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Thread: Tue. May 1: Protest the Nonpayment of Musicians in Profitable Clubs

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    Tue. May 1: Protest the Nonpayment of Musicians in Profitable Clubs

    Join the Musicians Solidarity Council on Tuesday, May 1 to protest the nonpayment of musicians in successful NYC music venues. Performers shouldn’t be asked to volunteer their talent and services to profitable businesses!

    We’ll meet at 9:30pm, in Sara D. Roosevelt Park, at the SE corner of Chrystie Street and Houston Street, and proceed to several clubs, potentially including the Sidewalk Cafe, Pianos, Rockwood Music Hall, the Living Room, 169 Bar, and Brooklyn’s Zebulon Cafe Concert.

    Music fans need to know: culture requires investment, and the NYC music scene will suffer if nonpayment (more and more prevalent since the 1990s) continues to be common practice.

    This campaign is safe, legal and respectful of the musicians performing.

    Press release: http://mussc.org/?q=node/61
    FB invite: https://www.facebook.com/events/290667554350863/
    Petition to stop non-payment of musicians in NYC clubs: http://www.change.org/petitions/nyc-...ofitable-clubs

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    trumpet tpt1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by musscNYC View Post
    Performers shouldn’t be asked to volunteer their talent and services to profitable businesses!
    I respect your intent and efforts but I have to ask: why do musicians choose to play for no money in the first place? It is one thing to be asked to provide a service for free but it is quite another to render those services for free. That is a choice. A poor choice.

    I wish you success tonight.

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    Guitarist/Oudist/Composer jazz oud's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tpt1 View Post
    I respect your intent and efforts but I have to ask: why do musicians choose to play for no money in the first place? It is one thing to be asked to provide a service for free but it is quite another to render those services for free. That is a choice. A poor choice.

    I wish you success tonight.
    Is it a choice? It's not like most musicians are being offered paying gigs and nonpaying gigs, and saying "ooh, I think I'll do the one that doesn't pay".

    The current situation in NY is that there is an overabundance of musicians and that club owners use that as a way to avoid paying for music. If you won't play for tips, someone else will. If you want to play original music, there isn't much choice but to play these situations, at least for a period of time.
    If the only choice is to either play for free or not play at all, it's not much of a choice. If a problem is systemic, it isn't the fault of the individual person being victimized. You might as well just tell unemployed people "just get a job!".

    I think that this is probably a waste of time, but at least they're attempting to organize people and find a solution. What do you suggest people do? Just quit trying to play music? If you don't have a better idea, I don't think it's fair for you to criticize the poster.

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    Registered User FatJeff's Avatar
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    Hmm, it's almost like the musicians need a union or something.

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    jazz oud, you have a good point about original material

    that is where there really is no support from the system

    presenting an original music showcase is its own mindfeild of obsticles and barriors and probably shouldnt be in the same catagory of playing standards and bossas at restaurants and weddings

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    trumpet tpt1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jazz oud View Post
    Is it a choice? It's not like most musicians are being offered paying gigs and nonpaying gigs, and saying "ooh, I think I'll do the one that doesn't pay".
    jazz oud, you misunderstand me. I meant that it is a choice for a musician to play or not play in a club or restaurant for no money -- not whether one will choose between a paying gig and a non-paying gig. If a club owner will not offer me or the band money to play, then it is my choice to accept or not.

    The current situation in NY is that there is an overabundance of musicians and that club owners use that as a way to avoid paying for music. If you won't play for tips, someone else will. If you want to play original music, there isn't much choice but to play these situations, at least for a period of time.
    I understand this very well. I have been playing music in New York City for more than 30 years.

    If the only choice is to either play for free or not play at all, it's not much of a choice. If a problem is systemic, it isn't the fault of the individual person being victimized. You might as well just tell unemployed people "just get a job!".
    Not sure I follow your logic there. Would you suggest an unemployed brick layer to lay bricks for free -- for a contractor who is making money?

    I think that this is probably a waste of time, but at least they're attempting to organize people and find a solution. What do you suggest people do? Just quit trying to play music? If you don't have a better idea, I don't think it's fair for you to criticize the poster.
    I don't think I was being critical at all. I was respectful and asked a fair question, I thought. I wished them well. I did not suggest it was a "waste of time".

    And no, I don't suggest musicians quit playing music. I would be the last person on the face of the earth to do that. I do think it is important that musicians be paid for their skill and countless hours of study and practice. That includes you, jazz oud.

    I honestly don't know what the solution is. If I had a solution I would certainly provide it. I am just not sure if providing services for free is helping at all.

    I think there would have to be a serious and complete boycott of the venues by all musicians. And why not? They aren't getting paid anyway. All musicians, including students from the New School. This would be impossible to pull off, but this protest is probably the best way to start.

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    trumpet tpt1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by good rhythms View Post
    jazz oud, you have a good point about original material

    that is where there really is no support from the system

    presenting an original music showcase is its own mindfeild of obsticles and barriors and probably shouldnt be in the same catagory of playing standards and bossas at restaurants and weddings
    I agree 100%. Playing original music can often be a labor of love, playing for little or no money because you are passionate about the music. Often times it will cost you money to play. I have done it myself at times.

    Playing music for entertainment or background music at a restaurant or bar that is making money on $8 beers is another thing altogether. And I was under the impression that this is what the protest is largely about.

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    Guitarist/Oudist/Composer jazz oud's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tpt1 View Post
    jazz oud, you misunderstand me. I meant that it is a choice for a musician to play or not play in a club or restaurant for no money -- not whether one will choose between a paying gig and a non-paying gig. If a club owner will not offer me or the band money to play, then it is my choice to accept or not.

    And no, I don't suggest musicians quit playing music. I would be the last person on the face of the earth to do that. I do think it is important that musicians be paid for their skill and countless hours of study and practice. That includes you, jazz oud.
    No, I understood you. I think you misunderstood me. I was trying to point out that what you were calling a "choice" didn't really involve a choice. Yes, literally speaking, you have a choice about whether to play or not, but if you think about what the "choice" really means, then it is pretty much between "play music for tips" and "don't perform your music". So suggesting that musicians not play their music for free is tantamount to saying that they should just not play their music at all.

    As for the bricklayer, if there were a bunch of bricklayers willing to work for free and he couldn't make money at it, then I would tell the bricklayer to find another line of work. Taking this analogy, what you are suggesting is that a musician should find another line of work rather than play for free.

    Of course I agree that musicians should be paid. I also think that everyone should have access to affordable healthcare. But telling people not to participate in a ****ed-up system is not going solve anything. Like myself, most musicians I know sometimes get paid a little, sometimes a lot, sometimes not at all, and (if they're a leader ever) sometimes lose money. What I think should be happening doesn't really make any difference.

    Most of the clubs listed are focused on people playing original material, although some are in a bit of a gray area between "bar" and "venue". I agree that playing at a restaurant or other background gig for free is dumb.
    If that's what you thought this was about, I can understand your response, but I'm just tired of people saying "don't play for free" as if it was a meaningful suggestion.


    I apologize if this comes across as hostile, I don't mean anything personal towards you. I think we basically agree; even you admit that you have sometimes played for free or even lost money. And of course people working for free sucks and makes things worse for everyone, but there is a systemic problem and admonishing individuals doesn't accomplish anything.
    Maybe you didn't mean to be critical, but I don't see any other way of interpreting your statement.

    This sort of problem is analyzed in game theory all the time, because the dynamics are predictable when a group of people as a whole would benefit by cooperating but cooperation is undermined by individuals' opportunity to attempt to gain an advantage. The only way to avoid this result is not to participate, or introduce some factor that enforces cooperation.

    Now, if the Union was going around breaking kneecaps, or at least staging pickets, we might get somewhere.

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    Guitarist/Oudist/Composer jazz oud's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FatJeff View Post
    Hmm, it's almost like the musicians need a union or something.
    If the union had any power, don't you think they'd already have done something about this?

    Really, unions should stick together. If the musicians' union was supported by other unions, it would actually work. But it isn't.

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    trumpet tpt1's Avatar
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    What is this "musicians union" you folks speak of? :-)

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    the kind of union that came after me as a leader, who brought in a decent crowd to a club that paid off the door, which that union did nothing to help about, and they came after me and wanted me to pay something to them...

    i understand all sides to this story. i think a musician should have some rules for himself and he should be able to break them when he sees fit

    for sure, presenting original music as a leader is guarenteed to be fraught with situations that you may even lose money on the deal

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    AAJ's Spammer Exterminator Tenorman's Avatar
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    Do you have these review sites in the US where you can leave a review of a club or restaurant?

    Perhaps a concerted campaign of "This venue does not pay its musicians" might have some effect, but you do run the risk of the venue deciding not to have music at all

    Birth Controller to the Jazz Community. (click on the underlined text for more information)

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    @Tenorman: check out http://venuology.com
    --
    Speaking as a member of the MSC, most everyone recognizes that playing for tips is a choice. There's two sides to the issue -- the musician's and the club's.

    From the perspective of a musician (or leader) you might make the calculation that it's a good idea to play at Rockwood because you'll get good exposure for your original music, the sound is good, and you'll possibly make something OK in tips. I don't fault musicians for this individual choice.

    From the club's view, you'd want to reduce costs as much as possible -- so it's great that musicians don't "need" to be paid by the venue. There are lots of other employees to pay, likely a high rent, liquor costs, etc. It's also great if the musicians bring in a lot of paying customers. This is the club acting in its self-interest -- not really a surprise, right?

    The broader issue is the system itself. Why do we accept that this is the way things are? They didn't use to be this way in the city. Is it the real estate market? If it is, then why should musicians be the ones to bear this burden? Why not the bartenders, for instance?

    The obvious answer is that bartenders wouldn't work for free. They all know they can get way above minimum wage elsewhere and their services are in demand.

    If things are so bad in New York that even beloved, popular music venues can't afford to pay musicians, isn't there something wrong with New York? Shouldn't we step back and ask why, and how?

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    Registered User FatJeff's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by musscNYC View Post
    If things are so bad in New York that even beloved, popular music venues can't afford to pay musicians, isn't there something wrong with New York? Shouldn't we step back and ask why, and how?
    All good points, but I'd also add that the problem is not limited to just NYC. It's everywhere.

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    In my opinion it is merely an issue of economics.

    There are not many clubs hiring performers in NYC and I would suspect it is the same in many other geographic regions. Not that there are no thriving scenes going on but it is comparative.

    There is a demand side (venues) shortage in the labor market for jazz musicians.

    Meanwhile the supply side (musicians) of the labor market is flooded. In the last few decades the proliferation of Jazz Education in both primary education and higher learning academic facilities has helped facilitate massive growth in the supply of jazz musicians.

    The fact is that supply is severely outweighing demand and depressing wages.

    This can only be resolved in my opinion by a corrction in the labor market which is very unlikely.

    Theoretically organizing and putting yourselves into position to engage collective bargaining is possible, but in my opinion won't work.

    Although anecdotal the labor market for Jazz musicians where I grew had an issue similar. Although we weren't making high wages the jazz scene was fairly popular locally and there were at any time 15 - 20 paying venues. We experienced a wave of new retirees moving to town in the late 90's and what happened was there were a few who were musicians.

    Not needing the income they offered to play for drinks at local places. About half the places took them up on it.

    My point being, there will always be a segment that are willing to play for free and in turn have a negative impact on those trying to make a living.

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