Starting on a sour note
Union pickets music fest for not paying bands
A musicians’ union led a protest against a major Edmonton music festival Thursday.
Graham Guest, a professional musician and board member with the local Canadian Federation of Musicians (CFM) chapter, said it’s “unreasonable” that Breakout West Music Fest is not paying performers for its event, which features 60 acts playing at 10 venues this weekend, as well as conferences and industry networking events.
“Everyone involved in these conferences is getting paid at varying levels,” Guest said, picketing with about three dozen others outside Sutton Place hotel downtown.
Alberta Federation of Labour member Glynnis Lieb said the CFM’s struggle struck a chord with her. As someone who has been involved in the arts community, she’s noticed performers are often expected to work for free because it’s viewed as a “privilege to be seen and heard.”
“This is their business; they have to support themselves and their families,” Lieb said.
Breakout West is run by the Western Canadian Music Alliance on a budget of about $60,000 and takes place in a different city each year.
The alliance has argued performers get a lot out of the exposure, conferences and one-on-one time with industry members.
Its executive director, Robyn Stewart, said the protests had little impact on the festival, with only two acts pulling out.