Oregon Fest Troubles

The 16th annual Ernest Bloch Musical Festival in Newport, Ore., which draws about 1,500 classical music fans, was canceled this year because of a dispute over how to classify musicians who play the week-long summer event.

State authorities consider the Newport musicians to be employees rather than independent contractors. That means the nonprofit festival organizer, BAY Music Association, must pay unemployment insurance retroactive to 2000, and will be subject to unemployment and other taxes in the future.

“I feel this position by the state is ludicrous,” BAY board member Ken Combs told Pollstar. “[The musicians] only work for us a week out of the year, they earn at most $800 for the week, and the state says they’re employees because they meet the criteria that the Oregon statute defines as being an employee.”

The ruling, and more than $8,000 in legal fees related to the audit, prompted BAY to cancel the fest. Meanwhile, it is appealing the decision.

BAY’s budget for 2003-2004 was $125,000, mostly from grants. Of that, $74,000 went to pay musicians.