hammond (Recording/Touring Artist)
I’d read of this disturbing trend in one of my music marketing newsletters recently. It’s a ridiculously sad reality that blues artists are having to deal with it so soon! One of the few things that will change it are the fans standing in solidarity with the artists they love & support. The fans, by refusing to attend events run like this, & the artists by refusing to perform at them. It’s hard to say if either possess the resolve to take the stand! As much as we all know and agree this is a heinous practice,some artists will be willing to surrender the % because they want to play the fest that bad, some fans will attend because they can’t be bothered to know the truth. Time will tell which segment will win out! I certainly hope it’s the former. Stipulating that “all merchandise proceeds are solely the property of the artist” in all of your performance contracts, is now mandatory. Including a clause with s specified compensation amount for any merch staff not from your own crew, is an additional protection to consider adding. We all must use the media resources at our disposal to educate the fans as to the reality of merch sales ( see Franc; tutorial), & what will happen if this becomes widespread! Touring in these times is tough to do for smaller artists already. These practices will kill it! Abominable!!!!!
JW Jones (Canadian Recording & Touring Artist)
15% should be the max. They need to get paid too, but not more than 15% for standing at a merch table!
Franc Robert (Artist and International Blues Challenge Participant)
lessee, you buy the CD from the label for anywhere from $5 to $8, sell it for $15 to $18 (typical) then pay Chicago Jazz magazine $7 (low) to $8.50 (high)… leaving you with a profit of $3 at best on a sale of a CD… might as well hand them the whole shebang… that is plain economic foolishness, and I wouldn’t even bother selling CDs under those terms…
Michael Kinsman (Promoter, Writer)
As a promoter, I would be ashamed to take a commission on an artist’s CD sales at my event. Typically, the local blues society is more than willing to handle the sales at its tent for free. This is an important revenue stream for musicians.
These are just some of the comments from artists, fans and just plain ol’ folks about this issue. It effects us all in the pocketbook, but especially the artists who are basically being reduced to modern day sharecroppers by others who leech off their talent and hard work.
The photos you see here were taken from originals sent to me – these were selected to highlight the issues at hand. Both documents are multi-paged with logo from CJM clearly at the top of each page and has signature lines, with contact information relating back to CJM.
Is this fee really necessary, I seriously doubt it. If CJM feels that the cost of running a merch booth is that overwhelming then they should talk to the organizers of the festival and not take a large chunk out of the artists pocket. Plus shipping and handling, the sum keeps getting smaller and smaller…
Support live music, support touring artists, support local artists – don’t support corporate greed. I know of many festivals that take nothing from the artists for the merch booth manning. If there is need for a fee than make it reasonable 15-20% – come on 45% WTF !
One last thought from Josh Spence:
I look at it like this, the venue/event/festival and “the entertainment”(band/artist) are in business for that night/weekend/event. Bands/Artists have a business to run and expenses too. It has to work for BOTH parties or it just doesn’t work. The promoters/venue owners that are of similar vision are the ones that I want to work with.
Unfortunately many musicians do give up, or feel powerless, and accept the demands of low pay, no pay, or even pay to play offers from venues, just to be able to perform. This has to stop. It’s killing music… there are so many great bands/artists out there that stop playing because they can’t survive and play music. I am like most musicians, I’ll play anywhere, anytime, and it’s not about the money… music, and the fellowship with others through music is the air I breath, it’s what keeps me alive. Unfortunately $$$ still rules this world, so it is a necessary evil in order to survive, and the bands/artists deserve to be compensated fairly for drawing and holding a crowd of people that are spending their money while enjoying their performance. Otherwise, they will not be ABLE to AFFORD the instruments, pa, amplifiers, loudspeakers, microphones, cables, stands, lighting, van, insurance, lodging, fuel, maintenance, repair, etc. needed to get to and give said performance. And then, well, WE ALL LOSE.
THINK ABOUT IT—-
Until next time,
Love, Peace & Chicken Grease
Thank you to the artists and fans who allowed me to use their quotes here for the bigger picture. We need to know about this stuff and respond accordingly, support the music, support the artists but don’t support greed.
NOTE: This was yesterday and in response to the social media distribution of this post Mr. Jeffers has adjusted the percentage charged for artists at the merch tent. His note to me can be seen in the comments section. I want to personally thank him for being open and understanding to the cause and effect and i fI may speak for the artists they appreciate the money back in their pockets.