San Francisco venues and local street festivals are struggling to support Live Music and the musicians who make it happen, therefore I am calling on the City to provide tax break incentives to venue owners and business owners who pay our local musicians a minimum working wage as the vibrancy of the music scene here is the economic back bone to the Hospitality and Tourism industry that San Francisco vitally depends on.
What I have come to see is a great inequity in musicians pay and I have clearly seen abuses from venue owners and musicians themselves. I also have seen really great venue owners, with nothing more than the desire to support, lose their business because they chose to do so. When I am discussing venues, it is noteworthy to mention that I am discussing a for--profit business model and not a non-profit organization.
This petition is seeking to ask our city legislators to support tax break incentives to venue owners who pay professional musicians a fair wage compensation for performances.
Further, this is a call for an economic impact study on the relationship to live music and food and beverage sales in the small venues. It is important to look at the variable venue size and how that controls the potential for door percentages, and what the absolute max the musicians can potentially yield per performer. I want to evaluate what percentage does the venue owner make on food and beverage to the percentage that the actual musician makes and yet who is charged for packing the house with their audience, if they are to be invited back again to perform for only a nominal fee, a less than satisfactory door percentage split and / or many times, simply a tip jar.
I believe there are abuses in the system and I believe there are situations where the venues simply cannot provide equitable pay, as they do not have the means to support it. This is what I really want to change.
I want to create a taxable economy for music in San Francisco where the venue owners will receive tax break incentives, if they pay musicians a fair wage base to start from, that in turn could be taxable income through the 1099 form and could generate economy back to the city, state and federal through income tax. If the Mayor can relieve Twitter of payroll tax to put their offices in mid-market, than I think this city is smart enough to understand how this similar action could support our live music venues and working musicians, in all 11 Districts vs. just one area of San Francisco.
The SF Entertainment Commission is currently allowing several limited entertainment licenses to go forth and currently there are no safeguards or provisions to provide for musicians fees or even a plan for how they will be compensated, so my concern with more and more licenses like this, where do we as a city care for the working conditions of our professional musicians? Also, what does this do for the responsible venue owner who is compensating the musicians and now has to compete with a venue next door that is keeping their operational costs lower by not paying musicians, and therefore can charge less for food and beverage, making that venue more appealing to the consumer, and once again driving down the value of live music.
In the case of the music venues in the Fillmore District, they received over 54 million dollars, with Yoshi’s Jazz Club receiving $7.4 million dollars in redevelopment funding from the City in order to support the Jazz in the Fillmore Heritage District, and often pay the local musicians a less than satisfactory guarantee with a virtual impossible percentage over, or simply a straight door percentage with no guarantee. Two other Fillmore venues, Rasselas and Sheba Lounge have consistently paid local musicians a mere door percentage split or worst just a tip jar. I point these venues out because if they are struggling to pay musicians and have received millions of dollars in redevelopment funds, can you imagine the challenges the venues are having without the support?
I would like a small venue to have support through tax breaks to pay musicians, where musicians would feel better in promoting a venue as they are getting paid and would like to continue to come back and that the bigger picture is we make the Bay Area a place that is once again attractive to venue owners and to musicians to want to work and live here.
I assert that implementing a minimum fair wage for professional musicians will raise the quality of our live music and will level the playing ground. This does not say that a musician cannot negotiate more for a performance, but rather this petition is seeking to truly address the inequity in pay for the musicians that play perhaps on a Monday night at a premier venue for a door percentage split, with no guarantee, and have to pack the house or face never returning, or for the tiny restaurant that needs the support of live music to draw patrons to their business, but cannot afford to pay the musicians fees, and inevitably breaks their commitment to pay the musicians even the most modest guarantee and then the venue owner finds him/herself regulating the musicians to simply perform for a tip jar.
Is it because they don't want to pay or because they can't afford it? I assert a bit of both. Therefore, we need the City to legislate and to provide financial incentives to ethically provide for the working conditions of our local artists and provide support to the ethical business owners who do want to provide a fair wage to our local artists.
The cost for a small business owner or festival producer to operate is exorbitant in San Francisco - with hefty payroll taxes, workers comp, Health SF taxes, etc. and often they are dependent on the working musician’s efforts to drive their food and beverage sales to keep their venue afloat, therefore the musicians have a right to fair compensation.
The City of San Francisco needs to act NOW if we are going to keep LIVE MUSIC sustainable here.
- I urge the Board of Supervisors to actively seek an economic impact study through the Office of Economic Workforce Development on live music to the food and beverage industry to better understand the relationship between the venue owner and the working musician, as it will show that both are essential to each other, and therefore solutions through legislation need to implemented to ensure long lasting support for these businesses and working individuals.
- I urge the Board of Supervisors to give payroll tax incentives / breaks to the venues who are paying musicians a minimum living wage* in order to maintain a cultural vibrancy here in San Francisco that translates to huge economic benefit to SF through the hospitality and tourism industries.
The proposed minimal working wage for a local musician is as follows: (Note: A local musician is characterized by living within 50 miles of San Francisco, due to the fact artists often draw their friends and family to come to San Francisco and spend money so the local musician also includes artists who live in around San Francisco within this mileage). A minimum of $100 a head for 2 hours of performance, plus $25 for each additional hour of performance thereafter. So a minimum payment for a 3 hour gig for a quartet would cost $500 as base platform of pay scale to work from.
It is noteworthy to point out: Musicians provide professional services that come with years of training and education and create the platform for the venue to sell their goods; i.e. food and beverages, therefore the minimum wage for a musician is not equal to the minimum wage of an employed person, as their performances drive the economy of the venue itself.
By providing a tax break to the business owner, making it possible for them to pay the working musician, these funds can be redistributed to our local musicians, which in turn keeps the local economy flowing in San Francisco.
Naturally, the musician would be employed as an independent contractor and therefore would still be eligible for their share of income tax to be paid, so the City, State and Federal will still maintain these taxes but on the backend from the working musicians.
Important to Note: The union is not effective in the case of the local jazz, funk, R&B, Blues, Gospel, folkloric musician, as they primarily service the top paid musicians such as the Opera and Symphony musicians who can afford to pay the union dues, therefore in order to build a culture where we can maintain our local musicians / artists and small businesses who support LIVE MUSIC, I urge you to sign this petition that I will send to the Board of Supervisors calling upon them to address these inequities and to take action immediately.
Another important point to be made: By legislating a minimum standard of pay, the quality of musicianship will rise, as the musicians themselves will not be able to cut the other musician out from attempting to get paid for their work. Musicians, who accept less than a minimum standard of pay for performances, essentially drive down the market value on live music performances. Creating legislation that prevents this from happening, maintains strong economy within the live music community.
The Bay Area is fortunate in that we live in an area that is teaming with exceptional talent. By supporting the exceptional artists and paying them equitably, San Francisco will become known as the best place for LIVE MUSIC and we will encourage artists to come here.
Here are the emails to all SF Board Supervisors and their legislative aides - I urge you to write to them directly and to sign this petition supporting equitable working wages for our local artists and financial tax break incentives to support the venues who support our local musicians!
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Should you decide to support this endeavor, please also forward to your friends and colleagues as well. I truly believe it is time San Francisco city leaders look at how they can support the small business of music venues and the small business of performing musicians and how we can build bridges between the two to create a stronger economy for all concerned.
For more information please contact me at www.urbanmusicpresents.com
Thank you for your support,