Tami Door on Make Music Denver, the arts scene -- and one group's call for boycott

Categories: Events

Denver's Sixteenth Street Mall will come alive with the sound of music on Friday, June 21
Since the early '80s, residents of cities around the world have assembled on June 21 in their individual town centers in celebration of World Music Day. The event is known here as Make Music Denver, and tomorrow our music-centric community will come together with over 300 musicians playing their hearts out on the 16th Street Mall throughout the day. We caught up with Tami Door, CEO of the Downtown Denver Partnership to discuss Denver's featured role in this international event, along with the Denver Musicians Association's concerns that Make Music Denver performers are volunteering to play.

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Westword: What role do you feel music plays in bringing a community together?

Tami Door: Music really brings a spirit to a city. Whether we're celebrating, honoring someone or mourning a loss, music brings people together around a common platform, regardless of where you come from. The Downtown Denver Partnership does countless music events every year, but what's unique about this event is it's community-driven. The musicians are coming forward and saying, "This is our gift to the community." We're celebrating music for the sake of music.

And this exposes different bands and styles of music to people who might not have otherwise known about them. It also puts Denver on a world stage, because our event is part of a much broader world-wide event that happens each year on this day. Over 100 countries and 520 cities participate, with musicians performing for and engaging with the community.

Over the last decade Denver has developed so many programs to support the arts -- but would an event like this have been possible twenty or thirty years ago?

I think so. Denver has had such good success in the arts, and then that success has bred even more success. So I think what you've seen in the last few years is Denver building on the base it's already had. The more we've told that story the more artists and musicians moved here, and they've flourished. The story is being told on a bigger scale now. At last year's event, Denver was highlighted at the culmination event when they took clips from all the different events from around the world. So that's over 100 countries and 520 cities taking a look at what Denver is up to.

And what made that possible is us going out and funding a platform for local musicians to perform. This is a non-profit event -- it's free for everyone. We provide the funding, the permits and the stage to celebrate music and give a gift to community. And they can leverage that in the future, for their own business or just their love of music.

I understand the Denver Musicians Association is asking for a boycott of Make Music Denver because the event does not compensate the musicians.

Right. And that's because this event is all volunteer-based. In order to be part of the global initiative, that's the format for the event. If musicians would like to play, it's entirely up to them. We put a call out to the community, explaining that this is World Music Day, so if you'd like to play, it's open to you. We had over 160 bands and over 300 musicians respond to that call. Frankly, I don't understand the boycott. Musicians love it, and are coming out of the woodwork to play -- and that's not even counting the amateur musicians who will randomly show up to play.

Everything's free. The only cost of the event is on us. We're paying for this so people have a place to play. This is a giant open mic, and we're providing the technology and the marketing.

Make Music Denver will sound off all day Friday, June 21, along the Sixteenth Street Mall. All performances are free. For more information, visit www.makemusicdenver.com.

Follow me on Twitter at @JosiahMHesse.

Location Info


16th Street Mall

1001 16th St., Denver, CO

Category: General

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Thank you MMD for the wonderful festival and to Westword for the coverage. Our group made a ton of contacts and even got booked for a wedding and a private party. We received great response and got a few followers too. Sometimes it's not about getting paid for every single performance. Sometimes it's just about getting the opportunity to play in festivals like this where you see people happy and dancing. Maybe for one day a normally stressed out person can loose himself in the music and have fun. The joys of seeing that are PRICELESS. Thank you MMD and thank you Mr. Vriesenga for looking out for us.

andrea572 like.author.displayName 1 Like

@4c.prod There is in fact something to be said for playing an event like that as a way to get exposure, but frankly, there are too many of these types of events/venues that use that excuse but never ante up on their end of the bargain. I am so glad you got a gig; but it's high time that these relationships are reciprocated.  I think it's time for solidarity with Pete Vriesenga's position, once and for all.

While we're on the topic, it's time that we look hard at the "door gig" venues too.  Give me a venue that my crowd will actually enjoy, with good service and reasonable prices, and maybe I'll bring my customers to you for the privilege of playing for free.  But you'd better offer me great sound, a great recording and more for FREE if you're not paying me.  

It's time we were transparent with our audiences about the way these venues/events actually work.

pvriesenga like.author.displayName 1 Like

The very notion that a Music Festival shall, by its Terms & Conditions, NEVER pay musicians is absurd. If you want a live band at your wedding or party you will then pay the musicians. This is no different than what is expected of the caterer and the florist.

The Downtown Denver Partnership is a homeowners association that collects membership fees from residents of a very affluent neighborhood. DDP now wants 100 bands to play for their party because they know an event of this size will draw crowds who shall then patronize downtown businesses and benefit their members. This is all great except for the missing piece that is PAY THE PIPER. They're attempting to pull this off by misrepresenting and repackaging this charade as a "community service."

Tami Door's claim that musicians must work for FREE "in order to be part of the global initiative" is a gross misrepresentation. DDP can easily fact-check their claim by asking if Bruce Springstein is getting paid when his band performs today for Fête de la Musique in Paris? The truth is easily found since the International Federation of Musicians (FIM) is based in Paris. On this matter, Thomas DAYAN, Assistant General Secretary of FIM writes: "la fête de la musique should not be considered a day where the labour law or the collective agreements are suspended! This day is a very popular event where you’ll find both amateur and professional musicians playing music in various places. In general, this day is very good for professional musicians because there are much more job opportunities than the other days.

Even if Tami's claims were true, what difference does it make? Why would ANY industry lower its standards only because they do it that way somewhere else in the world?

Music Festivals worldwide are a very large INDUSTRY. The Downtown Denver Partnership is a tax-exempt nonprofit organization that is disguising this commercial business as charity and community service. Professional musicians don't need DDP's "charity" and they certainly don't need a handout our handup from an organization that is only exploiting them. DDP is discriminating against musicians, who as a group are told they will never receive compensation at this or future Make Music Denver events. DDE can't get away with that with other professional services, e.g., truck drivers, stage crew, not to mention the fact that they pay themselves very well.

Their are many other entertainment choices on this day. Please patronize those businesses that show respect for musicians on this celebrated World Music Day.

Pete Vriesenga, President
Denver Musicians Association

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