Musicians playing at city events could see their pay jump to $200 an hour

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Photo by ATXN

Friday, March 11, 2022 by Chad Swiatecki

Musicians performing at city-sponsored events could see their pay rise to $200 an hour, the first increase since 2016, when the rate was set at $150 an hour.

The Music Commission voted unanimously on Monday to recommend the city implement the wage increase. The vote followed a presentation earlier in the meeting detailing how the city’s music and entertainment division spent its early years trying to create a standard rate of pay for all performers at venues in the town.

Without the legal ability to implement this compensation structure for private companies, the bureau decided in 2012 to create an initial standard of $100 per hour for city-sponsored shows.

Although the city council has yet to restore live music performances at its meetings, the city is paying for musicians to play at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, for some Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority programs. and for street performances under other programs, with up to 60 performances per year before the Covid-19 pandemic.

Discussion of the issue has been tied to possible recommendations from the commission regarding the city’s next budget.

Those who spoke in favor of the increase focused on the time and expense of promotion, parking and other related costs that musicians are responsible for, as well as the rising cost of living in the city. In 2015, the city music census found that about one-third of all musicians living in Austin earned $15,000 or less per year.

Erica Shamaly, head of the music and entertainment division, said she’s spent the past few months reviewing her office’s budget to find money to cover the increase she says is overdue.

“When you look at some musicians’ annual salary, it’s shocking how low it is, and so the conversation we need to have is how much can a professional musician working full-time earn without having to work other jobs to have kids, a house and all the things you want to have,” she said.

President Anne-Charlotte Patterson said the city should move forward with the increase and consider how to direct more hotel occupancy tax revenue toward marketing programs for musicians that can be spent in different ways. as part of the state-authorized use of the support. tourism.

“When you think about boosting tourism as the HOT fund law says… I would say local tourism is tourism. Marketing music to locals can help bring money to hotels, so we need to look at all sources of these budget items and the things Visit Austin can help (with) us support with funding.

Commissioner Jonathan “Chaka” Mahone said the $200 hourly fee, which would be paid to each artist hired by the city with a one-hour minimum payment, would be fair to the city’s music community because of the increased cost of rehearsal space and equipment.

“There are so many costs to being a professional musician before you even get on stage, like the marketing, the publicity you do for digital media, and hiring someone to do a design for you…everything what you see happening with a performance costs money,” said Mahone, a member of rap group Riders Against the Storm.

“The $150 (rate) isn’t that high when you take all that into account. It really is probably minimum wage for the time they put in just to get to this show.

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