Venuology.com, a new website from the AFM Freelance Services Division, is becoming an important resource for musicians booking gigs at New York City nightclubs and other venues.
In recent years, musicians have found that even large venues with good crowds are refusing to pay musicians adequately. Bands are often paid solely by audience tips, leaving clubs free to erase live music from their business expenses.
Without significant union density, many musicians in indie rock, the downtown scene, jazz, world music,Latin music and country-western are fending for themselves – otherwise known as the D.I.Y. (do-it-yourself) model. Clubs benefit from a glut of musicians looking for gigs, and the subsequent race to the bottom.
The power dynamic is skewed. For a given club, an owner can choose between multiple bands looking for work. From the band’s perspective, they can accept the owner’s terms – or let another group take their place.
Venuology.com ameliorates this problem. It creates a space where musicians can safely share information about venues. Bands review venues they perform at, writing anonymously about their experience and optionally listing details such as the club’s backline, sound quality, room size, whether the club promoted the show and even how much the band was paid.
Armed with this information, other groups can make informed choices when negotiating with venues. They know if the venue has ripped off other bands, or if musicians uniformly love playing there. Musicians can see if groups received free drinks or food. They have a general idea of what others were paid, and they know if the venue uses minimum draws to justify denying bands a share of the cover.
As musicians get a better look at the big picture of the venue landscape, they may think twice about playing at clubs that are rated poorly – without needing to experience it themselves. When booking musical acts, these clubs will now face a small army of empowered musicians rather than isolated individuals.
Indeed, an important goal for the site is to demonstrate the power of collective action, especially to musicians that may not be familiar with the AFM or the labor movement in general. The website is a recruiting tool, a hook to introduce indie musicians to the AFM while providing a genuinely useful service.
Venuology.com may also help Local 802 organizers determine where the pressure points of the music scene lie; the issues most important to indie musicians will become more apparent.
Since the 1990’s, several organizations have arisen in the city to address problems of compensation, opportunity and community, including the Noise Action Coalition, Take It To The Bridge, RUCMA and Local 802’s own Justice for Jazz Artists campaign.
Hopefully, Venuology.com will be a useful tool for activists already engaged in a fight to improve working conditions in New York City clubs.
Of course, the most important ingredient of a venue review website is user participation; musicians need to write reviews! Visit Venuology.com and sign up today! It’s free and completely anonymous.
For comments or questions, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or (917) 229-0238.