One Occupy Wall Street group is taking May Day to places that probably don’t get a lot of protests — the Lower East Side’s nightclubs.
Tonight, a faction of OWS called the Musicians Solidarity Council hopes to draw attention to the common practice of clubs bringing in musicians without actually paying them by protesting inside a few venues.
“It’s really important to recognize that musicians are workers. Musicians are part of the 99 percent,” Matt Plummer, a musician who is part of the council, told the Voice this morning. “I’ve played in clubs…that are clearly bringing in a lot of money…but we finish the night with a couple dollars a person.”
Plummer, 32, and a trombone player, said that it’s become a standard practice for musicians to play only for tips, which can be very burdensome for performers trying to make a living.
May Day seemed like a perfect opportunity to draw attention to this issue of nonpayment which lines up very well with the larger message of Occupy Wall Street, he said.
“It’s just the idea that another world is possible,” he said. “What we’re saying here is that this is not the way things have to be.”
He said that part of the effort is making audiences at these venues aware that the musicians they are watching may not be getting any legitimate compensation for their work. But Plummer said he also wants to try and get musicians to speak up more, since some just accept it as a fact of the music scene in New York City.
“While I might volunteer my services to play at Occupy Wall Street, I don’t think it makes sense to volunteer my services at a for-profit club,” he said.
A common explanation for this practice is that rents are too high for clubs to pay musicians — but Plummer said it just doesn’t make sense for musicians to bear the burden of an unhealthy real estate market.
“We’ve all been thinking about this for a very long time. This has been a standard practice for years that you play for tips,” he said. “[May Day] just seemed like a perfect time and place to bring up the problem.”
The group is meeting at 9:30 p.m. in Sara D. Roosevelt Park at the corner of Chrystie Street and Houston Street. From there, they will stop in local night clubs, pass out leaflets, and talk to patrons.