802 Brings a VH-1 Storytellers Program Under Contract

Volume CI, No. 3March, 2001

Local 802’s campaign to end dark recording dates scored a victory on Feb. 8, when the union signed an agreement covering Matchbox Twenty and the three horn and four string players backing them up for a taping of VH-1’s Storytellers program.

At least three contractors had passed on the job, unwilling to be involved in a nonunion date that would be televised. Local 802 ultimately learned about the date from a musician who had attended one of the meetings the union held with recording musicians when the campaign to end dark dates was launched.

Matchbox Twenty, one of the top 20 rock acts in the country, is signed to the Atlantic label. The band, five musicians and a vocalist, are currently touring with an extra trumpet, trombone and saxophone/flute doubler. For the show, they added a string quartet.

“We were looking to cover the musicians who are not part of the band per se, and do not benefit from any royalty agreements, in addition to the self-contained act,” said Jay Schaffner, Assistant Supervisor of the Recording Department. “Atlantic Records had originally agreed to pay some of these musicians nearly double scale to do it as a nonunion job. The agreement that we signed was that they will pay the traditional basic scale rate, including all pension and health benefits, and that Atlantic will pay the overscale wages that they had initially promised.”

The AFM has developed an MTV/VH-1 single project agreement that covers shows like this. It is signed by a record company to cover its acts when they appear on the MTV and VH-1 networks, which are nonunion. The exposure the artists receive on these shows boosts the sales of both recordings and concert tours.

“We’ve done a number of these contracts before, and the record companies are very familiar with them. So musicians should not hesitate to contact us when they get wind of something like this,” Schaffner said. “Members will benefit from getting the union involved whenever a job like this comes along.”

He pointed out that this latest success shows that the union’s campaign to turn around nonunion phono and film dates is having an impact. “Some musicians are ready to call in nonunion dates when they hear about them, and others are simply turning the jobs down.”