The Promise of Pension

New Law Would Channel Money from Clubs to Musicians' Benefits

Volume CV, No. 5May, 2005

If you have ever performed in a Broadway pit, you know that the benefits — especially pension — are some of the best. But many may not know that the reason Broadway pension is so good is that Broadway theatres are able to not pay sales tax on tickets sold. Instead, that former tax revenue is funneled back to the benefit programs of theatre employees, including musicians.

Now Local 802 is supporting legislation that would extend the same benefit to musicians playing in smaller venues.

Currently many of these venues — jazz clubs for example — are required to assess sales tax on their admission charge, despite legislation passed in the 1960’s that eliminated the tax on admission to all “live musical and theatrical performances.”

That 60’s-era legislation became the basis for the Turkus Award, which allocated these former tax receipts to the funding of the various union benefits programs for Broadway’s musicians, actors, stagehands and other theatre employees.

“The musicians working in these smaller venues should have the same access to this important benefit funding source,” said Recording Vice President Bill Dennison. “This legislation is one of the efforts we’re undertaking to help ensure that jazz artists working in New York have access to important union benefit programs,” Dennison told Allegro.

Last month a delegation supporting the legislation met with Denny Farrell, chair of the state Assembly Ways and Means Committee, who afterwards agreed to sponsor the legislation.

Over the next several months efforts will be made to obtain the support of additional members of the State Assembly and Senate.

Jazz Advisory Chair Jimmy Owens told Allegro, “Honoring jazz as ‘America’s classical music’ should first of all mean honoring the jazz artists and there is no better way to do that than to ensure that they have access to health and pension benefits. This legislation will help do just that.”

The delegation that met with Rep Farrell included Dennison, Owens, Jazz Rep Bob Cranshaw, Public Relations Director Heather Beaudoin, attorney Richard Winston, Steven Bensusan representing the Blue Note jazz club and Barry Levitt, president of the New York Association of Clubs and Cabarets.