Fair Trade Music

Free Trade and Fair Trade  are terms we often hear bandied about.  Sometimes they get lumped together as the same thing. They are not. Before we begin, let’s define the two terms.

Free Trade means unrestricted, uncontrolled access to an economy unburdened by tariffs and duties. In highly developed economies like the United States and much of Europe, this means that goods made in countries with very low labor costs have a distinct advantage over countries with higher wages.  In theory, all boats are raised. In practical reality it seems that working wages in the developed countries are forced to come down much faster than working wages in the non-developed countries move up. Free trade is most often controlled by government at the behest of multi-national corporations.

Fair Trade, on the other hand, focuses on the actual wages paid to the people doing the work. The goal of fair trade is to give more power to individuals and improve the quality of their lives as opposed to improving profits for a corporation or other large business entity. 

Most of us have heard about Fair Trade Coffee. The basic tenet of the fair trade coffee movement is to create a fair, equitable and ethical pricing structure from the farmer all the way to the end consumer of a delicious cup of coffee.

When it was found that coffee farmers were starving while coffee wholesalers and retailers were seeing record profits, Fair Trade Coffee organizations and activists began to spread the truth. This generated negative publicity for the large coffee importers and distributors. Exploiting poor workers was seen by consumers as unethical, cruel and greedy.  A company getting a Fair Trade Compliant certification meant that the coffee was meeting a fair and equitable standard all the way from the consumer to the grower and everyone in between. 

Consumers began to become aware that they could make a difference in the lives of people they would never have any interaction with. They wanted the people at the source to thrive just as much as they wanted to enjoy a good cup of coffee.

This fair labor and trade movement has grown over the years to include many things we consume from iPhones to clothing. We want to help the people at the beginning of the chain to prosper and are willing to both shame the companies who exploit workers and pay a slight bit more to monitor fairness.

One area where Fair Trade is just beginning to take root is in the creative arts. Everyone from writers of news to marketing to television to music could stand to benefit from fair trade. Content creators of all stripes could unite to make people aware that they also need to make a fair wage in order to provide the service to consumers.

Fair Trade Music is something we should all take a look at.  To add a personal note to this story, I’ve been blessed to make a modest, but decent living for almost 40 years because of the work of writers.  Songwriters, tv and film writers and copywriters have provided the foundation for the product I supply as a producer and sound engineer. I owe them a lot as do most of us who work in the business or who consume content on a daily basis. We want the best content possible at a fair price and we want the creators of this content to be able to feed their families just as we feed ours.


Take a few minutes and read about fair trade music and how YOU can help to make it a reality without having to resort to years of government bickering and competing lobbyists.

We as lovers, consumers and creators of music can make fair trade and wages a reality, but it takes getting off our butts and taking action. Spreading the word. Talking to people and getting aware of HOW we can make things better.

Let me know what you think can level the playing field for the people in the trenches.
 Thanks.