Within a day or so following the early morning OTAB meeting I discussed [music, Sept. 5: "Long Road A-ho"] many of the movers and shakers in our local music scene were beginning to organize the first ever Santa Fe Music Alliance.
At this point, the musicians have had their first meeting, and things are looking pretty good. SFMA's aim is to provide local musicians and promoters with a unified voice for shaping how our music scene operates vis-à-vis Occupancy Tax Advisory Board monies, event promotions, how bands are paid, venue politics, pooling resources, etc.
Admittedly, the group is only getting started, but, in the meantime, let's discuss some pros and cons of the proposed alliance.
It won't hurt for local musicians to have one another's backs. It always struck me as odd that there's a sense of competition among bands, especially in a town this small. A united front gives musicians a reason to promote one another and, that way, everybody wins.
No matter what happens, we'll still be living in Santa Fe—a town where you can't count on anyone to do anything…ever. You can organize alliances 'til the cows come home, but is there really any way to ensure that all of Santa Fe's musicians will be on the same page? Probably not. Plus, I can see a certain level of frustration coming out of the sad reality that most Santa Fe shows are just a thing that happens while you're eating dinner.
Though the entire youth contingent was represented by one dude from New Hampshire who said he moved to town a week ago, it's still better to have someone than no one. There was talk of involving the all-ages set in whatever form the alliance might eventually take, but unless the kids get interested and involved, they'll continue to have their few sad shows each month at Warehouse 21, a general feeling of boredom and no means to change things for the better. Luckily for everybody, Shannon Murphy of MIX and the After Hours Alliance showed up, and she's an organizational dynamo. Trust me, fledgling alliance, you want her on your team.
According to their website, Austin, Texas' HAAM (Healthcare Alliance for Austin Musicians) provides "access to affordable healthcare for low-income, uninsured working musicians." A system like this would be rad across the board, especially for parents who want to rock out and still take their kids to the dentist. However, where exactly would this money come from? Who would decide what constitutes a working musician? Surely there will be access to some OTAB money at some point, but that isn't necessarily a long-term solution. Or, say you've got a slow month with fewer shows…say you've become more of a studio/recording nut…what then? Does this mean there will be fees or dues that come with taking part in the alliance? Granted, these are the early stages, but it seems like there are a whole lot of questions coming out of just this one aspect.
Con: Scared Venues
It's entirely possible that an army of musicians thirsty for better pay and working conditions might spook venue owners, but at least some of the attendees seemed to understand how symbiosis works. "Nobody is out to start a war with our bosses," local drummer Dave Waldrop said at the meeting. This sounds good, but people get passionate without realizing it, and holding tight to the virtue of patience will become all-important. Oh, and don't forget that no matter how great you think your band is, no venue is going to pay you two grand.
Pro: Upping Their Game
Local singer-songwriter Jono Manson pointed out that local musicians will have to work at making their events more worthwhile. Think of it as a loose set of standards by which all members will have to abide. Thank god. I think everybody in this city can fall victim to the "It's just Santa Fe; I don't need to bring the proverbial 'it'!" mentality, so any reason for better shows is welcome.
Pro: It's Happening
Good for you, Santa Fe musicians!