Fairfax’s events division revenues were up 33% for the division in the last financial year, and it was described as a “highlight for the year” in the annual report. But the boom hasn’t necessarily resulted in riches for those whose work goes into making the events a success. A band asked to play for free at The Age’s highly successful Night Noodle markets has cried foul at being asked to play a set for nothing. Fairfax says it can see where they’re coming from and is looking at how it does this stuff in the future.

Sydney-based reggae band Black Bird Hum lashed Fairfax about the event’s lack of a music budget on Facebook yesterday, having been approached last week to play a set at the markets by an external agency managing the events planning aspects for Fairfax.

“We’re flattered to be on the radar of a company with an annual ‘Total Group Revenue of $1,830 million’ (FY2016). We have, however, decided to decline the invitation to perform at the event on account of you deciding not to pay us.”

“We’re guessing that the sound tech who ran the PA on the night was paid; as were the graphic designers and marketing companies that did the event website, promo and marketing material; and the companies that supplied the lighting, tables, chairs and umbrellas; and the cleaners. And so on. We’re guessing no one else was offered the chance to work on the event in exchange for “exposure”. We’re guessing you made a decision to pay everyone who worked on your event in ‘real money’ except the musicians.

“In October alone, we will have performed 15 gigs across three states as Black Bird Hum. We will have been paid for all of these gigs, often by companies with annual total group revenues probably less than 0.1% of your company’s. These organisations know the value that music brings to their event or venue and pay accordingly …

“To everyone else who pays musicians to bring positive vibrations to their events — RESPECT.”

The band’s Nish Manjunath told Crikey the group had spoken to other bands who had played the event in the past, and they also didn’t get paid. The band didn’t originally realise it was a Fairfax event, figuring maybe it was organised by the local council, which wouldn’t necessarily have a lot of money.

After being contacted by Crikey, a Fairfax spokesman responded that the company “totally get[s] where these guys are coming from”:

“It has never been our intention to simply be on the take and not giving back. We work with the artist community in a range of ways — including paid and promotional arrangements — but clearly we need to look at how we are engaging with everyone to ensure we are showing RESPECT.”