You made it union

Musicians backing up Josh Groban win contract and benefits, thanks to an anonymous tip

Volume 113, No. 3March, 2013

Adam Witkowski
Josh Groban

Josh Groban. Photo: LunchboxLP via

Have you ever gone into a job that you assume to be union, only to find out at the last minute that there is no contract? That is exactly the situation members of Local 802 and Local 47 found themselves in when they entered the Allen Room to begin a rehearsal for a Josh Groban concert on Feb. 4. What they did not know, however, is that thanks to an anonymous tip received the week before, organizers at Local 802 were already well on their way to securing the contract.

As you might know, Josh Groban is a wildly successful pop star. In 2007, he was the top-selling artist in America. His music – blending folk, easy listening, and classical – often calls for large groups of orchestral musicians backing him at his live shows.

His intimate show at the Allen Room was largely unadvertised. However, the plan was to stream the show live to 500 different movie theaters across the country to celebrate the release of his new album. Groban hired 14 orchestral musicians from New York and L.A. for the gig. The only problem: no one decided to file a contract with the AFM or Local 802.

The Allen Room is part of the Jazz at Lincoln Center complex at Columbus Circle. At an upscale venue like this, with a top-tier artist, there is no excuse for there not to be a union contract. Not only would musicians miss out on health and pension contributions, they would also not gain any additional pay or protections for the live Web stream of their music.

After days spent contacting managers, record labels and contractors, Local 802 was able to get a contract signed that ensured health and pension contributions and also allowed the AFM to negotiate over the Web stream and recording rights.

This is a great example of why musicians should reach out to the union. We have the ability to fight for your rights, while protecting your identity and your job.

Local 802 depends on musicians to tell us when they are called for gigs that pay below scale or don’t provide benefits. It’s especially important that you call us if you see a Web stream set up, or if you see recording microphones in place. Without a union contract, you have no protections at all if your music gets beamed across the Internet or posted to YouTube or turned into a promotional recording.

If you get called for a non-union job, or any job where you feel exploited, please make a confidential call to the union so we can consult with you and assess the situation. Call (212) 245-4802, ext. 141 to reach the Field Service Office, or call our 24-hour hotline at (212) 245-4802, ext. 260.

This story first appeared in the March 2013 issue of Allegro, the magazine of the New York City musicians’ union (AFM Local 802). For more background, see