Public Comment

Musicians Will Eat Anything You Feed Them

By Carol Denney
Wednesday July 20, 2011 - 12:37:00 PM

The musicians selected to play for the Solano Stroll through an application process that began back in April have just been told that this year they are expected to play for free.  

It’s understandable that most musicians will agree to this arrangement; they are loath to offend the organizers who presented them with this equation at the last minute for fear of losing future gigs. They don’t want to look selfish or petty, especially since the money was never much to write home about. 

But they would do well to note that this request is being made on behalf of one of the wealthiest commercial districts in the East Bay. And that police from both Albany and Berkeley are getting overtime for their security work. And that the organizers, while perhaps paid less this year, are still getting paid. 

Tough times do require sacrifice, but that sacrifice should be shared. It is not an exaggeration to suggest that a Solano Stroll without live music would be a very different event.  

Most musicians are familiar with playing for free – for worthy causes, benefits, and so forth. But the merchants of Solano Avenue, it would be safe to suggest, are not most people’s idea of a primary charity. This is the group some of whom objected to a Goodwill store locating on Solano for fear that it would attract the wrong crowd. 

This year’s Stroll theme, “Unsung heroes,” ought to inspire some community leaders and members to find a creative way to compensate the musicians who all too often are expected to play for hours outdoors in the often chaotic setting of street fairs for a pittance. Musicians rarely expect much; but they do deserve something.