If you’re a Broadway musician who has ever recorded a cast album, you know that the music can often end up in unlikely places, such as jingles, elevators or even airlines. But there is a union contract in place that protects musicians and pays them for this kind of use. It’s called the Broadway Cast Album Industrial Agreement.
This contract pays musicians up front, and allows producers to make use of cast music in limited ways in order to promote the show.
A show must record a full cast album in New York before producers can apply to use the promo agreement. This has meant a marked increase in the number of shows that are recording full cast albums.
Over the last nine years, the agreement has paid out $940,511 to 649 musicians. (Of these, 434 were instrumental musicians, 37 were arrangers and orchestrators, and 178 were copyists).
It is unlikely that even a fraction of this money would ever have been tracked and collected without the promo agreement. During the prior decade, especially for shows originating out of town, there was a track record of producers successfully hiding the source of their promotional products.
And now, musicians’ earnings under the promo agreement will be even sweeter, to the tune of an 11 percent pay hike or an 11 percent decrease in dues — no matter how you look at it.
How did it happen?
In 2005, the AFM Convention imposed a 15 percent work dues on these kinds of promo recordings. (The standard dues for recording is 4 percent.)
But this time around, Local 802’s convention delegates successfully argued that because all of the administrative work involved in securing payment for this new use of the cast albums is done by our local’s Recording Department, there is no reason for the additional 11 percent dues payment to the AFM. Dues should go down to the standard 4 percent.
Convention delegates agreed, and in one swift motion, musicians saw a dues decrease.
A LITTLE HISTORY
The promotional agreement was put together in 1997 by the AFM and Local 802’s Recording and Music Preparation departments.
It came following years of claims and countless grievances over unpaid promotional uses of cast album tracks.
To avoid payment, shows argued that the music they used in various jingles and other promotional products was recorded elsewhere.
Several shows deliberately chose to record tracks as far away as Australia in order to avoid new use payments.
Shows originating in Europe typically took the position that any music used in their promotional products was recorded there.
In many cases proving the music came from a Broadway cast album was next to impossible, especially if it came down to convincing a labor arbitrator with little or no musical knowledge.
In the 1997 Broadway negotiations the promo agreement was proposed by the union and rejected as “too rich” by Broadway producers.
A year later however, shows began to experiment with its use and since then some 24 shows have used the agreement.
HOW IT WORKS
After producers make a cast album, the promo agreement requires additional payments of one industrial session payment to each musician for every cast album recording session.
For most albums this is four to five sessions. At the current industrial session rate of $195.39, this means a total payment to musicians of $976.95 (for a side musician) up to $1,660.82 (for a side musician with two doubles).
Additional doubles increases the amount of the industrial use payment.
For music prep personnel, 10 session payments are split proportionately among the orchestrators/arrangers and 10 session payments among the copyists.
Once these payments are made to musicians, producers are allowed to use the album tracks for jingles, “lobby loops” in hotels or other public places, on airlines, and in similar promotional activities.
They are not allowed to use the tracks in place of musicians for any performances on TV or radio.
In addition to the added up-front payment to musicians, the hope is that encouraging more promotional use of the show’s music will increase the box office and keep the show running. In some instances this seems to be the case.
For an orchestra member on a Broadway show with typical promotional activities, the show would have to run for nearly four years in order to collect the same amount of money that is paid up front under the promo agreement.
The average Broadway musical, however, still runs for less than 36 months, meaning that the promo agreement is a great deal for all but the longest running shows.