Is It Possible?

Music Prep scores big for union members

Volume CIX, No. 7/8July, 2009

Steve Danenberg

IS IT POSSIBLE that after almost two decades, orchestrators and copyists have recently achieved increases in wages that were long overdue? Yes!

Earlier this spring, I received a call from the administrator of our Health Benefits Department, Gloria McCormick. She said to me, IS IT POSSIBLE that music prep contributions for health benefits exceeded last year by $125,000?

After a brief pause, my response was this: “Of course it’s possible!”

The explanation is simple.

Since March 2007 we instituted two increases in health contributions to the General Price List. As of the second increase, contributions rose $9 per day for copyists (up to $27.50) and a 2.5 percent increase (up to 7.5 percent) based on scale wages for orchestrators.

In the last Broadway negotiations the administration had the foresight to make substantial increases in the Health Benefits Plan for both instrumentalists and music preparation, which saved the plan from virtual bankruptcy.

IS IT POSSIBLE that some members are not aware of the General Price List? These scales are used for music prep in live performances other than Broadway. (They can be found along with our employer agreement at under “Wage & Contract Info.”)

A contract must be filed for each production. Rates for wages, pension and health benefits contributions must be defined in the agreement, which gives the union the right to collect wages and benefits. The employer agreement should be filed for all live music prep jobs including Broadway.

Bottom line: if you’re asked to copy, orchestrate or arrange music, put it on a union contract. It’s worth it. Contact the Music Prep Department at (212) 245-4802 for details.

IS IT POSSIBLE that every time a music prep musician is forced to do a nonunion gig, it hurts our health plan? Yes! We know that musicians play nonunion jobs because we all have to survive. But sometimes a nonunion job can be turned into a union job. If you get called to arrange, orchestrate or copy for a nonunion project, call us. Give us the chance to turn your nonunion job into a union job. Even if you don’t need health insurance, others do. Nonunion jobs also weaken our pension plan, which historically is on safer ground than any 401(k). Many members don’t realize the positive impact the pension fund has had for so many of our members.

IS IT POSSIBLE to do music prep for an out-of-town gig and have your employer sign a Local 802 music prep agreement? Yes, regional theatres around the country are utilizing our talented members and doing just that.

IS IT POSSIBLE that Local 802 can achieve solidarity with other unions? Our Broadway agreement is now timed to expire more closely to the stagehands’ and actors’ contracts. This will bring greater strength to all of the negotiating positions.

Finally, IS IT POSSIBLE that we have committees and union leadership who care about music prep musicians? Yes! We should all be thankful to the Copyist Committee, the Orchestrators’ Committee, the Executive Board and the officers of Local 802 for their careful and diligent attention.