How can a professional musician survive on the £10 per gig that some venues in Hastings pay? Now the company behind Coastal Currents and Audiotrope has produced a Charter to demand better pay and conditions for artists. But can pubs afford the proposed £100 per band member? TINA MORRIS, the person leading the plan, explains her thinking. 

In 2020 the government suspended live gigs and performances, closed pubs, stopped weddings and festivals and even temporarily banned busking. The Arts Council paused their funds and everyone went silent, accepting a grand pause, an enforced interval. Music and musicians comatose, venues asleep.

CREDIT: Alice Denny

But I wouldn’t accept ‘no gigs’ as a given. After more than a decade of helping support the creative economy here in Hastings and St Leonards, and bringing more than £1million in arts funding, I knew I had to bankroll a new idea in music: a project focused on creating opportunities, online gigs and a step change for local musicians. It was Audiotrope; a digital archive of the local music scene which would end up having legacy way beyond that moment in time. 

We hoped this period would make people really appreciate musicians and live music so if there was to be any advantage to this strange pause, it would be that live music was valued more post-lockdown, and professional musicians could start to command a more reasonable rate for their craft.

However, once the pubs and venues reopened the reverse took place. A sense of desperation and gratitude to play prompted musicians to accept even less money than pre-Covid with venues and festivals profiteering from this neediness.

Some venues, even having received cultural recovery grants to support their local artistes, were known to be paying as little as £10 per musician. Others were collecting door fees or buckets of cash from punters’ donations whilst still paying the performing professional musicians around £30 each.

Our new charter (see below) is designed to end that, asking venues to consider £100 per artist as a fair wage per gig. The Pig, Jenny Lind and TinTins are already signed up and other pubs/venues are due on board in the coming days. We want to reward those venues with free promotion and programming.

I believe that if a venue has a budget of £200 it is far fairer to employ a duo than, say, a sextet. The former gets a livelihood, the latter £33 each

I believe that if a venue has a budget of £200 it is far fairer to employ a duo than, say, a sextet. The former gets a livelihood, the latter’s £33 each would hardly cover their expenses. 

Given support, we believe, all venues in Hastings who programme professional musicians for live gigs will be able to afford £100 per musician, but we are willing to work with them on a two-year plan to get them there. Solutions not problems. Support not criticism.

Sweet and Dandy, Coastal Currents’ parent company, is known to campaign for artists and musicians locally. Through the recent fast gentrification process, the wages venues are paying, in reality is actually causing these creatives to be forced out of town. We are a ‘Music City’, we pride ourselves on our live music, we love the vibe of stumbling across a live band every night in the Old Town. We have notable music tourism, so we NEED to be paying our professional musicians enough money to live and work here, to stay here. To retain the creatives that make this town what it is.

Read more: Extracts from the Audiotrope Good Practice Charter and Gentrification and the Pub Landlord

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