Do you really wanna ride the fence?

Fair Trade Music knows that musicians work their asses off to write and rehearse good music, and we think it's absurd that they're expected to do all the advertising, lug all the equipment, and entertain a crowd for less than what the dishwasher makes.  
As musicians, we can be an infuriating bunch sometimes, in a sibling kind of way. After all, we are all brothers and sisters in tone and rhythm. A big part of my job at FTM is contacting musicians to talk to them about their working conditions.  Most of them aren't sure what the difference is between a hobby and a service, and are either indifferent to the concept of FTM or afraid to make any kind of assertion. 
The apathy is understandable - When Marx called religion "the opiate of the masses," he'd never seen television, let alone Netflix, Facebook, or YouTube.  
One musician the other day had me particularly discouraged: 
"Yeah, I don't really have the time to help you out, but great concept, bro!
Can you get me a gig at some Fair Trade Music venues?" 
The same guy twisted himself into knots trying to rationalize why he was still taking low- or no- pay gigs, utterly terrified of saying no, and oblivious to how his choices were perpetuating the status quo.  He wasn't wiling to participate, wasn't willing to take a stand, yet he didn't see how he was part of the problem. 
This particular musician's indifference is nothing new, and it's not unique to musicians:  consider this quote from Elie Wiesel:
“The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it's indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it's indifference.”
Or this one from Albert Einstein: 
"The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who look on and do nothing." 
Musicains can't pin this all on club owners and booking agents. As musicians, we allowed this to backslide, and we are partially to blame, if not primarily. 
It's ironic, then, that when I get discouraged by conversations like the one above, I turn to this link for inspiration. 
Ride the Fence is more than just a great groove and a great song.  It's clear that vocalist Boots Riley is talking about the same indifference that Einstein and Elie Weisel knew to be so toxic.   He also echoes a number of our own talking points in this song: Since Fair Trade Music is a community service of the American Federation of musicians (and that most dogs bite,) we're also pro union. Since the true spirit of Fair Trade Music is collaborative, not adversarial, we're also "not anti-club," We weren't too surprised when Rupa of the San Francisco chapter of FTM told us that  Boots is down with the campaign. 
Whether or not we see it or try to deny it, all musicians are together in this.  We allowed things to backslide, and we'll take it back - together.  But Einstein, Elie Weisel, and Boots Riley (not to mention legendary activist/author Saul Alinsky) will tell you the same thing: "You can't change sh*it if you ride the fence!"

So, get up offa that fence - get involved now. Become an endorser of Fair Trade Music.  Attend an activist training session. Sign up for FTM missionsStart up a chapter of FTM in your town. Display buttons and stickers.  Give brochures to all your friends. 
Engage. Participate. 
In solidarity, 

Jake Pegg
(jake at fair trade music pdx d0t 0rg)

Basses, low brass, percussion
Coordinator, Fair Trade Music PDX
See video

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