Musicians turn up the heat on Lincoln Center

Musicians turn up the heat on Lincoln Center


norman lebrecht

May 28, 2021

From a letter to Local 802 members by its President Adam Krauthamer:

Most of you know that Lincoln Center is producing a series called Restart Stages, which includes performances at Damrosch Park.
The problem is that Lincoln Center — even though it controls the money — is refusing to act as the employer of its musicians. Instead, it’s sending out non-union contracts to our members and forcing musicians to negotiate directly with bandleaders and music directors. This shirking of responsibility means that there’s no union agreement or pay scale for Restart Stages.
The current recovery is very fragile. We need maximum support from arts institutions such as Lincoln Center, which is home to some of the largest employers of musicians in NYC. Money is flowing into NYC through the American Recovery Plan, and Lincoln Center is one of the beneficiaries. At this time more than ever, musicians need support — including a guarantee of fair wages and benefits….

To put it bluntly: Lincoln Center has the responsibility, the duty and the moral obligation to pay area standards and assume the role of direct employer of musicians — instead of deflecting this requirement.


  • sam says:

    Lincoln Center has $100,000 dollars, it can either:
    – engage 100 musicians as contractors for $1,000 each in fees, or
    – hire 90 musicians as employees for $1,000 each in salary + $100 in related taxes and social security contributions.

    You are one of 100 applicants, you are situated behind a Rawlsian Veil of Ignorance (sorry, non-political philosophy types), would you choose the former or the latter?

    • Phillip says:

      In the middle of an international health emergency nothing is more despicable than taking government money and engaging musicians while avoiding making Healthcare contributions on their behalf.

      • Saxon says:

        Only in a primitive country like the US; the civilised world has universal health care coverage for all members of society.

    • at says:

      Aside from some Lincoln Center constituent activity, the bulk of Restart Stages actually features performances by other arts orgs and community groups unaffiliated with Lincoln Center. LCPA is merely acting as a presenter of these other arts groups. This is why they maintain that they are not the employer of the musicians appearing on their outdoor stages: they are contracting outside arts groups to produce the performances, and leaving it to these groups to contract the performers. It’s no different than if they were to engage the Cleveland Orchestra to do a concert performance of “Salome” at David Geffen Hall: Cleveland contracts and pays the vocal soloists (as well as its own players, naturally), not Lincoln Center. It’s just easier for AFM to go after a power player like LCPA than to chase after all of the smaller orgs that are actually producing these performances and hiring the musicians.

  • JoshW says:

    Otherwise known as union strong-arming.

  • Andy says:

    Yep, another case of “big orchestra” throwing its weight around to crush small Managements. I’m so fed up with all these fat cat musicians who have done so well for themselves over the past year standing up against exploitation. Thanks calling this what is is Josh, musicians should really stop bullying their employers

  • NYMike says:

    Lincoln Center is not the only Restart Stages employer. The Chamber Music Society/LC is also playing/streaming 6 live concerts from the Damrosch Bandshell and paying their usual roster of musicians.