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Home » Recent News » TV Musicians Rally, March Through Times Square to Demand a Fair Contract

TV Musicians Rally, March Through Times Square to Demand a Fair Contract


More than 75 musicians joined together in front of the Ed Sullivan Theater on October 6 to call out CBS and the other television networks as musicians escalated efforts to secure a fair contract, gain wage increases and broader healthcare coverage, and secure residuals for streaming usage.
The rally was supported by New Yorkers from a wide array of labor entertainment unions, and included comments by Congressman Jerry Nadler, State Senator Brad Hoylman, City Councilmember Keith Powers, City Councilmember Helen Rosenthal, New York City Central Labor Council President Vincent Alvarez, and Local 802 (New York City) President Adam Krauthamer.

“Late night would not be the same without the musicians,” stated Hoylman. “CBS, you have a black eye. It’s time to give the talent the pay, the health care they deserve. It’s time to update the contract—a contract that seems to have been written when Ed Sullivan was the host.”

After years of attempts to achieve balance and fairness in the broadcast television industry, a majority of the house band musicians (members of the AFM) have signed an “Open Letter to the Networks” calling on ABC, CBS, and NBC to create true pay parity for the musicians and dismantle the structural racism that still runs rampant in the television industry. 

“The networks—CBS, NBC, and ABC—recognize that our music elevates the quality of their shows, and they are more than happy to use our sound and images to enhance the brand of everything they do,” said Jon Lampley, trumpet player in the Stay Human house band on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, and a member of Local 802. “So often we are celebrated for bringing diversity to the screens that we grace—both with our faces, and with our music. Yet behind the scenes we are being told that our contributions aren’t worthy of a fair deal. The networks rejoice when we, the musicians, can add ‘culture’ to these shows that are written and hosted predominately by white men, but off camera they’re unwilling to grant us the economic parity that we rightfully deserve.”

While streaming residuals are granted to actors, singers, writers, and others in the industry, the musicians performing on the same shows receive no residual payment for music that is being monetized and featured on streaming platforms, significantly lowering musicians’ overall pay.

The #RespectUs rally continued with a musical march down Broadway concluding in front of the ABC Studio in Times Square.

While television musicians in New York and Los Angeles have been fighting for their rights, they have also been getting others in the industry engaged in the issues. Artists including Cher, The Roots, and QuestLove have voiced their support for television musicians over social media, as has late night television show host Stephen Colbert. 

The Late Late Show host James Corden, who comes from a family of musicians, recognized his house band during his October 22 show monologue. “Musicians are a massive part of this show,” he said. “And if you’ll allow me, I just wanted to say to our band here, how much I absolutely love you so much and value the work that you do on our show; what you bring to the show is indescribable. You elevate everything that we do. And it’s not just the music, it’s your presence here on screen. You lift everyone here, every single day. And I can honestly say we would be lost without you.”

In late October, the AFM and the networks reached a tentative agreement, subject to ratification.

Congressman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) spoke at the October 6 rally in New York City during which television musicians demanded fair contracts from networks.

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