The leader of a popular Jewish function band has been accused of failing to pay his musicians, with fees totalling thousands of pounds left unsettled for years.
Jonni Gilbert, the director of the Gilev Showband, a familiar name on the Jewish wedding and bar- and batmitzvah circuit, is being placed on a Musicians’ Union (MU) list of band leaders who have “not paid musicians on a regular basis”.
The JC has seen a number of social media posts by musicians who claim they have had to wait months or even years for payment, and in some cases have not received the full amount they say they were owed.
When contacted on Tuesday, Mr Gilbert claimed he had “gone personally to each person who has said I owe them money and I’ve rectified it and I’ve paid what was owed”.
In a letter sent later that day, Mr Gilbert’s solicitors, Ezran Law, claimed the unpaid fees were “of a historic nature and are being settled, if not already have been”.
But bassist Daniel Mount, who is Jewish, said on Wednesday afternoon that he had not been paid £2,000 he is owed from seven jobs in late 2015, and that Mr Gilbert had been out of contact since March 2017.
Mr Mount said: “He gave me a flood of gigs over four or five weeks and when I started questioning him over the fees he just disappeared.
“He’s very good at seeming very genuine with it all. He just gets away with it. You realise he does it with everyone. I won’t be working with him again.”
Naomi Pohl, the assistant general secretary of the MU, said she knew of “several claims” against Mr Gilbert, adding that it is common for band leaders to exploit the fact that work can be scarce for freelance musicians.
Singer J-Sol Olatunbosun, 24, told the JC he was owed £1,500 for six months, and was paid only when he threatened to visit Mr Gilbert at his home.
He said: “I think he exploits the fact that freelance musicians are always looking for work. But we have bills to pay just like anyone else.”
A singer who wished to remain anonymous said he was paid the £250 he was owed on Wednesday morning, after the JC had contacted Mr Gilbert.
Another bassist said he had been waiting “more than a year” for a fee of £1,000 which was still unpaid on Wednesday. Contacting the band leader had been “a nightmare”, he said.
Mr Gilbert claimed that personal issues were behind his failure to pay artists, but that it was “not malicious”, and that he has “tried to be as communicative as possible”.
He said: “Under the pressures of being a newly-single parent and trying to upkeep the brand of the band and do the best possible job, which we’re known to do, it’s unfortunate that things might have got lost in translation in the admin side.
“I’ve made significant changes to the way I run things and I now have a full-time business manager. Everyone I’ve hired over the past five months has been paid.”
Mr Gilbert, who has worked in the music business for 26 years, pointed out that he too had experienced delays in payment. “Corporate clients can take up to 60 days to pay,” he said.