A recent New York Times article on the “mournful coda” of the NYC music scene has caused a stir. Here’s how I feel about it…
Let me begin my report with an apology. Last month, Allegro published a number of interviews with Broadway musicians which did not include any with women. Two women had been asked to participate in these interviews but, for whatever reason, Allegro did not hear back from them at the time. Other women should have been asked to participate and the publication of the article without additional interviews with women was an unintentional oversight by the Editorial Board for which I apologize.
As soon as the error was recognized, we e-mailed 11 women and got their stories. We had planned to print those interviews in this issue but we have decided to wait until we can include even more diversity in terms, not only of gender but of ethnicity and additional musical fields. New members call us frequently, asking about how to get gigs on Broadway and in other fields and, according to our monthly poll, securing work is still one of the top reasons that musicians are attracted to Local 802 and the New York City freelance community. We hope that this series will be informative and interesting to our readers.
FEAR VS. HOPE
I have heard from many musicians regarding Daniel Wakin’s Dec. 3 article in the New York Times entitled “Freelance Musicians Hear Mournful Coda as the Jobs Dry Up.” Some have appreciated the attention brought by the article and to what can only be described as the cheapening of live music, and some have resisted the view that work is drying up, contending that we are just witnessing the ever-changing landscape of the music business.
I’m having a harder time coming to my own conclusions about the article and its significance. On the one hand, it is true: work is down. On the other hand, what do we gain if we succumb to fear and pessimism? Should we simply give up, or assume that the United States economy has fallen into a black hole from which it will never escape? I say no.
History indicates that the economy and the music industry will recover. When it does, it is up to us to address the changes and adapt to our evolving environment by being prepared to uphold the standards in our agreements we have worked so hard to achieve in creative and innovative ways.
First, we can support political leaders whom we believe will push for a healthier arts scene. In the last issue, Tom Olcott wrote an eloquent article about how we pick and choose our political endorsements.
Second, we can do our part to keep live music on the public radar. We have active committees in the union working on just that. We are exploring ways to once again bring attention to the world class talent Local 802 musicians have to offer the public, our audiences. Some of you may have heard the various spots on 1010 WINS, letting the public know that live music is the best and to choose it whenever possible. On this note, I am so pleased to announce that legendary jazz bassist and Local 802 member Ron Carter recently came into the union to record a voiceover for our latest round of radio spots. (See photo above.) We feel privileged and honored to have Mr. Carter’s support as well as the support of guitarist John Pizzarelli, who has also lent his voice to the same effort.
As I stated earlier, another thing the union can do during a recession is to hold onto the gains in our contracts. We’re in the middle of freelance classical negotiations right now, and with the Lincoln Center Orchestras, Radio City and Broadway coming up next year, as usual there will be pressure on us to compromise – perhaps compromise too much. Our job is to hold firm and look for gains where necessary. For this we’ll need your help. Together, we can be strong.
In the middle of a recession, we need to be inventive. For instance, the AFM is motivated to save the Music Performance Trust Fund, which many of our members have relied on over the years for income. The goal is to find sources of revenue to pay into the fund. At the recent AFM convention, it was resolved that the AFM make a priority of proposing MPTF contributions in the negotiation of future electronic media agreements. This will require the use of our most creative minds in the recording industry, and the AFM has made great strides to insure that those minds – the professionals in the recording industry – have input and are involved.
Finally, the urge in a recession is to cut, cut, cut. That’s not always the smart thing to do and it could be penny-wise, pound foolish to make cuts that undermine the union’s effectiveness. My father, a bricklayer by trade, used to tell me over and over again as a child that “cheap is expensive.” Investment is also crucial. A small example is the purchase and installation of a hardwood floor for the Club Room stage. This has made our stage safer and more attractive and it provides better acoustics. It makes us proud to know that we are not letting our building fall apart. New members will appreciate this too.
As for Broadway negotiations, we are well underway in gathering our forces. Our Negotiation Preparatory Subcommittee (NPSC) was formed last spring and met every other Wednesday, alternating with the Theatre Committee. It was a 15-person committee whose purpose was to collate data from the Theatre Committee delegate summit held in the Club Room last spring, research ideas and issues and offer a recommendation to the Theatre Committee about how best to proceed with the upcoming negotiations. The NPSC gave its report in early September after which the Theatre Committee began the process of electing the Negotiating Committee. The Negotiating Committee has nine members and three alternates, many from the NPSC. Local 802 Counsel Bruce Simon and I have met with the committee and we are currently formulating our plan for those talks
The life of a union president can be measured in the time spent in meetings, and yet meetings are crucial to strategizing. Here are some more meetings to report on.
The International Executive Board Electronic Media Oversight Committee meeting was recently held in Los Angeles. This committee was formed in 1990 and was created as a way for rank-and-file recording musicians to have input with the International Executive Board and the Electronic Media Services Division (EMSD). The committee consists of three RMA representatives plus one symphonic representative. Additionally, there are four members of the IEB that serve as liaisons to the EMSD, which I am one. The purpose of the meeting in Los Angeles was to discuss ways to more effectively cover scoring work done for video games. This is an ongoing process and this meeting represented one of many that will take place over the next year.
Also, at the last International Executive Board meeting, we were able to approve a balanced budget for the AFM. This was a particularly difficult task given the state of our union and the current state of our industry. Hard decisions had to be made and changes implemented in order for the Federation to continue to do its business serving the professional musicians of the United States and Canada. In the end, the IEB provided due diligence in making sure that happens and I am proud to be part of such a dedicated board.
HELPING DETROIT MUSICIANS
On Jan. 4, the musicians from the Detroit Symphony Orchestra will have been on strike for three months (unless there is a settlement by the time you read this). The fact that management has not settled yet is outrageous. The Executive Board recently contributed $5,000 to the Detroit Symphony Orchestra Member Fund. For the latest updates, see www.DetroitSymphonyMusicians.org.
GOODBYE, JOHN AND HELLO, BETTINA
We recently had a surprise on the Executive Board. Board member John Babich announced his reluctant resignation because of a career opportunity that would not allow him to attend E-Board meetings regularly, if at all. John has been a member of Local 802 since 1976 and has worked in every area of the music business, including classical, Broadway, recording, club dates, jazz, rock and chamber music as well as music education. A graduate of the High School of the Performing Arts, John earned a B.M. in performance and education at Queens College. A longtime union activist, John served on the CAC and the Trial and Executive Boards. He has negotiated many contracts, and is currently on the committees of the American Symphony Orchestra and the Long Island Philharmonic. We will miss John’s contribution and dedication to the Executive Board.
The Executive Board appointed Bettina Covo to fill John’s vacant spot. Bettina has already served this local in varied ways including representing the local as a delegate to the last AFM Convention. With a master’s degree in harpsichord from Juilliard, Bettina has performed internationally as a harpsichordist and organist. She’s played the downtown clubs with her seven-piece electric band Chromatica and has composed for both theatre and film. Bettina has had extensive experience at Local 802 as a Broadway representative and in the Music Prep Department. Bettina also has the advantage of having worked in many, if not all of the various departments here, gaining invaluable knowledge of the inner workings of Local 802. As a Local 802 board member, Bettina will no longer be allowed to work in any department of the local, but the experience she brings to the board is an easy trade.
We say goodbye and good luck to John, and welcome to Bettina!
The Executive Board recently decided to allow advertisers to purchase ads on our 802 NOTES electronic newsletter. Each ad will be clearly marked as a paid advertisement. Most electronic newsletters allow advertising these days, and this could be a way to bring in more income to the union. Advertisers who wish to learn more should e-mail Allegro@Local802afm.org