Activism/Campaign: “Enough Is Enough NY!” – Policy And Goals

Sohrab attends w. Local 802 union members May Day 2013 rally (photo by Walter Karling)
Sohrab attends w. Local 802 union members May Day 2013 rally (photo by Walter Karling)

About the Enough is Enough NY campaign

We all know all know how hard it is to make a living as a jazz musician. Learning to play this music takes a lifetime of work and dedication, with little economic benefit. For most musicians retirement is a luxury we can’t afford, as we don’t enjoy the safety net that other workers generally have: things like adequate social security benefits, pensions and unemployment insurance. Many New York City jazz clubs, including the Blue Note, Birdland, Jazz Standard, The Village Vanguard, and others, had an opportunity to help solve this problem seven years ago, but failed to take action. In fact, these clubs, and many others, have been pocketing money meant for musicians’ pensions, the very musicians that keep them in business. The Enough is Enough campaign is about taking direct action to stop the injustice that these clubs have perpetrated against musicians for over seven years.

Before I get into the nature of the Enough is Enough NY campaign, I’d like to give you a little background on the situation. Prior to 2007, small venues (less than 250 capacity) that offered live musical performances, and sold food and food and refreshments separate from admission, were subject to a New York state sales tax on their admission charges. In 2006 – after years of advocacy by the Local 802, Manhattan Association of Cabarets and Clubs, musicians, and many others – the New York State Assembly introduced an amendment to that state tax law, which exempted jazz venues in this city (under 250 seats) from paying sales tax on admission charges. The bill, labeled Assembly Bill#11594, became law in 2007. During the negotiations and lobbying for the sales tax exemption, there was a tacit agreement between club owners and the musicians union that the savings from admission tax would go to musicians’ pensions funds. Since that time, the major jazz clubs have failed to keep up their end of the bargain, contributing nothing to musicians’ pensions.
I can’t accept this situation, and neither should you. The union estimates that the Village Vanguard, for example, now saves up to $80,000 a year as the result of the sales tax exemption. All of the major New York jazz clubs have benefited from the tax break, but have repeatedly refused to work with the union and create a way to redirect the money into musicians’ pension funds. Indeed, the time has come that we jazz musicians declare “enough is enough.”

We need to join forces in order to ensure fairness and dignity from New York’s jazz clubs. The union has made some efforts to rectify the situation, but we need to band together to put the pressure on club owners and let them know that injustice will not be tolerated. To do that, we need help from people involved in every facet of the music business, including musicians, music journalists, politicians and audiences.

The following are the basic goals that I have set out for Enough is Enough NY:

1. Change the law to require that small venues contribute a percentage of their admissions to musicians’ pension funds; or

2. Get club owners to enter into a collective bargaining agreement with the musicians union, requiring that they pay a percentage of their admissions into musicians’ pension funds.

I’m asking for your help and support at the beginning stages of this movement. As of now, I have begun plans to help achieve our goals: an aggressive plan to raise public awareness of the issue through media and online sources; a direct action campaign to confront club owners and let them know that we will not tolerate injustice any longer; and a lobbying effort to get the attention of state and city politicians and set the stage for changing the law. I’m also open to any ideas you may have – the more creative the better!

Tell me how you can be a part of this movement. It’s our campaign, and we need to finish the job that was started in 2007. Even more importantly, we need to let New York, and the world, know that New York’s jazz community is united and demands respect.

(For people who want to know about the history of the sales tax law please read here:

Related Links

Enough Is Enough NY Facebook page

DooBeeDooBeeDoo NY “…The basic thrust of the editorial content is that a social awareness can be fostered through music.”

Justice For Jazz Artist “Jazz musicians playing in major New York City clubs are not guaranteed fair pay, do not receive healthcare benefits and often retire in poverty.”\

Content Creators Coalition (NYC Chapter) “…join music makers and music lovers alike in urging Congress to support artists’ pay for radio play.”

Jazz Foundation of America “I was going blind and couldn’t see to shop or cook. I was living on two cans of SlimFast a day for over a year and a half. The Jazz Foundation saved my life.”

The Trichordist (David Lowery) “Artists For An Ethical and Sustainable Internet #StopArtistExploitation”

#IRespectMusic (Blake Morgan) “The United States is the only democratic country in the world where artists don’t get paid for radio airplay.”