MT law and zealous bureaucrats endanger live music


by problembear

joe nickell of the missoulian’s entertainer uncovers a problem which threatens our very soul in this live music loving state. i cannot imagine showing up at the bar in Chico on a friday night from a flyfish float on the yellowstone and seeing no live band performing….this needs fixing folks and fast….with all the good bills in Helena going down in flames along with some bad ones it would seem that our legislators can at least protect our right as montanans to hunker down over a beer and hear our friends and neighbors wail out a good riff of music during these hard times.

  1. Yeah, this needs fixing. Surely there’s got to be a way to protect the bars from being sued everytime a performer gets hurt while on stage. There has to be a solution so that everyone doesn’t get buried under all the paperwork and legal fees. That’s what workers compensation is supposed to be all about.

    Seems like someone is trying to do an end-run around employee protections. Would it be different if our friends and neighbors didn’t get paid? I am aghast at the number of employers who insist their employees be ‘independent contractors’ (err … Missoulian deliveries?) Too often that means the employer thinks they can avoid withholding taxes, contributing to benefits, and taking responsibility for workplace health and safety.

    • under the table is how most of this works binky. it has always been this way….not necessarily condoning it. it’s just the way it is and you would be hard pressed to find a more individualistic western stubborn minded set than bar and saloon owners…they are not bad folks or evil to do this. it is just an old tradition and one that will be hard to break. of course, as you say, once someone is injured on the job and the lawyers start in with the claims and counter claims then the wheels will start to move away from tradition- but not before.

      and as an interesting side note, Mt Contractor’s Exemption has proven to be a leaking rowboat when it comes to workers taking cases to court. on numerous occasions judges and the mt supreme court have held that simply signing an exemption form does not in fact absolve the state of the liability of protecting workers when they are injured on the job. i will leave it to more law savvy commenters to cite the individual cases but basically the cases have proved that registering contractors does nothing to protect anyone. it is just a paper tiger which makes people think they are protected from lawsuits. workers compensation and the phony contractor’s registration laws have been shot full of legal holes for years and at this point resemble swiss cheese. the state will end up paying for any injury by any worker if they hire an attorney and can prove they were working at the time. the rest is just smoke and mirrors. of course, the attorney’s will target whoever pays better so a bar owner who stands to lose a lot should be wary. the bar owners with little or nothing to lose will probably never be sued by an injured worker who is not covered. the attorney will simply target the state.

  2. klemz

    Live music loving state? Is that why production companies can’t bring decent acts to Missoula? Generally, if you love something, you’re willing to pay more than a $5 cover.

  3. For what it’s worth, klemz, the biggest complaint I hear from promoters about their ability to bring acts to Missoula has to do with routing. We live in the middle of nowhere. The only acts who will come here are on their way between Minneapolis (or other big rust-belt cities) and Seattle. This is why we often see big acts coming here on weekdays. They want their weekends to be in the big markets. The REALLY big acts rarely come here because they’re flying rather than driving; and also because we don’t have venues or the population base to support the size of concerts they’re used to playing.

    It’s certainly true that this market isn’t used to paying the kind of cover charges one sees in big cities. I remember when I moved to Missoula in 97, I was amazed at how apologetic bouncers were when they asked for a $1 or $3 cover charge for music. I also remember a couple of years ago, many people seemed shocked at the prices of tickets to see Sting….What was that, $45? The Horror! :^)

    Then came the Stones and Elton John and people got a taste of real big-city ticket prices. But they paid them (in Elton’s case, twice).

    I’m not arguing against your position that people in this area balk at ticket prices. But I think that’s the case everywhere, just to different degrees.

    What’s not the case everywhere is living in a place where there’s only a market of 150,000 people — max — within reasonable driving range.

    But that’s why we all live here…Right?

    Anyway and lastly, thanks for the link-up Problembear. I hope folks are aware of the bill running through the legislature right now that aims to fix this issue. The story about that bill didn’t make it onto the Missoulian Website for some reason; but it’s in this past Friday’s paper version. It’s HB 598. Goes to the whole house this week, then (presuming it passes) to the senate. As a member of the infallibly objective news media (cough) I can’t dare promote a position on this bill, but everyone with an interest in Montana arts should certainly read it and form an opinion and call their state representation.

  4. Dean Wormer

    No more live music… in fact…

    No more fun of any kind at Faber.

  5. that’s too bad. i will miss the old dean….some wry humor injected into my hyperbole certainly didn’t hurt me any.

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