Musicians Petition

The following petition is ONLY for musicians who have played, will play, or were offered to play in the Winter or Undead Jazz Festivals.  If you are a musician who has not played these festivals, or a jazz fan who is sympathetic to this cause, please sign the “Supporters’ Petition” HERE.

10 responses to “Musicians Petition

    • If you read the FAQ of the petition carefully you’ll see this is not what the musicians are asking for. It is very specifically referring to 2 major NYC self described jazz festivals, in a city filled with established pay scales for the orchestras, theaters/musicals on Broadway, studio musicians, etc.

      Not really asking too much here in my opinion, but I gather you don’t live in NY, so maybe this seems really odd to you?

      • I’ve lived in LA/San Diego for a while, now Seattle, and I’ve never encountered musicians’ union activity. So it does seem odd to me that the union would have to be involved in the negotiations proposed here.

        At first it seemed downright rude, to demand renegotiation of contracts in place for this year’s Undead, but I understand it’s only for future festivals. That’s reasonable enough, but I think pointless to negotiate as a group when every musician has a different minimum rate they’re willing to accept.

        Then I read this:

        6. Will I be blacklisted/prevented from playing the festivals if I sign this petition?

        No. First of all, it is illegal to discriminate against employing a person based on their participation in a union action, which is what, legally, signing this petition is. If we see trends of discrimination, the union will take the promoters to court

        While it would suck to lose potential gigs for signing a petition, that’s exactly what ought to happen. This petition is a demand for higher pay. When a worker raises rates, those clients who can’t or won’t pay more will look elsewhere. Forcing these festivals not to look elsewhere will put them in a financial stranglehold.

        If this prevention from discrimination extends beyond the two festivals in question, then so will the stranglehold. If I were a jazz festival promoter in NYC with a really tight budget, the first place I’d look for musicians would be a petition like this one. I’d cross off every name I saw, because they’ve priced themselves out of my tight budget. Let’s hope that’s not illegal too.

  1. Joe,
    I don’t know why I’m even bothering to engage with you on this as you seem to have a pretty rigid agenda to push here, but just let me point out that if a majority of the musicians involved in this festival decide to sign this petition and then the organizers decide to cross off every name they see, as you suggest, then they will be crossing off the names of many of the best and most prominent jazz artists on the New York scene. These artists are the reason people are willing to pay money to attend a festival like this, without them there is no festival, or at best a second-rate one. There is far from a limitless supply of top-level musicians willing to work under any conditions, however unreasonable or unfair. Your Wallmart-esque argument is a race to the bottom and New York in particular is not a place that celebrates mediocrity.

    Also, why do you assume that this festival has a tight budget? It may or may not, I think that is a basic point of this petition and the negotiations that it seeks to precipitate. The musicians involved are merely asserting there should be a greater level of transparency involved and that they should be in a position to negotiate fair compensation for their involvement in this enterprise, at least as I understand it. That is very difficult to do on an individual basis when one is dealing with such a large organization, hence the petition and the involvement of the Union.

    • Hi Matt,

      We bother to engage each other because it’s good to talk about these things. I don’t mean to push my views on anyone else, only to express them clearly.

      I think you misunderstood my example. To clarify, “If I were a jazz festival promoter in NYC with a really tight budget” did not refer to Undead/Winter, but to hypothetical small-budget festivals that haven’t started yet.

      I completely agree that hiring no one on this petition could result in a second-rate jazz festival. (Or it could result in a just-as-amazing festival with lesser-known artists, depending on the promoter’s ability to find great musicians willing to accept lower rates.) But what’s wrong with the existence of a second-rate jazz festival? (Again, hypothetical, not Undead/Winter.) Preventing promoters through legal force from paying musicians low rates artificially limits the supply of musicians, so that only the best and most prominent are permitted to play. This doesn’t raise the wages of less prominent musicians; it puts them out of work.


  2. joe walker objects to the following:

    > it is illegal to discriminate against employing a person based on >their participation in a union action,

    and claims:

    ” los[ing] potential gigs for signing a petition, that’s exactly what ought to happen.”

    joe- you can take comfort in the fact that there are still a few dictatorships left where people can be legally fired for signing petitions. And i take comfort in the fact the neither the US nor any other democracy are among them.

    your website postings here and elsewhere make claims about the legitimacy of union rights that emerged for complex economic, social, historical and political reasons. By reducing all these to a few very select economics 101 readings- you come up with policy suggestions that would be, and have been, disastrous, not only for workers, but for society as a whole- the mass poverty, social unrest, and revolutions, that occurred regularly when the ideas you support were policy were not exactly good for business. Which is why both Bushes and Ronald Reagan at least gave lip service to the right to organize- including, and most basically- the right to sign a petition without being fired. Of course, they lacked your ideological purity.

    Your writing, here and elsewhere- is filled with inaccuracies: for example, you treat Jazz Festivals as if they were pure market phenomena: whereas in fact almost all involve- or have the choice to involve- sponsorship, grants, and subsidies. Please address the discomfort with the existence of public arts funding you’ve voiced on other websites to the political leaders of NYC, the USA, Japan, Europe, etc (and to the classical/opera non-profits that receive the overwhelming majority of state subsidy) : its a bit absurd to expect nyc jazz musicians to oppose- for purely ideological reasons- the tiny fraction of public arts funding that we- and the art form we practice- survive on.

    Were your suggestions being voiced by one of my colleagues, i would welcome them and take the need to address them in detail seriously: but they’re not.
    Joe: you’re the only person commenting on this website who is not a musician directly involved in these festivals.
    not even the employers in this case share your perspective. if you reflect carefully, you might find in this evidence of something other than the abstract brilliance of your ideas, and an imperative other than the need to share this brilliance with the less gifted.

    By all means, engage your own colleagues in Seattle: I ask you to respectfully understand that this, here, for us, is not an exercise in abstract ideology. we are trying hard to work things out as a community, and ask you to respect our process and dialogue, and consider the possibility that if you had shared our experiences, you just might feel- and think- differently.

  3. Improvise while it’s still legal! … That is to say, a stand for the integrity and respect accorded to our counterparts in other professions, financially and otherwise; standing together as a community of working professionals whose contributions to the well-being of our culture and society are immeasurable, is urgently overdue, and a basic necessity. Very basic. To romanticize a dog-bitten existence as concomitant to a particular career choice; to imagine that the limitations that exist are somehow inherent to the context, is a distortion of the most insidious type. We all need to elevate our sense of entitlement. We can recognize that our personal efforts to excel at what we do, can be mirrored by an established, observed minimum standard of pay. It’s NOT “slogging to the mines” (not to disparage those workers) in drudgery and disenfranchisement… unless we capitulate to that status out of fear. I don’t know Mr. Joe Walker’s history and experience. I do know mine. My FUTURE is of more importance! We can make positive change that will elevate everyone who makes, sells, promotes, uses or buys music in every area of our society. To quote a T-shirt I own: “No Music, No Life.” Let THAT be understood, deeply. And let those of us who answered the call to follow the muse, come together and be recognized as serious working professionals, with serious professional standards, at EVERY stage of our careers. Whether one is just starting or “starting out for the 50th time”. Beyond the festival fees issue on the table at present, there are many other significant issues to get to also. Systemic harassment of musicians by the transportation industry; local venues that promote “indoor busking”; negligence in the payment of licensing fees; absence of royalty payments for live performances of compositions are just a few of the conditions that have not been effectively addressed/challenged that impact us directly and profoundly on a daily basis and influence our standard of living and in the long run, our quality of life.

    Let’s move forward!

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