A growing number of not-for-profit music festivals with a music industry component have been off-loading the cost of paying bands by offering them free tickets and exposure to audiences in part populated by industry professionals who can provide opportunities that can help jettison unknowns to prominence.
It is a quid-pro-quo that has become a growing point of contention for local chapters of the American Federation of Musicians union (AFM) in Canada who want musicians to be treated as employees and paid for the work they do. This friction created a stand-off that finally found a resolution with the East Coast Music Association’s annual awards and conference, and erupted again in Edmonton last week during the BreakOut West event that included a four-day conference and a three-night music festival.
Like many of these hybrid events attended by music industry professionals, a small but significant part of the financing comes from various government and government-funded organizations.
In Halifax, the stand-off was publicized but never spilled out into a public protest on the street. In Edmonton, the union organized protests, and the face-off was splashed into news stories and in TV news coverage.