Victory! Winter Jazzfest musicians make historic gains

Organizing Matters

Volume 115, No. 2February, 2015

Maggie Russell-Brown
Maggie Russell-Brown

Maggie Russell-Brown

Maggie Russell-Brown is the director of organizing and field services. If you’re playing a job where you feel disrespected or know that you aren’t being paid fairly, contact Maggie at (212) 245-4802, ext. 157 or You can also call the Local 802 hotline anonymously at (212) 245-4802, ext. 260 to report a job or working situation.

As some of you may recall, musicians performing in the Winter Jazzfest and the Undead Music Festival came together and launched a grassroots effort in 2011 to improve wages and working conditions. Through that campaign, hundreds of musicians won real gains in the form of a collective bargaining agreement.

In December, a producer with KIDAM, a French television production company, contacted Boom Collective, the sponsor of Winter Jazzfest, to produce a lengthy television segment on the festival, featuring dozens of bands. Thanks to the union agreement that the musicians won three years ago, there are strong recording protections in place. Boom Collective referred the French producer to Local 802 to negotiate the terms of a recording agreement. KIDAM had originally offered $375 for each band, with no protections for future use or any guarantee that any of the $375 would be dispersed to the side musicians. This was far below established standards and was disrespectful to the musicians who put tremendous work into perfecting their craft. The AFM Electronic Media Department, which governs union recordings under national agreements, consulted with Local 802 and the Winter Jazzfest organizing committee. It ultimately put forth what it felt was an equitable price for the television use that KIDAM wanted. KIDAM accepted the terms and signed a contract that included benefits and guaranteed further payment for any use of the material in another medium.

Clockwise from top left: Alan Hampton, JD Allen, Brandon Ross, Marc Ribot, Brandee Younger and Robin Eubanks. Photos: Jett Drolette, except Marc Ribot photo by Steve Sussman.

Clockwise from top left: Alan Hampton, JD Allen, Brandon Ross, Marc Ribot, Brandee Younger and Robin Eubanks. Photos: Jett Drolette, except Marc Ribot photo by Steve Sussman.

The terms of the agreement are:

Wages: $195.34 per musician, with double for bandleaders

Pension: 11 percent

Health payments: $24

Recording protections: Other than the specified use, no commercial use of this footage is permitted, unless it is filed under the appropriate AFM recording contract. KIDAM has the rights to use the footage on TV outside the U.S. or Canada. However, if used inside the U.S. or Canada, additional payment will be required.

After reaching the deal, union organizers, along with Local 802 Executive Board members Gail Kruvand and Andy Schwartz, developed a plan to reach out to festival musicians to explain the terms of the deal and answer any questions. Over two nights at the Bitter End and SubCulture, we spoke to more than a hundred musicians and received overwhelming positive feedback.

This victory shows once again that there is a worldwide appetite for New York jazz and that corporations such as KIDAM will meet established standards in order to feed this appetite and profit from it.

More victories like this can be achieved when jazz musicians unite and demand respect from venues and production companies that profit immensely from their craft.

To find out how you can get involved in our many exciting campaigns, please contact me at (212) 245-4802, ext. 157 or Or feel free to stop by the Organizing Department on the third floor of Local 802 at 322 West 48th Street.