September 1, 2015
By Joe Maniscalco
New York, NY – Later this month, a potential audience of 16 million viewers in 39 countries will be tuning into to watch the NYC Winter Jazzfest recorded in January — unfortunately, none of the artists performing in those knock out shows at the Bitter End and Subculture in Greenwich Village have been fully paid.
French production company KIDAM reportedly owes 130 musicians roughly $40,000 for the right to broadcast the Winterfest concerts on Mezzo Television, in a dispute that demonstrates that wage theft isn’t confined to construction sites or the service industry.
“These folks should not feel they can get away with filming, recording and widely broadcasting our work without meeting the terms they agreed to with Local 802 and the American Federation of Musicians,” pianist, composer and bandleader Arturo O’Farrill, said in a statement. “We walk a tightrope as musicians, trying to survive, and musicians should never be treated as KIDAM has treated us.”
The American Federation of Musicians — one of the largest unions representing working musicians today — is suing KIDAM in an effort to recover the unpaid wages and benefits.
“The musicians of Winter Jazzfest do not deserve to wait indefinitely for payment as this company profits from their work,” Tino Gagliardi, president, Local 802 AFM said in a statement. “We must hold KIDAM accountable and ensure that these extraordinarily talented musicians get paid for their work.”
The lawsuit maintains that KIDAM signed a Single Project Letter of Agreement on January 7, 2015, in accordance with the American Federation of Musicians’ Television Videotape Agreement, which outlined both wages and benefits for musicians recorded at the Winter Jazzfest for future broadcast on Mezzo.
Just a month later, however, the musicians union got a disturbing email explaining that KIDAM couldn’t afford to pay everyone.
“It was total disbelief on our end,” Local 802 Organizing Director Maggie Russell-Brown told LaborPress. “We entered into a good-faith agreement. We know that musicians around the world have been recorded by KIDAM. We were under the impression that they would do the right thing.”
Highly-paid celebrity artists may loom large in the public’s consciousness, but the day-to-day reality of most of the hardworking musicians that Local 802 represents is something else entirely.
According to the union, at least 82 musicians taking part in last January's Winterfest still have not seen a dime from KIDAM. A smaller group of 31 have received some money, but none of the benefits promised under the agreement.
“For our musicians, this is disgusting,” Local 802’s organizing director added. “This is not how you make a living. We would like to think [KIDAM] could do better.”
KIDCAM has not responded to requests for comment.
Those Winter Jazzfest groups still waiting to be paid for a show that is now almost a year old, include Arturo O’Farrill’s “Boss Level” Septet, the Wallace Roney Quintet, SFJAZZ Collective, the Lionel Loueke Trio, and Ryan Keberle & Catharsis.
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