Lounge on the Farm claim I am single-handedly campaigning to slur their good name. They, and some of the young musicians who play at the festival, have exhibited abusive and threatening behaviour towards me both online and in emails.
On a more positive note, musicians and non-musicians alike have been debating online about the issues raised in my blog, some in agreement, and some not, and I will write a follow-up about these debates in the near future. For now, I would like to let you know what has been happening since my original Scrounge on the Farm blog, any progress that has been made and also to reinstate my views as I feel they were not fully represented in the recent Canterbury Times article (purely due to column inch limits!).
Over the years, multiple complaints against this festival have not been properly dealt with. As a local musician I chose to speak out about this on my blog. The original blog was based on genuine conversations and interviews with local musicians and not on here-say. And I hope that Lounge on the Farm accept that these complaints come from multiple sources, are genuine and are not just mine.
I am not a Musician’s Union representative and I am not being paid to represent musicians in this case. I am not ‘bitter’ and I have nothing to gain other than to try and improve working conditions for musicians, something I feel passionately about. I hoped that by highlighting these issues LOTF might put adequate measures into place to improve their local-musician relationships. But at present, they adamantly deny these claims, preferring to label this a ‘single-handed campaign’ against the festival. What is apparent is that it is easier for them to undermine a person than to acknowledge these complaints and move forward and I feel that this has been handled very badly.
In 2008, I contacted the festival myself and asked to play in what I thought was a great local venture. But this debate is not about bands approaching festivals, young musicians getting a leg-up in the industry, or competitions that offer opportunities to them. Every musician exercises the right to accept or decline whatever deals they want to, be it playing for tickets or playing for exposure, but they should also have an informed idea of whether or not a deal is exploitative as in most cases, performing for free is just that.
What this debate is about is Lounge on the Farm’s conduct towards local musicians, whether professional or otherwise. And of major concern are multiple reports that in addition to their you say they play competition, the festival are also contacting local bands and asking them to play for free. LOCOG were named and shamed for doing this just last month and in my opinion this is ethically and morally wrong.
Lounge on the Farm are small but a business all the same. They charge ticket money, sell merchandise and serve alcohol on site. Burger vendors are not giving away free hot dogs and musicians should not have to justify their right to earn a living. ‘We’re doing them a favour’ is a common viewpoint for many, but this is real life, not the X factor, and in this case, Lounge on the Farm have been accused, by many, of the following:
- Not looking after local bands: inadequate access to the site, difficulty when loading instruments from long-distances due to a lack of parking arrangements for musicians (Health and Safety), lack of refreshments, disorganisation with booking details and festival passes, evasive and rude treatment by organisers and staff.
- Dishonouring agreed payments: owing monies to bands for agreed fees or expenses and musicians having to chase very hard for monies owed.
- Lack of transparency in the selection process for ‘you say they play’: musicians have accused the festival of not honouring the prize of a festival performance when they qualifying for one, and of being evasive and rude towards them.
- Contacting local musicians and asking them to play for free.
It is these accusations, and not my blog, have resulted in the decline of Lounge on the Farms reputation.
During my communications with Lounge on the Farm, I have offered to post any response they wish to make, verbatim, online. I have also suggested a meeting with three other musicians present to discuss these complaints and come to a resolution for all involved, but they are insistent on meeting me alone which is something I will not do. I have now asked Jack Walsh of Lounge on the Farm if he will accept emailed statements from musicians and participants of the festival in order to convince him that these claims are genuine, and he has agreed to receive your emails. Please share your experiences by emailing email@example.com. Alternatively, if you would prefer to remain anonymous, you may email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will forward your message on your behalf, whilst protecting your identity.
Why are musicians often the expendable party when it comes to being paid fairly for their efforts and time? I doubt Lounge on the Farm’s headline acts would be comfortable if they were aware that local bands were unpaid. And why do so many think music is not a genuine profession where those involved have bills to pay like everyone else? There are only so many opportunities a musician can take. On this issue, Carl Hudson (keyboard player for Professor Green) summarises my thoughts perfectly: ”musicians are not volunteers, the term ‘doing it for experience’ is a half-baked excuse for ripping off people. We are not jesters, expected to play for people for free because ‘we love it’.. We still have bills to pay the same as everybody else.”
If one musicians is being paid, all should be. And if security, stage crew, sound crew, organisers and famous musicians are being paid, so should the local musicians. But this kind of exploitation is so common, it is seen as normal.
“If you don’t have this freedom of the press, then all these little fellows are weaseling around and doing their monkey business and they never get caught”. ~Harold R. Medina