Sea-Tac Airport’s new ‘music wall’ soothes travelers while supporting Seattle-area artists

Sea-Tac Airport’s new ‘music wall’ soothes travelers while supporting Seattle-area artists

Magical things used to happen when there was live music at the airport.

Travelers could take a moment and listen to the sound of Seattle – a taste that lasted longer than a bowl of chowder or craft beer.

The musicians also had their moments. Stevie Wonder stopped once to listen to a young artist, asked her if she had a recording deal, and left his card.

Eddie Vedder gave a musician a tip of $ 100 and a few tips – encouragement to keep going.

And then the pandemic came and the music stopped – aside from the pre-recorded songs and announcements from musicians like Duff McKagan and Allen Stone.

That will change this week when Sea-Tac Airport unveils its so-called “Music Wall” – a 12 by 7 foot screen that loops for two hours by 30 musicians from the Seattle area. and whereupon viewers are asked to make donations that will be distributed among the artists.

The music wall is located in Hall C across from Gate C10.

This is a way of bringing music back to a place silenced by the pandemic and helping artists whose livelihoods have been ruined by the inability to perform in public – and, in many cases, other jobs in restaurants and bars to do.

“We keep in touch with a lot of our musicians and have heard many horror stories,” said Jon Stone, general manager of Gigs4U, which books artists in civic, community and commercial areas including the airport.

“That’s what you do, that’s your job,” he said. “If they don’t, they’ll be in the service industry, but those will be closed too. We were frustrated that we couldn’t help it. “

He collected places like the Museum of Pop Culture and Victory Studios, which are producing an online show called “Band in Seattle” for recordings by local artists. and companies like Promosa are donating the audio and video components. He also collected self-produced videos from the artists and produced some pieces that he merged along with footage with KEXP DJs Marco Collins and Eva Walker to introduce the artists and encourage viewers to donate.

Gigs4U collects the donations, pays the taxes and distributes them among the artists. It is planned to create a new video every six weeks and in the future to place music walls in different areas of the airport.

How to contribute

• PayPal: Enter @ supporteamusic
• Venmo: @SupportSEAMusic
• Patreon:

Aline Vida has been playing soul and rock music as half of Aline & Wes (with Wes Speight) for years – and at the airport since 2018.

She plays Etta James and Sade because “at the airport, people like things that are milder,” she said. “People are trying to get where they want to go and they want to be reassured.”

When she’s not playing, she’s a manager whose hours have been cut. She received scholarships and unemployment, which helped, but it was still difficult.

However, it was even more difficult not to play for people – and make the personal connection that live music creates. This is all the more true at the airport, where there is no stage.

“People can come straight to you. … I had so many unexpected and meaningful experiences at the airport, ”she said. “You have to let go of your guard. It’s a different form of interaction.

“You are emotionally vulnerable in a good way.”

Music wall

Travelers walk past a newly installed music wall in Concourse C of Sea-Tac Airport on Wednesday. The wall features videos showing a two-hour series of performances by more than 30 local musicians performing live at the airport before the pandemic. (Erika Schultz / The Seattle Times)

She remembered a man’s bear watching her play, and when she was finished she walked up to her, hugged her and kissed her on the cheek.

“I had just played a song called I’m Still Alive,” she said. “I think he had to hear that song right now.”

Tami Kuiken, a restaurant and retail store manager who manages Sea-Tac’s music program, said music is based in Seattle and is an integral part of the airport’s ambience.

“It is extremely important to have music at the airport because we are a music city,” she said. “And music is now part of our environment. It alleviates the fear of travel. “

The wall replaces the live music program that began in March 2013 and was supposed to last only 12 weeks. But it was so popular that the airport continued to fund it, paying the artists $ 25 an hour on top of donations and any goods and music they sold. There was always an appearance during the day so that they could work at night.

In 2014 the program ran out of funds, so the airport asked restaurants and retailers to fund 50% of the program, which they did because they knew it was going to help them.

“We found that the travelers stayed longer in the areas where the musicians were,” said Kuiken. “They went to the restaurants, had another beer and because of the music they bought in the neighboring shops.

“We started building on where it is now.”

Indeed build: In addition to the stage in the Capitol Hill Food Hall in Hall A, the airport has planned a stage on the northern satellite and the central terminal.

But until then, there’s the music wall, which calms travelers and supports artists.

“It has a real wow factor,” said Kuiken. “You look at it and think,” There you are, bigger than life! “It made my heart feel warm and happy.”

Stone said, “When I saw this, I went back to my early years as a musician and music lover in Seattle. We have this wealth of talent that we encourage.

“Seeing this feels like you’re hearing things for the first time. It is a great feeling. “