Discussions about how to preserve Austin’s reputation as the Live Music Capital of the World have popped up with regularity ever since the city-commissioned Austin Music Census was released in 2015. Here’s another to add to the roll call: On Feb. 21, North Door will host a panel discussion kicking off a new ongoing effort titled Musicians’ Living Wage.
Launched by music production executives Brandon DeMaris of DeMaris Entertainment and Debbie Stanley of Thoughts in Order, the event is designed to kickstart a conversation among industry and community members about ways to help Austin musicians make a living at their craft. Panelists include Steve Begnoche of the local American Federation of Musicians chapter, longtime local booking agent Nancy Coplin, Black Fret co-founder Colin Kendrick, Empire talent buyer Adrienne Lake, Omar Lozano of the Austin Convention & Visitors Bureau, Michael Mordecai of BBA Management & Booking, city of Austin economic development consultant Peter Schwarz, and musicians Nakia Reynoso and SaulPaul.
The evening also will feature musical performances from Blxpltn, Dana Falconberry, Robert Rankin and Barfield. Proceeds from $250 VIP sponsor tickets (including a table for two and pre-event meet-and-greet) will go to paying those performers; $25 general admission tickets also are available via the event’s website.
The launch event is “the beginning of a conversation,” Demaris says. “There will be events to come after this. Immediately following this, we’ll be organizing focus groups to dial the conversation into different segments.”
The initial impetus for Musicians’ Living Wage was the findings of the 2015 census report, according to Stanley. “We want to direct the focus toward how musicians can actually make a living with their music,” she says. “For this event, we want to invite anyone who wants to have a voice.”
Musicians’ Living Wage is not a nonprofit, DeMaris notes. “There is no entity governing this, he says. “This is a public advocacy movement, where anybody can join the equation. We are simply organizing conversations.”
Stanley says that in her experience, those who book music for private parties and corporate functions “want to do the right thing. They want to pay musicians to perform. They understand this is a skill that has taken time and money to develop and is worth money. They are hungry for some sort of insight into what that payment should be.”
The ultimate goal, DeMaris says, is that “we don’t want to lose Austin musicians to the economy. We all have a lot of learning and listening to do. That’s the starting point, and that’s really what this event is about.”