How to Use Labor Culture at Your Event

Some of the best ideas come from people you are organizing. Someone writes a song or a skit. Or draws something. Or has some other creative idea. The real advantage of using culture on the inside is that insiders know all the nuances of the issues and that is reflected in their music or art.

But there is an advantage to hiring labor artists and musicians. They have a body of work and professional experience that amateurs may lack.

Develop an ongoing relationship with these labor musicians and artists. This will help you in future events and campaigns.


1. Think ahead: How do you want the public/members/boss to behave differently as a result of attending this event? And how can culture help you achieve that goal? Involve the performers or artists in the original planning and make sure culture is included in the budget. Printing song sheets, lyrics in program books, etc., can boost musical participation.

2. Show respect. Labor artists and musicians have been using culture to strengthen the labor movement for many years. Give them information about the issues and tell them what the speeches will be about, so they can enhance or augment what’s being said. Give them ideas and give them feedback on their ideas. But then let them do their thing. (Don’t tell them what to draw or sing.)

Take advantage of their skills, talents, enthusiasm and experience. Consider them valuable consultants who will help you mobilize and energize not just your own membership, but the larger community as well. Regard them as specialists who can turn your rally from “big” into “inspiring.” Put them to work!

3. Money. Negotiate with the artists and musicians. Pay prevailing rates. If you have the resources, then be generous. Artists and musicians need to make a living, too. Don’t ask them to play for free when you are spending money on sound systems, venue rental, buses, and banners. Work with your local musicians’ union on this issue.

Remember, you are paying for skills and expertise that took many years to acquire. And labor artists and musicians often contribute their talents to groups who truly can’t afford to pay.

4. Get a good sound system. This is important. If you are hiring musicians, you want them to be heard and to sound good. Talk with them to see what they need. Sometimes they have their own equipment. Hotel sound systems are not adequate for music presentations.

In many cases, you will want to hire a sound company and you will want to develop a relationship with the sound company for future rallies. Make sure the sound technicians talk to the musicians about their technical needs well in advance of the event.

Particularly for larger events, consider hiring a production company to provide the professional expertise needed to pull special events together. A production company already has relationships with the best venues, sound companies and other technical vendors needed to make your event come off well. Some production companies can also help you find excellent artistic entertainment talent.

5. Include culture in your publicity. Send lyrics, particularly for new songs, out with press releases. It can spark media interest and draw people to your event. Be sure to give credit for photos or artwork.

6. Photography. Assign or hire someone in advance to shoot still photography for your events. It’s much easier than scrambling around after-the-fact to find usable photos.

7. Questions? If you have any questions, contact the Labor Heritage Foundation at