'They're getting snuffed': Seattle pledges to aid 'hungry' musicians

SEATTLE -- The city is rewriting its playlist for musicians as civic leaders push nightclubs to support better working conditions for local bands.

Seattle is blessed with musicians who simply love to play, but sometimes clubs take advantage of that passion by short-changing the artists. City councilmembers are ready to play a different tune.

"People kind of have this thing where they want to have music, but the don't want to pay for that music," said Nate Gniffke, a trumpet player who was tuning up for a gig at Tula's Restaurant and Jazz Club in Belltown.

Tula's is one of 20 seattle nightclubs pledging to treat musicians fairly.

Musicians complain they often pay to play in Seattle, or they play for free and cover their own costs. They also say a lack of written contracts leaves them vulnerable to last-minute changes in pay.

"They are just basically getting snuffed (by some music venues), saying the exposure is best enough to come play for us," Gniffke said.

Seattle City Councilmember Nick Licata pushed through a resolution that supports better working conditions for musicians.

The Fair Trade Music Seattle Resolution gives bands and venues templates for work contracts and has also provided classes to negotiate fair agreements.

"I think hungry musicians probably sometimes don't cut the best deals for themselves, so I think holding the establishments responsible for making sure they set great standards is a good first step," said Capitol Cider owner Julie Tall.

Capitol Cider was one of the first music venues to sign the pledge. Tall said it's important because she wants Seattle to celebrate its vibrant music scene, and not strike discord among up-and-coming artists.

"I believe in paying musicians fairly. I believe in supporting art and artists," Tall said.

Special logos and signage are in the works so people know which clubs support the fair treatment of musicians. Those should be on display soon.

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