Join Fair Pay Music on May 1st

On Wednesday May 1, International Workers’ Day, join FAIR PAY MUSIC at the Union Square rally of the May 1st Coalition, immigrant groups, Occupy Wall Street, and the labor movement. We are gathering at 4pm at the Gandhi statue in the SW corner of Union Square. Look for the HUGE HAT.
More info on the rally:

Around 5:30pm, we’ll march with thousands to City Hall, alongside the Occupy Guitarmy (, calling for fair pay and respect for all musicians. A tip bucket is NOT a viable source of income: Do you pass the hat for YOUR paycheck?

  • For day-of updates, join our text loop by texting “@fairpaymusic” to 23559.
  • Join our email newsletter here:

Check out this song we’ll be playing en route–play it with us if you like.
(Link here)

After the march, join us in Foley Square to participate in the May Day People’s Assembly.

For a full schedule of May Day events in NY, go to:

  • For day-of updates, join our text loop by texting “@fairpaymusic” to 23559.
  • Join our email newsletter here:

Fair Pay Music is a New York-based campaign with a mission to create, implement, monitor, educate, and agitate for ethical standards and practices that will create better paid, more fulfilling, safer, and more equitable working conditions for musicians at live performance venues. It is a grassroots campaign initiated by the Musicians Solidarity Council, an affinity group of Occupy Wall Street.

Fair Pay Music seeks to work in solidarity with related fair-practice initiatives, and welcomes collaboration with similarly minded institutions, groups, and individuals towards our common goals.

April Training on Outreach & Strategy

This week, Fair Pay Music is hosting a training session on “one-on-ones” (person-to-person outreach), and a general overview of how to build campaign strategy, presented by UAW/Laundry Workers Center organizer Michael Belt! We’ll then have a short planning session re: our May Day activities.

Don’t miss this unique opportunity to build useful skills.
**Open to all, free of charge.**

WHAT: Fair Pay Music outreach training + May Day planning
WHEN: Sunday, April 14, 4-6pm
WHERE: 60 Wall Street (atrium), NYC (map:

Can’t make it? Join the Fair Pay Music announcement list by visiting the link below:

FAIR PAY MUSIC: Reward the venues that pay us well; demand more from those that don’t.

In the vein of Fair Trade coffee and the “High Road” program for NYC restaurants, the “Fair Pay Venue” seal of approval will recognize music venues that pay musicians fairly. More importantly, we can raise fans’ awareness about the working conditions that musicians face.

For more info, visit

Cornelia Street Cafe – What You Can Do

The recent Cornelia Street Cafe debacle in New York is just the latest chapter in the story of musician mistreatment and the decline of the NY music scene.

What can you do?

  • Go to a meeting for Fair Pay Music, our new campaign to reward venues that treat us well, and demand more of those that don’t. Join the mailing list and we’ll send you info about the next meeting and future events.
  • Review Cornelia Street on Yelp! and/or click “Useful” to bump up the first-hand accounts of musician mistreatment.
  • Post your own gig experiences at Venuology, the “Yelp! for musicians”. Unlike on Yelp!, these reviews can’t be censored.
  • Think of a better idea and post it in the comments!



Fair Pay Music Interview on WBAI

In this in-depth interview on WBAI’s Occupy Wall Street Radio, MSC member Julie Harting and an anonymous bandleader/musician discuss working conditions in NYC clubs and MSC’s new project Fair Pay Music.

If you’re not a musician performing regularly at NYC venues, some of the data presented here may shock and disturb you. Listen to it here.

MUSICIANS WORK: Fair Pay Music on Feb. 10

Coming out of our discussion last fall, “Exploitation and Entrepreneurship in the Music Industry”, a number of initiatives are building steam. The Musicians Solidarity Council will be exploring these in a multi-part series called MUSICIANS WORK.

On Sunday, Feb. 10, from 4-6pm we will begin work on the Fair Pay Music campaign. In the vein of Fair Trade coffee and the “High Road” program for NYC restaurants, the “Fair Pay” seal of approval will recognize venues that pay musicians sustainably.

WHAT: Fair Pay Music work session
WHEN: Sunday, Feb. 10, 4-6pm
WHERE: The Commons, Brooklyn.
388 Atlantic Ave. Brooklyn, NY 11217 (map:

With this campaign, musicians and fans can reward venues that support them, while calling out the exploitative practices of others. Perhaps most importantly, we can build audience awareness about musician
exploitation and the long-term health of the NY music scene.

We’ll set up our group, talk about goals and strategy, and begin a project to map the music scene.

RSVP on Facebook:

All are welcome! Can’t make it? Join the Fair Pay Music mailing list by visiting the link below:

Coming soon in MUSICIANS WORK: Collectives and Cooperatives.

‘Twice the Work and Half the Pay’

Musicians Put Their Heads Together At a Solidarity Strategy Summit
by Julie Harting

The following report on our “Twice the Work, Half the Pay: Entrepreneurship and Exploitation in Music Industry” event was written by  MSC member Julie Harting and originally published in the January 2013 issue of Local 802‘s Allegro.

Artists unite! Earlier this fall, musicians and other workers gathered for a facilitated discussion at Judson Memorial Church, coordinated by the Musicians Solidarity Council, 99 Pickets and OWS Arts and Labor. The event, entitled “Twice the Work, Half the Pay: Entrepreneurship and Exploitation in the Music Industry,” was put together to discuss the challenges and successes of organizing workers who see themselves as freelancers, independent contractors or entrepreneurs. Most of the 40 or so participants were musicians, but a taxi driver, a fashion designer, figure skating coaches, dancers, visual artists, culture industry workers and writers also participated.

Artists and other creative workers gathered at Judson Memorial Church to discuss working conditions and strategies for solidarity. Seated at the front of the room are the facilitation team Matt Plummer, Sundrop Carter and Blithe Riley.

Artists and other creative workers gathered at Judson Memorial Church to discuss working conditions and strategies for solidarity. Seated at the front of the room are the facilitation team Matt Plummer, Sundrop Carter and Blithe Riley.

Many of the musicians articulated a general impression of stagnation and decline in the music industry in New York City in the last 30 years with complaints about:

  • working for tips, working for below minimum wage or working for free
  • wage theft
  • inconsistent gigs
  • multiple employers
  • a lack of respect for their profession
  • exploitation by agents, contractors, media and tech companies
  • digital and electronic media replacing live music
  • lack of employment opportunities
  • lack of resources

There were mixed reactions regarding the emphasis today on identifying as an “entrepreneur” and embracing entrepreneurship. On one hand, being an entrepreneur can be creative and fulfilling. On the other hand, as income and security for the musician and freelancer are being chipped away, the artist is forced to wear all hats in order to survive and becomes an entrepreneur only out of necessity.

To move the discussion in a more positive direction, two figure skating coaches were asked to talk about how they successfully organized independent workers in contract negotiations with a rink owner. They attributed their success to the formation of a smaller, core group of organizers and stressed the need to have the most qualified people in positions of power and influence. Although at times they had to play hardball, getting all the workers on board and petitioning management with specific demands, they also recognized it was in their best interest, at times, to pull back and negotiate in non-confrontational ways on other issues. Approaching management more one-on-one, in a more communicative and diplomatic way that recognized compromise, said the coaches, could also be helpful. It was their job, they said, to really be aware of what strategy to use and when. Because they had a track record of successful negotiations as well as long-term relationships with others, they were seen as leaders with everyone’s best interest at heart.

Musicians from Noise Action Coalition also spoke about the successful strategy of having an active, well-connected, small organizing committee. They emphasized building momentum and popular opinion around a specific grievance or against a specific venue and talked about the importance of their partnership with the union.

In discussing music collectives, MOBI (Musicians of Brooklyn Initiative) and Douglass Street Music Collective were cited as successful collectives largely due to being artist-run and having rotating leadership. There was some discussion about expanding the collective model to the promotion side and developing collectives with public relations and artist relations people, creating an artist-centered microcosm of the industry. The desire for an all-embracing collectivist structure was also voiced by a freelance fashion designer interested in creating an open source environment where people would work together in affinity groups and split income distribution equally.

Several musicians said they no longer play at clubs where they are expected to play for tips only. This led to talk of creating a Fair Music certificate that would be given to clubs that adhere to a set of standards. Musicians could choose to play only at the Fair Music clubs and the general public could show their support for the musicians by patronizing these clubs.

People spoke about the importance of building community and the need to be ethical and respectful toward each other. A sense of urgency to collectively address the deteriorating conditions for musicians and workers was also expressed. Local 802 member Keisha St. Joan spoke about the union’s Justice for Jazz Artists campaign. Bassist Melvin Gibbs spoke about organizing musicians to win a contract at the Winter Jazzfest, an effort that took place with union assistance.

In a spirit of solidarity and unity, the evening ended with an enthusiastic march to the Blue Note with Local 802’s Justice for Jazz Artists campaign.

To learn more about this event and to be notified for similar events in the future, see the Web site of the Musicians Solidarity Council at

Julie Harting’s tuba quartet “Catacombs of Light” premiered at the 2011 ISCM World New Music Days in Croatia. Her other works have been performed in various venues throughout New York. Harting earned her D.M.A in music composition from Columbia University. To contact her, visit

Twice the Work, Half the Pay: Entrepreneurship and Exploitation in the Music Industry

Thursday, Oct. 18, 6-8pm
Judson Memorial Church, Assembly Hall (239 Thompson St., New York)

The annual CMJ Music Marathon comes to NYC October 16-20, with panels on the music business promising to “help make sense of the current climate.” But what does it really offer musicians? How does the industry itself, which promotes ideas such as the “super-entrepreneur,” contribute to the difficult conditions musicians face?

Musicians regularly surmount myriad problems: working for tips, below minimum wage or nothing; misclassification/1099s; inconsistent gigs; multiple employers; a lack of respect for their profession; and a byzantine system of agents, contractors, media and tech companies climbing over each to profit from musicians’ work.

Individually, we make it work because we have to. We have to survive, we have to make a living, we have to perform. The industry leads us to believe that there is no other way to do so. And while so much of our career is social (performing and networking), we are on our own when it comes to the business side. This hardly allows us to see the big picture. Who’s making the money? Why should musicians take on so much of the risk, but little of the reward?

These issues are not unique to the music industry. Many people in professions deemed “entrepreneurial” or “independent” experience similar conditions, including visual artists, taxi drivers, childcare workers, truckers, freelancers, construction workers, domestic workers, writers, and others. How are they addressing these problems?

Join musicians and other workers for a facilitated discussion and strategy session to explore ways we can act together against the systems that keep us isolated and divided.

A collaboration between OWS Arts & Labor99 Pickets, and the Musicians Solidarity Council.


Lots to do! Here are only a few things going on this Monday:

8:30am – Labor “swirl” – regroup with labor at 2 Broadway (near Battery Park Station on the 4,5) to begin a mobile protest of union-busters & bad employers in the Financial District.
1pm – 99 Pickets Blitz: beginning at 26 Federal Plaza (just off Foley Square), we will have a mobile protest highlighting the right to organize.

Where will you be Monday? What have you seen this weekend?

On July 24, Low Wage Workers Rise Up!

Tuesday (July 24) is a national day of action centered on raising the federal minimum wage.

In New York, a large coalition (led by United NY, with unions, worker centers, immigrant right groups, clergy, the Working Families Party, other politicians, OWS 99 Pickets and Immigrant Worker Justice) has expanded its scope into a launch for a campaign to better the conditions of New York’s low wage workers. Many workers are not even making minimum wage due to wage theft, explicit carve-outs in the law, immigration status, etc. Many musicians are often “low wage workers”–minimum wage protections in the NY hospitality industry explicitly exclude musicians.

It would be great to be there with musicians-as-worker signs, with other Art Workers, etc. We want to bring together many diverse kinds of low wage workers and build solidarity for a long-term campaign.

On Tuesday, we’re going to start with a press conference at Herald Square at 3:30pm, then a march towards Union Square, stopping at several workplaces on the way where workers are organizing against abusive employers. At each location, workers involved in these struggles will be speaking, joined by demonstrations from allied clergy. There will be a rally in Union Square at 5pm, and afterwards another march to nearby locations of other “bad actor” employers including Con Ed, of course. At the end of THIS segment, United NY will actually be busing those that have the time to hit some employers in the outer boroughs.

Here’s a recent NY Times article about Tuesday:…
FB event:

There’s also an online component to Tuesday. United NY is encouraging any “low wage worker” to post about their experiences and struggles, linking to it on Twitter with the hashtag #RiseUpNY. This is another way to incorporate musicians’ voices into the event.