Fillmore Jazz Festival's "Cattle Call" Raises Concerns About Musician Pay 

The offer of $75 drew ire from a local promoter/booker and musicians, while others say it's just the reality of the economy.

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One of those content musicians was Jim Passard, bandleader of The Lost Cats. "I've been playing music for 35 years," he said. "I play with guys that make a living playing music. I'm just incredibly excited to be playing the Fillmore Jazz Festival." Passard said he also played the Union Street Festival this year for $75 after responding to a similar last-minute e-mail Restivo sent out, and three years ago played the same event for $100. Overall, he said his experience with Restivo has been "good." In fact, after Dalton's e-mails and articles about the issue, Restivo bumped up Passard's pay to $100. "I'm curious now all this is coming up how much Calvin Keys is getting," Passard said. "He's pretty well-known. I can't imagine that he's going out for $100."

Indeed, considering some of the big-name acts such as Keys, Kim Nalley, and Houston Person, it's likely that Restivo spent the bulk of his money on the headliners and ran out of funds for the supporting acts. Restivo wouldn't divulge his financials, and several musicians booked to play the festival did not return calls for comment. The question is whether Restivo can afford to pay the supporting (i.e., local) acts more money than he's offering. He wouldn't say whether he makes or loses money on the festival, or how much, so it's hard to know. But Ribak, who played the festival in 2005 and 2006 when it was being produced by a different company, said $75 was "less than a third of the money he was paid."

Granted, the state of the economy has probably made it more difficult for the festival to get sponsorships or vendors. Passard said that Restivo told him the costs of policing the event went up about $30,000 this year.

Organist Wil Blades notes that the economy has also forced musicians to take gigs they wouldn't have taken in the past. Still, he said it's the responsibility of musicians to put their foot down and refuse low pay. "If musicians take these gigs, which obviously they are, that furthers the problem," he said. "Yeah, we can point the finger at Restivo doing some unfair stuff. There's plenty of sleazy booker promoter people out there, but at the same time, the musicians need to step up and say, 'No, we're not gonna do this.'"

Many local musicians say Restivo's attitude is indicative of a greater issue, and the Fillmore Jazz Festival is just a glaring example. "My problem with it is just that the San Francisco jazz scene, as far as the locals are concerned, sometimes tends to be not very well supported, and this is the one local festival, pretty much 90 percent or so are local jazz musicians, so it's a drag that this is the way the whole thing goes down," said Blades.

A North Bay-based jazz vocalist who would only speak on condition of anonymity because she feared repercussions on her career, said the SFJAZZ Festival is "notorious" for not hiring local musicians. "Local musicians built that festival," she said. "And now none of us ever get to play and it really irks me." She added that most Bay Area jazz venues pay "nothing" and expect the musicians to do all the marketing, with the exception of Yoshi's and Anna's Jazz Island, which is no longer open. Carnaval San Francisco also doesn't pay musicians much money, according to Dalton, whose boyfriend performed at this year's event. Passard said he often plays gigs for food, drinks, and tips.

Instead of cash, a big incentive for musicians to play events like the Fillmore Jazz Festival is the exposure, according to Restivo. But some also criticize that assertion. "Their argument about you're getting press out of this is kind of BS because the schedule just got announced," said Blades, a week before the festival. "That's a joke as far as promotion is concerned. The festival could be much better run."

And Restivo seems to agree, at least partially. He's under contract to produce the next two Fillmore Street Festivals. But next year he said he'll "hire a booking agent and just let 'em do it themselves. And it's not going to be Stephanie Dalton."

Miscellaneous Debris

Berkeley-based promoter Another Planet Entertainment, which books the Greek Theatre, Fox Theater, and The Independent locally, has taken over operations of the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, the Chronicle reports. Having signed a twenty-year lease with the city, Another Planet has agreed to make $10 million in improvements and to start booking regular concerts there. In exchange, the city will get $100,000 annually in rent with 2.5 percent increases — more if ticket sales exceed expectations. The city will also be allowed to use the facility rent-free for up to fifty days per year. ... SFJAZZ has announced its complete lineup for this year's season, which starts September 14 and runs through November 20 at various venues around the City. Tickets to the general public go on sale Sunday, July 11. ... The lineup for Mission Creek Music & Arts Festival has also been announced. The long-running indie music festival, now in its fourteenth year, will be held July 9-11 in Oakland and July 14-18 in San Francisco at various locations.

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