Changing Times Present New Challenges

Recording Vice-President's Report

Volume CI, No. 9September, 2001

Erwin L. Price

Local 802’s operations encompass a wide range of activities that have increased in scope over the years. The union has made determined efforts to stay abreast of technological developments in the music and entertainment fields and to communicate these to our members, so that we and they can make intelligent decisions about their work and musical activities. Changes in technology affect not only the work members do – whether in a Broadway show, phonograph recording or jingle – but also the way the union itself operates and accesses information.

802 recently commissioned a study of the so-called independent labels in the phonograph industry. A preliminary review indicates that this report provides information about these “independent” labels’ relationships to the major signatory companies, their distribution networks and corporate relationships, details about producing relationships, manufacturing processes and pricing decisions. It outlines a complex web of interlocking relationships that we need to understand better if we are to represent recording musicians effectively.

Some major negotiations are coming up soon, and some are now taking place. Directly related to the issues of new technology and the study described above are the AFM phono negotiations, which will take place early next year. One important development is the continuing consolidation in the recording/phonograph industry. The big players are even bigger, and mergers have created some chaos in the companies, as people are reassigned and resources reallocated.

In some instances this is making it difficult for recording locals like 802, because the people we do business with in the industry keep changing. Musicians and the union also have to deal with changes in the way the music is being produced. But despite these changes the local is doing a creditable job of filing contracts, tracking engagements and late payments, and collecting the payments due to musicians. Our computer program has been a big help in keeping our records up to date and has enhanced our ability to retrieve the information we need.

The AFM team that will negotiate national contracts (Phonograph, Jingles and Film) will be headed by Tom Lee, former Secretary-Treasurer and now President of the AFM. Lee, a former Secretary of the Washington, D.C., local and former IEB member and AFM Vice-President, defeated Steve Young, the incumbent, in an extremely close election.

The new AFM Secretary-Treasurer is Florence Nelson, who served as a Vice-President at Local 802 before becoming head of Symphonic Services at the AFM. She is the first woman to be elected a top officer of the AFM.

These newly-elected officials have their work cut out for them, but I believe they are people of good will and good intentions who will do the best for all the members of the Federation. It is our hope and belief that continuity will be maintained and the Federation’s business will go forward.

Local 802 recently hosted a meeting of the locals affected by AFM Pamphlet B touring contracts. The participants sought to find common ground and develop mechanisms to ensure that all musicians are represented and treated equitably. Further meetings will have taken place by the time this report reaches 802 members. President Moriarity will be reporting to the Executive Board and to members on progress being made on the difficult issues at hand.

On a local level, the Concert Department has begun meeting with the various freelance concert orchestras, dealing with them one by one. This is a change from the time, some years ago, when a formal consortium of concert managers negotiated together. David Lennon, Assistant Director and Supervisor of the Concert Department, is the chief negotiator in charge of freelance negotiations, with input from the orchestra committees.

The union recently concluded an agreement with single engagement club date leaders, and the new scales are now in effect. Other negotiations with managements and individual employers are ongoing, among them off-Broadway and the New School.

The education process for members and committee training is continuing, and has expanded to include strategic planning for targeted negotiations.

This is an election year in New York City and Local 802 is taking an extremely proactive role by interviewing candidates for political office who seek our endorsement and financial support through TEMPO802. Legislative Director Heather Beaudoin organized the interview and recommendation process, which will be ongoing until the general election in November.

One concern members should be aware of is the increasing cost of goods and services, particularly in the health care field. The union is committed to seeing that musicians’ wages keep pace with costs, and that our collective bargaining agreements reflect that. Improvement of working conditions is always high on our list, along with better health benefit and pension terms.