Apartment owners ask musicians to play for free. And many players, eager for a chance to show off their skills, agree to do just that. I don’t blame the musicians. Most of the time, they struggle to survive and must take advantage of any opportunity, no matter how small. But the owners are a different story.
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No one else in these institutions works without a guaranteed minimum wage. A nightclub that asked a bartender or waiter to work without pay, or only for tips, will be prosecuted. We have minimum wage laws and a host of other labor protections required by law. Why are artists not given the same rights?
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Two weeks ago I interviewed an employment law expert to answer that question. They offer a variety of opinions on the matter, but the bottom line is that, in some cases, this practice may be illegal. But the situation is difficult, and it depends a lot on the specific working conditions and the relationship between the owner and the artist.
The issue is complicated by the lack of specific court decisions on this question. “I’ve been studying this topic since the 1980s,” explains Matthew Finkin, an employment law expert and professor at the University of Illinois College of Law. “I don’t remember a single case involving a musician in such a situation.
But that was the case with unpaid internships—at least until recently. These have long been considered completely legal and non-controversial. But this has changed, and unpaid internships are coming under increasing scrutiny and court intervention. Can this happen with the exploitation of unpaid artists?
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The most important legal examples include strippers and lap dancers. The judges carefully watched the foreign dancers. (Fill in your own punch line here.) Apartment owners often ask these players to work without pay, just for tips—and sometimes require them to split the bonuses with the employer. Delinquents may be asked to pay “rent” for their time at the bar. Is this legal?
The question depends on the nature of their work. The court must decide whether the strippers (or musicians) are employees or independent contractors. If they are employees, they are subject to the minimum wage law and enjoy other legal protections. But if they are independent contractors, the landlord has no obligation to guarantee the minimum wage.
In the case of outside dancers, the court ruled that they are independent contractors if they can set their own hours, and enjoy control over the conditions of their work – for example, their choice of music or how they treat customers. . But if the owner makes too many conditions, the situation changes. If the manager of a gentlemen’s club sets working hours, requires a certain type of music, sets rules about the behavior of patrons, etc., the court will probably consider this an employment relationship. The owner of Bada Bing now has to pay the minimum wage.
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What about musicians? They are similar to lap dancers (at least from a legal perspective). Are they employees or independent contractors?
The IRS offers a 20-point checklist (PDF) to help answer this question. If we review this list, we can see that many independent artists clearly fall into the category of independent contractors. Especially if they play in many places, often moving to the next place or city, they have little reason to want to be considered as employees.
One of the experts I consulted, a law professor at a Midwestern university, insisted that the case was very clear. “There are not always easy answers in the law, but they are here,” he emphasized. “Musicians are independent contractors, not employees, and wage and hour laws really only apply to employees.” But Alan Hyde, a professor at Rutgers University School of Law, took a different stance, noting that “recent hard-working cases against employers, expanding the legal definition of an employee.” He believed that in most cases, “group musicians are actually club workers.”
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Think of a situation where the singers always perform in the same place. They play the hours set by the owner. They may use equipment provided by the establishment, perhaps a piano or microphones or amps. The owner doesn’t like rap, and wants jazz or country music or another style of music that fits the atmosphere and the customers. The boss would want the Rawhide theme, not the old blue tune. This time, our artists began to look like workers.
“The important issue is how much the worker controls the conditions under which they work,” explains Finkin. “The courts are full of cases.”
Judges also consider the degree of economic dependence when determining business obligations. Even if migrant workers move from one farm to another to help pick the crops, the court can determine that they are workers. Their dependence on the employer strengthened their demand for a minimum wage and protection as workers.
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Are musicians dependent on club owners? Indeed, many of them are. And maybe it’s time for the manager to accept equal responsibility for the artists invited to his music studios.
“Employers for years, like your property owners, make the mistake of thinking that they can magically make anyone unemployable just by saying that,” explained Hyde. “The workers started to retreat.” He cites a recent ruling by the National Labor Relations Board that Northwestern’s scholarship athletes are legal employees who can form a union. This decision is being reviewed in Washington, but the trend is clear. Artists may enjoy similar protections, at least in some cases.
Maybe our legal system will step in and take this decision for nightclubs and other places. But why should we wait for a court order? Landlords shouldn’t need a judge to tell them it’s wrong to make money off unpaid labor—and not just for dishwashers and cleaners, but even for musicians. The musicians have already paid their dues, they have years of practice, study and training. Isn’t it time the owners paid theirs? by OC Patrick Marber. The play works to create a beautiful story about a school orchestra going to Moscow to perform Tchaikovsky’s “Fourth Symphony” at the European Youth Festival. With the cooperation of the Director; Dominique Chapman, the passionate actors and the amazing work of The Tech Team, this production did not fail to disappoint and bring light and laughter to a time when live theater seems so far away.
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Max C., who plays the role of Russian security guard Alex, immediately draws the audience into the story, using not only his awkward physicality, but tense moments of silence followed by dramatic bursts of comedic wit, to automatically connect the audience to his. character Throughout the years, Max not only entertained people, but impressed the audience, with his outstanding Russian manner, and accurate Russian translation! This helps strengthen the audience’s admiration for these hard-working and dedicated actors, singing to soft, aloof audiences. Soon after, Charlie P.s adaptation of his character Roland, came in to create a comedy with Alex, with their closeness and direct contrast of personality and character. As Roland’s frustration increased in the first scene, Charlie became increasingly angry, to the point of exploding, where his awareness of the audience and his use of the stage were truly impressive.
The dynamic between Alex and Roland was one that we watched grow and develop as the game progressed, enhancing the “fair” nature of this performance. As the rest of the orchestra entered, the fun quality of the play continued to grow as we heard the usual teenage squabbles being tossed around; Tori L., Ruby B., Emily K., Ben C., Rufus B., Felix W., Josh B., Tyler B., George N., Jack A., Ben J., Skye B., Sophie C .and Charlie M. There was a clear and obvious bond between these actors, and their precision and care during the rehearsal process really shined on stage, meaning that no cast member went unnoticed. A special mention goes to Emily K. and Ben C., whose constant bickering between them gave the performance such a slapstick quality and really strengthened the tension between the orchestra. Ruby B. also tactfully helped defuse this tension, with her moment of anger at her fellow musicians, followed by her acceptance and realization that she was the reason their orchestra couldn’t play.
Several touching moments began to enter the play, after they overcame their obstacles, encouraging the audience to use their imagination. For example, as the cast presented a beautifully orchestrated and well-timed passage from Tchaikovsky’s “Fourth Symphony” that once again engaged and impressed the audience. We must congratulate Dominique Chapman, who faced the challenges of social cuts head-on, and played for himself.