Thanks for supporting live music and poetry! How can you do more?

Join us in promoting a living wage for performing artists in this wealthy and sophisticated city!
Think it through, and express your opinions to your district supervisor!
Get behind Jazz in the Neighborhood’s Guaranteed Fair Wage Fund!

At Bird & Beckett, we generally ask you to put up $10 to $15 to $20 when you come to a show, and that goes a long way. And when you and your neighbors donate to our nonprofit, that supplements the money you put in at the shows and also underpins our overhead costs — so that we can stay in business as a venue and as a bookshop.

Is $10 or $20 a lot of money to hear talented performers play live music?

Not really. How much did you pay for your last burrito? How much did you tip the wait staff in that nice restaurant down the street for visiting your table several times in the course of serving you a meal that cost you $20 to $75? How much did you pay to see a movie over in West Portal? What price the popcorn?

30 people at the bookshop putting in $10 apiece comes to $300. For four musicians, that’s $75 apiece, with nothing to the venue. If there are only 12 people in the room, $15 apiece is only going to total $180 for that Saturday night quartet, though we pay out $400.

But your pockets on any given day are only so deep!
A healthy arts culture requires public subsidy! Every town knows it.

As an individual, you’re making a substantial and crucial contribution when you seek out live music and put up your cash, whether by paying a cover charge, by throwing money in the donation buckets and tip jars, by spending lavishly on a performer’s merchandise and a venue’s food & drink. Still, it’s not really enough unless you’re able and willing to pay a $50 cover instead of $15. Subsidy is necessary. How do we get there? How do we distribute it?

While we’ve been pondering that, Mario Guarneri, Jon Herbst and Jan Woo haven’t been waiting. Jazz in the Neighborhood – a wonderful organization they run that’s been sponsoring performances in non-traditional venues all over the Bay Area the past several years – has just launched a fund to supplement musicians’ pay. That’s the Guaranteed Fair Wage Fund. Their efforts can’t cover all the musicians in all the venues. Nonetheless, they’re raising the bar, raising consciousness and setting a standard. $150 per show per performer is the goal they’re establishing. You’ll be reading about their efforts in the media. They’re our allies, and champions of the City’s (the region’s) working jazz musicians. Google them now! Wrap your mind around their efforts.

It’s unusual for musicians to get decent pay in this city when they play live music. Some get steady work, and sometimes that work is decently paid, but that’s rare and they almost always travel far and long for a 2-3 hour gig, lugging gear, setting up, breaking down and schlepping. Practicing incessantly, working side jobs. And most find gigs only occasionally — teaching or doing what they can to stay in music. For most, pay is paltry and, we believe, insultingly low. Often a just a tip jar to split, or a percentage of the door. Playing your heart out for $35 isn’t unheard of. Playing for less happens too. How would that sit with you if you were in their shoes? What can be done?

Email your thoughts on the subject to us and to District 8 (Glen Park/Castro) Supervisor Jeff Sheehy at jeff.sheehy@sfgov.org.

We hope you’ll ask him to get behind the idea of finding ways to use tax money to supplement the wages of working, professional musicians who perform in the city’s clubs, bars, restaurants, coffee houses, bookshops and street fairs.