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Petition urges Minneapolis park board to pay musicians

Minnesota musicians advocate for compensation as free summer concert series rev up
Minnesota musicians advocate for compensation as free summer concert series rev up 02:14

MINNEAPOLIS — Summer months are synonymous with live music, like at the the Lake Harriet Bandshell in Minneapolis.

But those hundreds of artists, who adorn Minneapolis outdoor stages year after year for Music in the Parks, are unpaid performers.

"There's very little financial incentive to become a musician," said Stephen Kung.

Kung is a horn player for several prominent Twin Cities bands, like The Suburbs, The Honeydogs and The New Standards.

"We're in an era in which musicians and artists are fighting for their value, as AI rolls in and takes over stuff," said Kung.

It's not just AI, it's also inflation. Financial compensation to play at venues has remained unchanged since the mid-80s, Kung said.

"Everybody likes to say the arts are important. I believe the arts are an important part of the community and when you say 'yeah can you put a dollar figure on that?' They're like 'um zero'," said Kung.

It's why Kung started a petition titled "Make the Mpls Park Board pay performers." In the past week, it's grabbed close to 1,400 signatures.

"It validates that it is a problem," said Kung.

With more than 220 concerts, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation board tells WCCO that paying the 220 plus performers isn't in their budget. A board spokesperson said the money they do have goes toward professional audio support and equipment, which levels the playing field for artists at their parks, they said.

The park board acknowledges, that while some smaller city parks departments pay performers, they said Minneapolis works on a different scale. 

A spokesperson said, to their knowledge, there have not been any budget discussions regarding musician pay.

"They need to come to the table with a bit of humility, a bit of creativity and a willingness to work with people," said Kung.

Kung said the board needs to recognize the problem.

"These parks are amazing because you pay people to make them amazing. Why not pay other people to also make them amazing," said Kung.

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