May 5, 2015
By Marc Bussanich
New York, NY—Hundreds of public sector and private sector employees gathered near Columbus Circle to celebrate May Day on Friday. Kevin Blancq joined the troupe to bring attention to struggling jazz artists who aren’t receiving pension contributions from the owners of the jazz clubs they perform for.
In the accompanying video, Mr. Blancq, who’s a member of the American Federation of Musicians Local 802, says it’s been three years since his fellow jazz musicians formed the Justice for Jazz Artists campaign to build public support for jazz artists who, although they’re paid a flat fee for their gigs, don’t receive any pension contributions from club owners such as The Village Vanguard and The Blue Note. He noted that the lack of pension contributions from the club owners makes it particularly difficult for musicians in their 70s or 80s who don’t have steady income.
“They don’t have a lot to fall back on. If these gigs aren’t there they don’t have anything on the backside. That’s just wrong. When I first came to New York, those were the guys that taught me. They were the ones who showed me how it all works. We should be giving back. That’s why I’m out here,” said Blancq.
Blancq noted that the campaign is calling for club owners to pay about 10 percent of the gig’s costs towards jazz musicians’ pensions.
“It’s not something that the clubs can’t afford. It’s the right thing to do,” he said.
When asked what will have to happen for the campaign to be successful, Blancq said some well-known musicians in the industry should be stepping up to give public support.
“Some of the very prominent musicians and artists and maybe even some celebrities are going to have to sign on. There are some at the very top who should. I think deep down they want to, but as with everything that is political, they’re being careful. But I think if the right people came forward, enough pressure could be raised in a positive way,” Blancq said.