Guitar Center is integrated into the lives of a lot of musicians in the US, selling gear to some and employing a lot of them too. Unfortunately, it’s making a lot of musicians’ and employees’ lives a lot harder. This is a company that has traded on musicians’ love for music and enthusiasm for gear to exploit its employees. Unfortunately it’s gotten worse (http://www.thenation.com/blog/174843/guitar-center-prices-so-low-employees-cant-survive-wages#) since the company was bought by Bain Capital (literally a bloodsucking parasite in the global ecosystem – they own 80% of the UK’s blood supply..Bain was also founded with money from El Salvadoran death squads).
Under Bain’s human-hating practices, supported by austerity logic that forces the weakest and the poorest to sacrifice the most, the company has lowered commissions and wages, increased sales requirements while requiring employees to do more non-sales-related work. It’s harder for folks to survive and do good work (on the job and in their music). But right now, Guitar Center workers are organizing themselves to fight back against their exploitation by the company. Some stores have unionized with the coordination of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, and more are organizing as we speak. NY unionized a few months ago and Chicago did just this month.
Guitar Center employees are seeking support from broader communities of musicians out there, including people who’d be willing to join a “Musicians Alliance” to publicly support their struggle for a livable job. In all the discussion over file-sharing, downloading and the digital era, we can sometimes lose sight of the fact that one fundamental issue is the right to survive, regardless of the job you do.
Musicians’ struggles are not separate from other workers in that regard –getting musicians paid is a struggle that goes far beyond the internet, licenses and contracts. Having a livable day job is a great way to make great art, and no farther out of reach than other kinds of paying the bills. Individual people don’t have much power to fight back regarding their pay or the conditions of their labor, and it’s a good time for musicians to start thinking about when to organize, and what we want to demand, and from whom. Demanding living wages and livable jobs from the people who make a profit off us is a good beginning.
To bring that closer to reality for people at Guitar Center, you can sign the petition at the link below and there is also a link to contact the union if you want to find out more about how to help. http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/bain-capital-let-guitar-2