Musicians Need To Make A Living Wage

Bars and clubs that have music don’t really have the clout they used to in influencing locals because they advertise and promote their music much less than they used to. How many times have you heard that a great act might be passing through town…after the fact? Social media is good, but it’s not reaching the maximum local audience. There was a time when every music club and bar was anxious to let everyone know who was playing in their venue. Wait, let me clarify: the music clubs who wanted locals to come to their venues wanted to let the local audience know about it. But when you cater to tourists—and you don’t care whether they appreciate the music or not—you don’t need to promote the musicians who draw the drinking customers in.

After all, when your venue is on a street like Bourbon or Frenchmen, people are going to “wander in” anyway. So why promote the music?

Furthermore, musicians not only create our culture, fill innumerable bars and clubs for profits that do not go to the musicians themselves–they don’t get paid a living wage.

I’m certainly not anti-making money. I do understand that bars want to maximize their bottom line revenue (which means spending little or no duckies promoting the musicians who actually draw liquor-buying customers), but I really do believe that it’s a pity that they don’t care enough about the musicians to help expose them to as many listeners as possible—and thus perhaps sell even more liquor. There’s a huge disparity in what a musician and bar owner take home.

I don’t think it’s morally right to exploit musicians without making sure that they are paid properly. In many ways, I can see that the local music scene has gone backwards when it comes to promoting and compensating bands.

I know, I know: it’s always been that way. Musicians and bands would rather play for crappy tips than not play at all, and that’s bad.

Did you know that musicians only make 12 percent of the money that’s produced in the music business? Pathetic and criminal, really.

In the upcoming study on developing the music industry here, I certainly hope that the consultant can recommend a way so that musicians—who are certainly this city’s cultural lifeblood—can be paid adequately, whether they are in position to demand just wages or not. Why don’t they deserve it?

How could that be done? Set a minimum wage for musicians? Require anyone who has a license for live entertainment to pay a minimum per set? There’s been some action on the federal congressional level, but will our Republican congress pay any attention to the needs of creatives? I’m not holding my breath.


  • Chattan

    Back in the good ol’ days the Musicians Union had more power to help keep wages up. I wonder what happened to change that?

    • dan hawkins

      Good question Chattan!

  • BG

    Oh, a “living wage”, like the 15 bucks an hour for the burger flippers who are getting replaced by kiosks. Bars will just replace bands with dj’s or flat-screens on ESPN. Once again, leftist economics will kill off what it’s trying to save.

    • PeazantBoy

      yes because trickle-down economics are the answer as proven time and time again

      • BG

        Nice false dichotomy there. Frankly, I wouldn’t care if people stopped playing music in this city tomorrow, or maybe you think an economy can float on trombone players.

        • PeazantBoy

          feudalism forever!

          • BG

            Another sad and bitter NOLA garage band loser…good luck passing the bucket after your gig to 10 people at Checkpoint’s.

          • PeazantBoy

            not a musician myself and i don’t go anywhere near frenchmen anymore…more of a music aficionado. nice try though.
            such an original insult, 2nd grade recess worthy “i know you are but what am i?”
            all that anger is bad for your health you know