Fair Trade Music: How it Works

Under Fair Trade Music,

- Venues agree to pay musicians FTM minimum rates
- FTM provides signage and allows the use of their logo
- FTM promotes the venue through its networks of musicians, labor organizations, and supporting businesses
- The FTM logo communicates true support of live music and musicians, and becomes associated with high quality music
- With better music, patrons stay at participating venues longer, and go to them more often. This is good for everybody.

Nuts and bolts: the Venue Agreement

This agreement is the functional essence of the campaign. 

Like the campaign itself, the spirit of the agreement is to be collaborative and mutually beneficial; 
Musicians don't thrive unless venues do, so this has to benefit everybody in the long run.

The agreement was exhaustively discussed by a diverse group of musicians over several years, and gives options designed to accommodate a wide variety of businesses, from tiny coffee shops to large bars with liquor licenses.

The agreement specifies no legal consequences for either party --
if a venue decides to withdraw, the only thing requried is that the venue stops using the stickers and logos.
Fair Trade Music will then stop promoting that venue.  


The rates are locally determined by each chapter.  In Portland, there are two options for figuring minimum rates. 

Option A(Flat rate with per-instance mutually agreed ticket revenue disbursement [split] )  

Option A has five tiers  based on capacity and liquor license. Higher tiers have higher rates. 

Minimum fee for the first hour, per musician, and a smaller amount for each additional hour.

Ticket revenues are negotiated and agreed upon by the parties involved.  

Option B:  (For when there is a cover charge) 

Minimum of $3 cover, mutually agreed upon by band and venue.

Band is guaranteed state minimum wage per musician, for each hour on stage plus one hour for setup, teardown, and travel, or 100% of the door, whichever is greater. 

The current widespread practice of door deductions is not permitted under FTM.  This means Fair Trade Music signatory venues wouldn't make the band pay venue personnel (e.g. the sound engineer and/or door checker) out of what they take from the door.   

There are limited wage dispensations for Open Mic and New Band nights:  

That means the house doesn't have to pay everybody FTM scale on those nights.

They can be done on any night other than Friday or Saturday,
Hosts and house bands are paid regular FTM wages, and
New bands are only new once. 

The diverse group of musicians that put the agreement together believed that performing for no pay in these limited circumstances was valuable to musicians.   

"State minimum wage? Really?" 

We get very strong reactions about Option B: The fact that people think it's too low or too high is telling!  

Professionals know it's a ridiculously low wage. Sadly, in most music clubs, even the lowest wage permissible by law is considered outlandish and exorbitant, even by musicians themselves!

State minimum wage is also higher than the current standard: zero minus expenses. Keep in mind that it's a minimum -- musicians can and should try to negotiate for higher. Also, it's rhetorically sound: it's hard to argue that the musicians' contribution to a night's business is less  than that of the janitor, especially since musicians are also expected to bring most of the customers - and their own equipment.  

Every venue is different, so there are usually a few minor tweaks as well.  

The Local 1000 chapter of Fair Trade Music uses an agreement very similar to ours. Due to the nature of their niche of the business, their rates are substantially higher than ours, but, nonetheless, they've signed on over a dozen venues.  

Subscribe to Fair Trade Music Newsletter