Musicians Need a Different Kind of Benefit | Bleader

Monday, November 16, 2009

Musicians Need a Different Kind of Benefit

Posted By on 11.16.09 at 02:57 PM

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An op-ed by Bloodshot Records cofounder Nan Warsaw and Future of Music Coalition project coordinator Alex Maiolo in yesterday's Chicago Tribune entitled "End the Need for Benefit Concerts" raises yet again the issue of American musicians without health insurance. The fact that few musicians, from weekend giggers to major-label performers, have adequate coverage is nothing new, but between the ongoing debate over health-care reform and Scotland Yard Gospel Choir's recent van crash it's a good time to bring it up once again.

This state of affairs is due in part to a technicality—even musicians who have deals with big labels are almost all contract workers hired on an album-by-album or session-by-session basis, and therefore aren't covered by their employers' insurance. Warsaw and Maiolo's piece doesn't present musicians as somehow more entitled to health insurance than anybody else making do without it, but rather puts them in the same category as freelancers and the self-employed. Furthermore it argues that the lack of coverage isn't just unfair but downright un-American—employer-based coverage in particular can stifle entrepreneurship by preventing people with bright ideas from heading out on their own.

Here's one passage that jumped out at me:

The modern American work force is mobile and flexible. People are less likely these days to stick with the same employer through retirement, and many of today's job opportunities are contract-based. But our health insurance coverage remains largely employer based, leaving freelancers, artists and tiny startups with almost no affordable options for coverage. While musicians frequently rally to each other's aid, who organizes the benefit show for the uninsured teacher's aide? Who prints T-shirts for the ailing Web coder?

Read the rest here.

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