Last week we told you about the Sydney reggae band that took to Facebook to denounce Fairfax after being asked to play for free at The Age’s highly successful Night Noodle Markets. Fairfax was keen to hose down the PR fire — but it has published an article that has reignited the controversy.

A Fairfax spokesman told Crikey last week that the company understood where the band was coming from. “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.”

Since then though, Fairfax’s The Advocate has published a piece by freelance journo and student Elanor Watt slamming the band for their stance. Black Bird Hum, which Watt wrote was “relatively unknown”, had been given the opportunity “to perform at the infamous Melbourne Night Noodle Markets” (we think she means “famous”), which “gained huge amounts of momentum and attracts thousands of people”. Watt wrote:

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“I do not believe asking a musician to play at an event unpaid by anyone is a tough ask.”

“The band seems ungrateful to a potentially amazing opportunity that has been given to them. Dismissing events like this makes me wonder where this band will be in several years time, if they consistently have in their heads they are too good to be even approached for an unpaid gig, what has made them so entitled.

“Hundreds of people would be honoured to play at such an event that draws in thousands of people, but hey. obviously royalties are more important to some people.”

Needless to say, Black Bird Hum aren’t thrilled about the characterisation there’s something wrong with them for wanting money, and have responded on their Facebook page:

“[I]f you want to question our passion, this is being written from the passenger seat of a jam-packed van on the drive up to Byron Bay, Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast, as part of touring that will see us play 7 shows in 11 days. Those of us with day jobs have had to negotiate time off, those of us who make their living from gigging (with a variety of bands) are forgoing better paid gigs closer to home. We’ll sleep on friends’ couches, in backpackers, motels and maybe even in the van. We’ll eat shitty roadhouse food for the most part. We’ll spend more time driving and lugging gear than we will sleeping.

“We’ll manage the production, recording and mastering of all our music and self-fund it’s release year after year. We’ll do all the media, marketing and promotion ourselves. And we’ll pay everyone who works for us …

“If we seem ungrateful to Fairfax, it’s because we are.

“We’ve learnt to value what we do, and don’t appreciate well-resourced companies that exploit artists (who are easy targets, being constantly torn between a burning desire to play shows and the financial realities of life). Exposure never paid a bill.”

Crikey understands no one from Fairfax has contacted Black Bird Hum since they turned down the offer to play for free. — Myriam Robin

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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