Should Summerfest Pay Local Bands More?

Jun. 24, 2010
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I've received a handful of e-mails about a detail I left out of this week's profile on Summerfest's local music stage, the Cascio Interstate Music Groove Stage: The stage doesn't pay its performers anything. This hits a nerve for a lot of musicians, and touches on a perennial complaint about Summerfest, that it increasingly takes local talent for granted.

Decades ago, the complaints go, the festival paid local bands rather handsomely, but that's changed over time as competition to play the festival has grown more cutthroat. For many local bands, Summerfest is an important gig offering valuable exposure, and there's no shortage of local bands willing to play for free (as evidenced by the inevitable battle of the band contests that pop up every year, where bands literally compete to perform at the festival). The local Groove Stage offers deserving bands a more dignified means to play the festival, but I can certainly see how it could offend many musicians that the bands headlining the stage aren't paid.

Not being in a band, I can't speak to this, but I'm wondering if any readers have any opinions or insight. Does Summerfest pay its local talent fairly? Is it a violation that the local stage doesn't pay its performers?


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