Internet Streaming Pays Off For Musicians

Volume CIV, No. 11November, 2004

Jay Blumenthal

Rapid changes in technology have presented an interesting dilemma with which the AFM, locals and various orchestra managements are currently wrestling.

Prior to the advent of the Internet, radio stations broadcast their signals over the airwaves. Today, in addition to the normal radio broadcasts, radio stations simultaneously “stream” their signal over the Internet, enabling listeners from around the world to tune into the broadcast.

Most musicians believe that this additional simultaneous Internet stream, reaching a worldwide audience, has additional value and therefore requires an additional payment.

Orchestra managements have been reluctant to pay musicians a simultaneous streaming payment in addition to the normal radio broadcast rates. And radio stations have been loath to turn off the stream.

When musicians of the Cleveland Orchestra insisted on a streaming payment the result was the curtailing of broadcasts from this orchestra.

Here in New York City, this issue has arisen with respect to the radio broadcasts of several of our New York orchestras.

The Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra Committee together with myself, Recording Supervisor Jay Schaffner, and Deborah Newmark, the AFM’s director of symphonic electronic media, successfully negotiated the first streaming payment in New York, for a recent Brooklyn Philharmonic radio broadcast.

While this additional payment is small ($5 plus 10 percent pension), it is a beginning.

Shortly after the Brooklyn deal, an expanded New York Pops Orchestra Committee working with Local 802 and the AFM reached the same agreement for five separate programs for broadcast — each program triggering a payment.

Soon after, Mostly Mozart management agreed to a premium on the national broadcast rate which is inclusive of a payment to the musicians for the ability to simultaneously stream its broadcast.

We believe this is the beginning of a recognition by orchestra management that streaming brings enormous value to a broadcast due to the worldwide audience accorded by the Internet. We intend to pursue this concept for every orchestra represented by Local 802.

For more information, contact the office of the financial vice president, at (212) 245-4802, ext. 105.