Melbourne International Coffee Expo (MICE), think musicians should work for free.

UPDATE 21/2 4pm:

In a statement issued to Tone Deaf, Simon Coburn, Show Director at GM Events said the decision to encourage artists to perform for free was not approved by management.

He said the concept has been cancelled and that MICE “shouldn’t have gone down this path.”

Read Coburn’s full statement below:

MICE never intended that this would be taking advantage of musicians, but rather the intention of the team was with a view to providing a platform for some new and emerging local talent. The lack of understanding of the music industry has had an unintended outcome and we never wanted to cause any harm with this. 
This idea was an internal one put together by the team without getting it approved by management, and unfortunately, it wasn’t thought out from all angles, despite having consulted with a range of musicians for their perspective first. As such, once we became aware of the concept, we instructed the team to cancel it straight away, with a view to reassessing how this is approached moving forward.
Again, we never intended to be unfair to musicians with this opportunity and shouldn’t have gone down this path. 
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“Asia Pacific’s largest specialty coffee event”, Melbourne International Coffee Expo (MICE), think musicians should work for free.

Event organisers posted the following call-out for expressions of interest on Gumtree for its 2017 event from March 30 – April 1.

The post, which insinuates exposure is more than enough payment despite hosting almost 100 vendors and suppliers at the event, has naturally incited a major backlash from the music industry.

John Wardle, Director at Live Music Office, told Tone Deaf:

“This is a very well attended event, with 10,000 patrons expected with an entry fee of $35.00. Melbourne has a strong history of taking pride in its live music scene, and given that, it’s likely there are those considering attending who appreciate and respect musicians and would be particularly uncomfortable to know that the entertainers are not being paid, unlike the rest of those working here across a range of occupations. Not even enough to cover their petrol, rehearsals, strings and equipment or even a meal or cup of coffee.”

Jeff Consi of Melbourne band The Badloves warned fellow musicians:

Melbourne artist Holly Norman penned a letter to MICE, which said:

“I’m not sure what your reason is for requesting a free service from professionals for your upcoming event but I hope that the volume of backlash you’re receiving on social media will give you an idea of how you could approach this differently in the future. If you’d like to discuss further please feel free to get in touch.”

Ticket prices aren’t exactly cheap either, passes range from $35 for a one-day pass to $65 for the three days; and tickets to the launch party are going for $80.

Given MICE is expecting 10,000 attendees for this year’s event, it’s more than a slap in the face to local artists who are fighting just to be paid for the work they do.

Take Kate Nash, the British singer-songwriter posted this video on Monday calling out Snapchat for using her music without her permission, and without paying for it.

MICE did actually jump on Jeff Consi’s post to respond. Their excuse was: “We had the option to play a Spotify playlist”. We sincerely hope they’d planned on getting a performance license for that.

John Wardle had this to say in response to MICE:  “As the Melbourne International Coffee EXPO (MICE) 2017 have identified, live music is a career choice, although how many other careers are there where people are requested to work without pay as in this circumstance?”

MICE is an event run by Prime Creative Media (Food & Beverage Industry News Awards, Women in Industry Awards). Tone Deaf has reached out for comment.

Wardle said MICE does now have an opportunity to turn things around:

“Given that the event is still a month away from happening,  there’s a great opportunity here for the event organisers to rethink their live music presentation and ensure that all the artists performing over the three days are well paid for their wonderful contribution to the Expo.”

MICE has removed its Facebook post calling for musicians to work for free.