If Seattle’s music scene were its own city, it would have an economic output roughly the size of the Mt. Vernon metropolitan area. Which would put Pike/Pine, what? Somewhere around Aberdeen? And yet many musicians are struggling to stay afloat. That’s the conclusion of a study officially released Tuesday from the Musicians’ Association of Seattle and the American Federation of Musicians.
“It’s a much heavier economic footprint than many would imagine,” said AFM organizer Paul Bigman.
Researchers found the music industry directly employs over 16,600 people in Seattle, creating a “direct economic output” of $1.8 billion and growing. Since a similar analysis was done 2008, Seattle has added some 5,500 music-related jobs. The report doesn’t breakdown the numbers by neighborhood, but the findings are noteworthy for Pike/Pine given its outsized share of venues.
On Tuesday, AFM president Motter Foreman will present the findings of the report to the City Council’s Civil Rights, Utilities, Economic Development, and Arts Committee. City Council member Kshama Sawant is the vice chair of the committee.
The report — Seattle’s Working Musicians: Economic Impact of the Music Industry in Seattle and Working Conditions of Club Musicians — analyzed the the music industry through Census data and interviewing more than 100 gigging musicians in the area.
Despite the importance of the Seattle music industry to the larger economy, the engines of the music industry – working musicians – frequently do not share in the prosperity. According to our survey of working musicians, musicians earned an average of just $21,000 for their music-related work, despite spending most of their working lives in music-related employment. Mistreatment in the club, restaurant, and bar performance scene was rampant, and musicians reported a great deal of variability in compensation schemes and rates.
Foreman will also be asking City Council to consider recommendations made in the report, including limiting or eliminate blackout/non-compete clauses in contracts. The report also recommends venues adopt uniform written agreements with musicians.
The recommendations are similar to those advocated for in Seattle’s Fair-Trade Music campaign. As its name would suggest, the FTM pledge is akin to fair trade labeling in foods. Participating venues get decals to put in their windows to show they’ve signed the pledge, which includes four major tenants:
- Provide musicians with a written agreement that lays out the terms of payment
- Provide musicians with a record of how many tickets were sold and how much money was made
- Have a decent sound system and capable sound tech
- If there are disagreements, venue owners agree to work with Fair Trade Music Seattle to resolve disputes
“It’s not that most venues are out t screw musicians, its that if you don’t have a written agreement, there are going to be problems,” Bigman said.