Jay-Z concert goes union

Volume 112, No. 4April, 2012

Bennett Baruch and K.C. Boyle

After months of hype surrounding Jay Z’s first concert in New York City in 2012, the Brooklyn native’s two-night stand at Carnegie Hall was undoubtedly the hottest ticket in town. The show, which served as a fundraiser for the United Way and Shawn Carter Scholarship Foundation, listed tickets that reached $15,000 for box seats, attracting the who’s who of New York (including half of the New York Giants).

To put it bluntly, this was a dream job for any musician in the city, offering an opportunity to share the spotlight with one of the nation’s biggest pop stars.

To top it all off, the performances were to include a massive 37-piece orchestra and were being held at Carnegie Hall, one of the most recognized venues in the world.

It was the perfect gig by all accounts for professional musicians, with one exception – originally, there was no union contract, therefore no benefits or pension, and no recording protection.

The fact that a performance at Carnegie Hall for one of the top hip hop artists in the world was not going to be covered by a union contract was insulting. Musicians deserve the best possible and most professional work environment for a craft that they have spent their entire lives mastering.

Fortunately, members of the orchestra and Local 802 organizers were able to work together in the days leading up to the event to produce a union contract that offered health care and pension contributions and protected recording rights.

Dan Willis, who performed as a saxophonist, conveyed his appreciation for the union getting involved, “I am happy with the results of the contract,” he told Allegro.

Willis added, “I am very grateful for Local 802 getting the rehearsals, performances and videotaping under a union contract. While I was only subbing in the woodwind section, I was asked by the contractor if I could help ease the increasingly intensifying situation between the concert production manager and our union representatives. After a few short meetings, I was able to convince the production manager that there could be a positive outcome for all involved if he were willing to speak with our Local 802 President Tino Gagliardi.”

Thanks to union members like Dan, Local 802 is consistently able to negotiate fair union contracts, even if it comes down to the wire. Our union is willing to devote our time to ensure the best possible results for each respective contract. In the event that you want to alert the union of a non-union gig, please feel free to call the Organizing Department at (212) 245-4802, ext. 141 or leave an anonymous message on our 24-hour hotline: (212) 245-4802, ext. 260.

Local 802 depends on our musicians to provide notice of non-union events so that our staff can quickly and effectively address the situation as soon as possible, as was the case in this particular situation.

Looking forward, with your help we are optimistic that we can continue to produce positive results for professional musicians in New York City.