In About-Face, Musicians’ Union Agrees to Pandemic Fund-Raiser

It’s a Streaming World After All: Scuttled Benefit Is Back.

A Broadway fund-raiser to benefit entertainment workers whose livelihoods have been imperiled by the coronavirus will be rescheduled after a labor union retreated from a demand that musicians be paid for the streaming of the previously recorded event.

“We believe all musicians should be fairly compensated for their work all of the time, but we also believe that we must do everything possible to support entertainment workers hurt by the coronavirus pandemic,” Ray Hair, international president of the American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada, said in a statement Monday. “We fully support the union musicians who have graciously offered to forgo all required payments to allow this charity event to move forward.”

The fund-raiser, which had been scheduled for Monday night, will instead be held on Friday at 7 p.m. Eastern time.

The event is to raise money for the theater nonprofit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. It will feature a streamed benefit concert, recorded in November, in which 79 singers and dancers, and 15 musicians, performed songs from Disney musicals, . The actor Ryan McCartan will host from home, weaving in live interviews.

The fund-raiser had run aground over whether the musicians — who were paid last fall for performing — should also receive compensation for the streaming.

Their union, which has made a priority of winning compensation for streaming media, insisted that the musicians should be paid. But the charity said it could not afford to do so, and pointed out that other unions, including Actors’ Equity and SAG-AFTRA, had agreed to waive any fees given that the event was to benefit suffering performers. The charity also agreed to make a donation to an emergency assistance fund for musicians.

After an unpleasant email exchange last week, the charity canceled the event on Saturday.

On Sunday, the 15 musicians issued a public statement expressing their desire for the event to proceed without any additional payment to them. Also on Sunday, the president of the union’s Local 802, which represents musicians in Greater New York, issued a statement criticizing Hair’s action.

On Monday, after Hair issued the statement changing his position, Tom Viola, the Broadway Cares executive director, issued his own statement thanking the union and praising those musicians “who were willing to speak up during this unprecedented time.”

And the musicians who had performed in the original concert welcomed the news. “We are delighted to see that President Ray Hair has endorsed our wish to donate our rights to the streaming of this performance,” they said in a statement. “Thanks to all the AFM leadership for hearing our voice in this matter.”


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