Better pay, good music go together, a new group says

Pete Welch Photo
                                Jennifer Stills, shown above at Strawberry Festival, will play a house concert on Saturday, Aug. 25.

Pete Welch Photo Jennifer Stills, shown above at Strawberry Festival, will play a house concert on Saturday, Aug. 25.

A new organization on Vashon is dedicated to helping musicians make a fair wage, one house concert at a time.

The group, Tip the Scales, was incorporated as a nonprofit organization earlier this year by a group of islanders that includes artist and designer Carolyn Shilling Gill, island stalwart singer -songwriter Kat Eggleston and bassist Michael David Marcus. In the past several months, the group has presented three house concerts — small, intimate gatherings in island homes, where islanders can experience a show up close and personal, and the performers can, in turn, walk away with a guaranteed payment.

Past concerts — all of which have sold out — have included ones by Eggleston, the local band St. Ophelia and a songwriters“in- the-round” evening with Steve Itterly, Susan Lewis and Paul Dally. A fourth concert, by singer- songwriter Jennifer Stills, is set to take place at 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 25. Stills has worked as a singer-songwriter for more than two decades. The daughter of American rock icon Stephen Stills, she has honed her own sultry and soulful sound in cities, including Los Angeles, Phoenix, Nashville, Portland and Seattle. Seeking the inspiration to continue to develop herself and her music, she recently moved to Vashon.

The idea for Tip the Scales, its concert series and its activist work in promoting fair pay for musicians, came in a conversation between Marcus and Shilling Gill, Marcus said.

“We were talking about the value of a life in the arts,” Marcus said. “I had lived in Europe and Asia, and seen how different things were there, and how the value seemed to be declining in America, particularly in the way it has been challenged by the current administration. Carolyn said, ‘We’re on an island that has an artist community, so what can we do about it?’”

According to Marcus, the problem of fair pay for musicians is acute on Vashon. Tip the Scales, he said, wants to change that, raising the bar with a guaranteed payment of $150 for a solo performer and $100 per band member for larger groups. The group also aims to educate, with informal talks about its work at each of its house concerts.

“Nobody is ever going to disagree with you that artists should be paid, but it never actually pans out, so the conversation isn’t working,” Marcus said. “Our concept is to change that conversation — and it’s not just about the money, it’s about the value of what we do.”

House concerts, said Eggleston, are an ideal way to introduce community members to each other in an atmosphere of fun and inspiration, sharing food and drink and conversation, and — most importantly — music.

The nonprofits’ coffers are currently made up of donations from islanders, collected at the groups’ house concerts, which have a suggested offering of $15 to $20. But the group also accepts additional donations and plans to soon look for sponsors and other underwriters.

To make a tax-deductible contribution to Tip the Scales, offer your home as a venue for future concerts, or reserve a spot to attend the Jennifer Stills concert, email kat@ The suggested donation is $15. To respect the privacy of the homeowners hosting the event, the location will be given at the time of the RSVP and not advertised. The organization can also be found on Facebook; search Tip the Scales Events.

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