Folk Rhythm And Life – What’s The Go?

The intention of this piece is to bring awareness amongst musicians. Every time you get under-payed, you make it hard for the musician after you as well. Let’s stop under valuing what we do. Think about the amount of hours you have spent rehearsing, practising and doing admin as well as all the dollars spent on recording, mixing, mastering, artwork, design, printing, publicity etc etc. We should take into account these things when we quote. You should also consider that the income streams are thinning, but the one thing you cannot digitalize and put on a server is a live performance. Let’s protect this income source. WHAT CAN YOU DO? Copy and paste the 8 questions below and email them to with your own thoughts…


We have come across Folk Rhythm & Life. This festival (aka FRL) is held annually and more recently biannually in Eldorado not far from Wangaratta and has been running for the last 14 years (except for 2007 where they took a break due to the draught and every 2 years since then). All sound engineers, Musicians, stall holders, staff, stage managers etc are volunteers. The festival holds 2000+ (apparently possibly up to 4000) and the charge between $160 – $180 a ticket. The fest sells out pretty quick (before bands are announced) and the spend on publicity is ZERO! No posters, no radio plugging. You don’t hear about this festival except for word of mouth. My industry colleagues have mostly never heard of FRL. It falls under the radar! They may have a public liability bill and some rigging as well as other overheads. Maybe ticketing costs? I personally contacted the festival organisers a few months ago with these questions without a satisfactory reply.

I have a friend who runs a non for profit fest of similar number that pays all musicians and staff and runs at a cost of under $50,000. If you do the sums you’ll see why we are really concerned. $180 (tix) x 3000 – $100,000 (generous estimations of cost to run a fest like this) = ???. Let’s not forget there is beer and food on sight creating revenue as well. What are you seeing from this? Beer & Food? Some petrol money? I don’t think this is good enough. ALL THIS UNDER THE CLAIM THAT THE PROFITS GO TO CHARITY. Have a look online and you’d see that there is little to no evidence of this. You think if there was such large quantities being donated there would be some PR to back it up?

As musicians I encourage to ask your festival promoters where your hard earned time and music is going! You can get them here: Email them here: and ask these Q’s. Band managers and agents could you forward this to your artists?

All we are doing is simply asking them the questions:

1. Why are musicians not paid for performing at FRL?

2. Can you name the charities that you’ve donated profits to since the conception of the festival and how much each year was donated to charities?

3. What have the ticket prices been for each year the festival has run, and can you account for the expenses against what has been donated to charity? Where does the remainder go if there are limited expenses in running the festival?

4. Do you feel that there is a moral obligation for you to pay your artists? Why or why not?

5. In the modern environment where musicians income streams are thinning, do you think musicians are paid fairly (in a general sense) to play original, live music in Melbourne and Australia?

6. Besides providing the opportunity for musicians to play at FRL for no pay (in the past) have you or your festival contributed to the sustainability of the live music scene here in Melbourne or beyond? If so in what ways?

7. How do you see the future of FRL unfolding? And what future benefits will this festival provide the musicians who contribute the majority of the artistic content of the festival?

8. Are there any facilities, services, personel (ie publicist, agents, staging an rigging, backline, production etc) that are paid to put on the festival at any capacity? Who are they and what are their job descriptions?

Now all we need is for them to account for this and past festivals. A simple answer like: That year we made $x amount and we donated $x amount to charity and kept $x amount to make sure we could pay for the overheads of next years event. The thing is, even if they can do this (which is a possibilty though highly unlikely) they still need to PAY MUSICIANS!!!! Take to take food out of the mouths of one sector to feed another? The music industry is a shrinking business. The consumption is ever growing.

Another point is that if they are donating such large sums to charity why not put aside a portion of that to the fees of the musicians and bands that are actually contributing the majority of the festivals content?



As musicians we know the difficulties in such an industry. We need to start valuing the time and money we spend on our craft, and not let this be overlooked by venues and festivals who are concerned with little more than the bottom line.

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