Wed., October 26, 2011 6:00pm (EDT)

Winter Jazzfest, Musicians Announce New Agreement For 2012
By Patrick Jarenwattananon
Updated: 3 years ago

Musicians, festival organizers and a union representative conducted a press conference on Monday to announce the new Winter Jazzfest agreement in the festival's premier venue, Le Poisson Rouge.

When the popular New York showcase Winter Jazzfest takes place in January 2012, it will operate under new terms of employment. Earlier this year, festival organizers were confronted by a group of musicians past and present seeking better pay and conditions. On Monday, festival organizers, artists and representatives of the musicians' union, American Federation of Musicians Local 802, held a press conference to announce the mutual agreement, described in a press release as "a victory for both musicians and festival organizers."

Tim Wilkins of WBGO was at the event, and has a writeup for the WBGO blog. He writes that specific wage details of the agreement were hard to come by, though he does note that ticket prices will rise by $10 (this year, a two-day pass cost $35), musicians' pay will rise by "several multiples," and musicians will play longer sets with longer breaks. Perhaps the most unusual detail is the profit-sharing scheme, rare for music festivals, whereby the festival organizers Search and Restore and Boom Collective will offer increased compensation to musicians based on the level of sponsorship raised. But as Wilkins notes, the festival historically free of commercial sponsors currently has "no profits to share," and only "one small sponsorship from the French government."

Ultimately, the takeaway seems to be that this was a mutual agreement, the result of a negotiation with minimal acrimony and positive feelings going forward. As Wilkins writes:

Both sides claimed victory in the agreement ... They also suggested it offers a roadmap for future negotiations between jazz artists and presenters.

"Doing it through the union does not have to mean that you militantly attack and destroy your opponents and wind up with less for everybody," said [guitarist Marc] Ribot, a leader of the musicians' side of the dispute. "It can mean, as we're seeing here, that we respectfully negotiate our differences and collaborate on our areas of common interest in a way that makes life better."

On the heels of this agreement, Winter Jazzfest has announced its preliminary 2012 lineup, noting that tickets go on sale starting this Friday, Oct. 28. [WBGO Blog: Winter JazzFest and AFM Announce New Pay Agreement]


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