Updated: Search and Restore / Boom Collective Respond
Has the Undead Jazzfest been taking advantage of musicians? That's the unspoken question behind this recent development, involving the demand of a coalition of artists for minimum rates of pay. It's a labor story, still unfolding, and I was initially ambivalent about bringing it to light. But the issues it raises are important, worth public discussion.
The Undead and Winter Jazzfests both celebrate profusion: their scheduling and marketing make a clear virtue of musical overload. (See the promo video above.) I have long wondered about the sustainability of this approach, given the scale, the modest ticket price and the absence of corporate money. Unlike Winter Jazzfest -- which coincides with the Association of Performing Arts Presenters conference, and thereby functions partly as a trade show -- Undead is for the civilian festival-goer. The work-for-exposure angle doesn't quite apply.
It's a good thing, the Undead Jazzfest, and I hope it continues to thrive. I can't wait to get out there and submit to the blissful delirium.
Updated: On Thursday night, after the story broke, I received an email from Adam Schatz (Search and Restore), written with Brice Rosenbloom (BOOM Collective). Some of those comments have been added to the ArtsBeat post. Also included is a statement from Rosenbloom, sent on Friday afternoon.
I thought it would make sense to post the text of the email that has been making the rounds among musicians. A rep with Local 802, AFM would not confirm that it was written by Marc Ribot, but the wording strikes me as his. The full text is below the jump, along with an I'll-be-watching-you photo of Ribot.
We recognize and support the good work these festival promoters have done in presenting creative artists, and in reaching out to new audiences. However, we also believe that as major critically acclaimed festivals, the Undead and Winter Jazz festivals have a responsibility to respect and abide by prevailing community standards.
Those of us with an awareness of the history of our profession know that these standards have been fought for and upheld by generations of musicians; most recently in 1999, when festival musicians, assisted by local 802 of the musicians union (AFM), organized to improve conditions at the Texaco and Bell Atlantic Knitting Factory Jazz festivals, resulting in a contract guaranteeing a minimum of 200 dollars per musician per gig. (for full version of the 1999 agreement, see below ).
We seek neither controversy nor conflict, and hope these issues can be resolved through a reasonable good faith negotiation with the promoters. But we know that unless we ourselves organize to draw the line somewhere, no negotiations will occur, and the decline in our rates of pay will continue.
We reject the rationale that musicians should accept unfair treatment in exchange for ‘exposure’ and ‘publicity’: the only opportunity guaranteed by acceptance of substandard pay and conditions is the normalization of our own mistreatment.
We ask you to join us in protecting the economic sustainability of our music and our lives.
Sincerely, Jim Black, Steve Coleman, Orrin Evans, Mary Halvorson, Jason Moran, Butch Morris, Ben Perowsky, Marc Ribot, and others of the Winter/Undead Festival Musicians Organizing Committee.
Please click on the link below to sign the petition:
. From “OUTLINE OF AGREEMENT WITH KNITTING FACTORY FOR THE TEXACO NEW YORK JAZZ FESTIVAL 1999”
Minimum per musician per engagement:
$200 for ensembles of 1 to 6 musicians
$150 7 to 10
$100 11 or more
[the general rate of $200 per musician, adjusted for inflation, would now be c/a $300usd per musician].
note: these figures are for reference only- the actual figures will be determined at a meeting open to all festival musician signatories to be held after a majority of festival musicians have signed the petition, and before negotiations with the promoters.
If you support the petition, but were not a performer, please click below.