You Want Fries With That? by Alex Walsh

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hamburger-imageIf you owned a hamburger joint, would you email the hamburger joint down the road and ask them to advertise your specials on their website?

Sounds kind of weird, right?

Would you be offended if they said, “Um, no thanks?”

Would you then try to convince them that they’d be furthering the cause of hamburgers everywhere?

That sort of thing happens all the time at Musicians Union Local 6. I know because my computer gets the email from the general public, which I then forward to the correct person.

One recent example came from a very well-respected concert promoter who was trying something new, a “pop-up” food truck circle somewhere in San Francisco. They were going to have three music groups playing. Sounded good to me, so when they requested that we advertise their event, I forwarded the email to our Local 6 President. This was his reply:


Please contact the person who wrote to you and ask–

Are any of the musical groups performing:
1. Union groups playing under contract
2. Receiving compensation for their services, and if so, how much?

If pressed, you can add the following sentiment (he can always call us directly if he wants more explanation):

Local 6 can’t really support an event that is not in any way directly benefiting our members.  We understand the indirect benefit to the general health of (your) organization, but perhaps this should have been part of an earlier conversation about who would be providing musical services at this “pop-up” and under what terms.



Two Local 6 Musicians Cooking Hamburgers at the 2014 Local 6 Picnic

“Very well said,” I thought. “And I do want fries with that, because it’s getting close to lunchtime, and I actually haven’t had a hamburger in a few months.”

So I emailed the promoter:

Hi (Name),

Sounds like a great event.

In order for Local 6 to promote a concert, it has to directly benefit our members.

Are any of the musical groups performing Union groups playing under a Union contract?
Are any of the groups receiving compensation for their services, and if so, how much?



But why, right? The point of the Musicians Union is to help its MEMBERS; not every musician in the world. Does that sound harsh? If our mission was to help every musician I think we’d have to raise our membership dues. We’d have to be an organization of billionaire musicians. I guess it’s possible…

Of course, the Musicians Union, like other music organizations, can indirectly affect all musicians in a positive way, like when it works to change travel laws to make it easier for musicians to carry instruments on planes, or keep internet royalty payments in place, or remind people that musicians deserve to be paid a living wage. (Local 6 wage scales are based on that concept, and always shock musicians and employers alike when they see what a living wage actually is in the Bay Area).


About that email? I never got a response.