Building a Campaign From the Bottom Up

Music & Power

Volume CVIII, No. 7/8July, 2008

Ethan Fein

I recently visited the orchestra pits of seven shows on Broadway to spread the word about building a corporate campaign to promote live music in New York. Musicians told me that they are concerned about the loss of recording work to foreign climes, like Connecticut and Prague.

In what seems like a fortuitous coincidence, Local 802 has just hired Paul Molloy as the union’s political action and public relations director. (I knew Paul in his previous life as a professional guitarist on Broadway and in other venues.) Paul informed me that he might have some work for our activist group.

Very recently the state of New York passed a 30 percent tax break for pre-production film work, which is intended to try to encourage the making of films in New York. Unfortunately, the creation of music for film is post-production. So we, the musicians, didn’t get that tax break, or any particular incentive to record film music here.

A remedy has appeared in the two-part form of a proposed 30 percent New York State tax break for post-production (including music), and another 5 percent New York City tax break for the same thing. If we can get some people to join our group to lobby legislators, we might be able to actually move these things along, and at the same time, we can start to be players in this system, which often seems to freeze us out.

Another project which I hope is near and dear to all our hearts is to help get a regime change here in the good old United States. The New York City Central Labor Council is going to organize phone banks to try to get a more labor-friendly administration in Washington. Our activists can help out. This can have a twofold benefit. The obvious one is affecting the election, but the less obvious one is to show the Central Labor Council that we are not just sitting around waiting for stuff to happen to us. The CLC could prove to be a good ally for us in future struggles.

Someone in one pit asked me some fairly detailed questions about my specific future plans, and I claimed I was learning as I was going along, since I did not have the specific answers which were requested. Upon further thought, I realize I did not respond correctly. If this thing works, I will not be the leader of our corporate campaign. I am simply trying to establish a credible group of foot soldiers so Local 802 can hire the expert with the experience to lead us effectively.