toronto music venue

Toronto musicians angry after being asked to play for free

Musicians are upset after a Toronto volunteer community organizer requested they play for free.

Local business owner Ken Fam posted in the Toronto Musicians Facebook page to request any interested musicians message him if they wanted to play for a huge crowd near Kensington Market this week. 

"Anyone want to play for a packed bar on Wednesday," he wrote. "It's a free event so none of us are getting paid but I can guarantee a full audience and fun times!"

The since-deleted post garnered quite a bit of attention online. Stephen Lamb is one local musician who spoke out on Facebook. blogTO later spoke to him and he explained his thoughts. 

"I perform part-time, the price I pay to have a family, do the juggle and have a better income," he said.

"No complaints, and for the record I rate myself semi-professional because I haven't invested the way others have through extended training or schooling, but I know we (band) bring a quality level that has proven worthy of fair compensation."

Lamb said his need to voice his frustration was because many of his musician friends have repeatedly been asked to perform without fair compensation. This is something he doesn't believe is fair, especially for young people trying to hone their craft and make a fair living. 

"There are venues out there that appreciate live music and are paying for it fairly," he concluded. "It's because of them that musicians know it's currently possible. Hopefully, the patrons will return as the world reopens and more venues will follow suit as they feel their incomes improve."

Fam told blogTO that he is volunteering and will not be making any money off Wednesday's event. 

"I am literally spending my own time and money in order to get people out socializing and having fun," he said.

"As you know, the hospitality industry has suffered greatly due to the pandemic. This is why I am doing all these events, to get people out while helping local restaurant owners."

Fam said his goal was for the community to come together and celebrate, while helping local businesses get back on their feet. Two live performers will be featured at the event. 

"It is going to be a fantastic evening that will inject a lot of life back into Kensington, so I invite you to come and check it out," he said. 

Lead photo by

Old Man Flanagan's Ghost

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