Mudcat Café message #2898880 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #129165   Message #2898880
Posted By: Don Firth
02-May-10 - 09:28 PM
Thread Name: NW Folklife threatens street performers (Seattle)
Subject: RE: NW Folklife threatens street performers
David S., I assume by your "accent" that you are British and have probably never been to a Northwest Folklife Festival (Seattle, WA, USA).

I hardly think that Reggie is the one who is "playing the system to their advantage." Thousands—yes, thousands—of singers from all around the area, including western Canada, come to the festival at their own expense. Nobody gets paid. They are donating their time—singing for free. Some are scheduled and sing on the performance stages. Others are busking. And many folks do both, often busking in the hope of picking up a dime or two to offset their own expenses, incurred by coming to sing at the festival in the first place.

This is hardly "playing the system." If anyone is "playing the system," it's those who are actually making fairly large chunks of money off the festival and getting the performers to do it for no compensation, other than simply a chance to perform. The performers, like Reggie, are the ones who make the whole thing possible in the first place.

And the Northwest Folklife Festival is one of the events that the city values, because it draws a fair amount of tourist trade to the city. Local hotels and motels, restaurants, and other tourist facilities profit by it. And pay business tax to the city.

And Reggie is hardly "whinging." He's making a legitimate complaint. The cavalier and shabby manner that some of those who run the festival often treat the performers is an example of biting the hand of the one who feeds you. I've sung at a number of these festivals, and even when scheduled and on stage, a number of times I've had to butt heads with officious twits who were on some sort of "power trip."

To paraphrase a slogan that came from the Sixties anti-war movement, "Suppose they gave a war festival and nobody came?"

Lots of "entrepreneurs" get people to sing for nothing by telling them, "The exposure will be good for you." Dave Van Ronk had a good answer for that:   "People have been known to die of exposure."

Don Firth