A Minimum Wage for Musicians!..Musicians, You Are Workers!

Text by Sohrab Saadat Ladjevardi

I really the time has come that all musicians of any genre should understand and accept their status of being a worker or of an employee.
Whenever and wherever they play in front of people – they as a matter of fact – WORK! Composing, rehearsing, whatever they musically do is work. Whoever pays a musician or band is the employer and the musician/band, who receives the money or check, is the employee. According to labor law this is a fact and musicians have to accept that a.s.a.p.!

There’s no reason for a musician to play free in public any more!

Yesterday I went to the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council grant information session. I was told when I receive a grant of x dollars and it’s for a music project, I’m supposed to pay the participating musicians from my grant money. Fortunately, there are some institutions in this city who understand that musicians can’t work free for their work and artistic contribution.

So all this said, dear readers, when you go to a “donation or door gig,” please pay the musicians in the same spirit as when you see your dentist or lawyer. We musicians are as qualified as other professionals in other business fields, such as doctors, lawyers, plumbers, waiters, professors, psychologists, etc.

More detailed information about this topic in the article below.

From ALLEGRO Volume 114 No. 7 July, 2014: http://www.local802afm.org/2014/06/a-minimum-wage-for-musicians/

One of the most effective tools for counterattacking the great disparity of wealth that has risen in this country is the movement for raising the minimum wage in many states and major cities. Recently, Gov. Andrew Cuomo made news by cutting a deal with the Working Families Party to get its endorsement by promising to support a higher state minimum wage than he had previously supported and allowing cities to raise the minimum even higher.

As a union, Local 802 should celebrate and support such efforts. But it begs the question as to what musicians can gain from such ordinances and laws. Under state law in New York, musicians are employees but when it comes to the nightclub and restaurant scene in New York City, dishwashers and waiters see minimum wages guaranteed where too often musicians don’t get a penny from the businesses that employ them.

It seems no one enforces the law when it comes to musicians. It is against the law not to pay your employees. And under the law, professional musicians are employees. But if you go down to your local hangout and ask the members of the trio playing there how much they’re being paid, they will likely point to the tip jar in front of the bandstand.

If a club or restaurant is going to provide music, much of the motivation comes from the proposition that music will draw customers. But all too often musicians are “hired” but not paid. There should be a minimum wage per musician and anyone providing music as part of their business model should be made to pay for it.

The old argument will always arise that the club itself does not employ musicians, because musicians are supposedly independent contractors. But that’s not what the laws of the state of New York say. Under the New York State labor law statute, employees include “… a professional musician or a person otherwise engaged in the performing arts, and performing services as such for a … restaurant, night club or similar establishment.”

So why are these laws not enforced? If you look at the history of musicians employed in nightclubs in this city, you will find that several decades ago, musicians were paid on a consistent basis. The union was a big part of why that was so. The union density among musicians in New York during the era before rock-and-roll was many times stronger than it is now. Why it diminished is a subject for another article… it’s probably safe to assume that well over half (I’m being generous) of the nightclubs and restaurants in this city do not guarantee a minimum wage for musicians.

Musicians in New York and elsewhere are exploited and treated with gross unfairness when it comes to the payment (or nonpayment) of wages by those who profit from their services. It’s time for the city and state government to do something about it. Musicians are workers. They need to make a living to feed and house themselves and their families. They provide us with some of life’s greatest pleasure and they are repaid with disrespect. We can begin to address the problem by pushing for a city ordinance that will make it a violation of the law for an establishment to exploit musicians without paying them…

Read complete article here: http://www.local802afm.org/2014/06/a-minimum-wage-for-musicians/