The figures are in — and the news is good. The Recording Department recovered over $2.5 million in wages and benefits for musicians in 2007, including money for grievances, late penalties and settlements. That’s the most money ever recovered by that department or any department in the union. And that money went back into members’ pockets.
“We owe the good people at the Recording Department a huge debt of gratitude,” recording musician and Local 802 member Ralph Farris told Allegro. “They work tirelessly on our behalf, and they continue to produce the most extraordinary results.”
Recording musicians earned a total of about $25 million in wages in 2007. So the amount of grievances collected — $2.5 million — represents about 10 percent of the figure. Speaking in averages, this means that for every $500 earned by a musician under a union recording contract, there can be a “missing” $50 that’s owed to them.
Often, musicians don’t realize they’ve been underpaid because they’re not always aware of what they’re due under union contracts. For instance, an “overdub” can be listed as a “double” — a simple sleight-of-hand that can cost a musician money.
Other times, musicians may know that their contract was wrong but they are intimidated to confront the contractor or producer.
“The job of each department at Local 802 is to vigorously enforce the contracts so that musicians don’t have to worry at all,” said Local 802 President Mary Landolfi. “However, when musicians speak up, it helps. Members can always count on their calls to the union to be handled confidentially.”
Landolfi added, “For a variety of reasons, employers often underpay musicians. Sometimes this happens mistakenly; sometimes it’s willful. Musicians count on their union to be vigilant in recovering money owed to them. The Recording Department and our other departments are working hard to accomplish that.”
As recording work becomes more competitive, the role of the union in ensuring that musicians are paid what is supposed to be paid becomes even greater. Every dollar counts.
“I really appreciate the effort that Jay Schaffner and the Recording Department puts into recovering money due to us,” said recording musician and Local 802 member Sammy Merendino.
Merendino added, “Last year I got a call telling me I had some checks. They were for a Saturday sports broadcast that Jay Schaffner had been trying to collect for years. It was quite a sizable amount, and without the AFM and Local 802 staying on top of it, I never would have seen a dime. Still another reason to be a union member!”
Recording leader and Local 802 member Joel Beckerman agrees. “Jay Schaffner and the recording department are top notch,” Beckerman told Allegro. “They make extraordinary efforts daily on behalf of musicians. Their patience, persistence and resourcefulness are amazing! I’m tremendously grateful for all they have done for me and all the musicians on the sessions I lead.”
Another recording leader echoed this sentiment. “I am most thankful for the tenaciousness of Local 802, and in particular, thankful to Jay Schaffner for staying on top of getting payment for the contracts which I had filed as a leader,” said Local 802 member Peter Fish. “Jay’s professionalism, both in dealing with me and with the employer, is exemplary. Without Jay and 802 I could have never collected the wages — as well as late and grievance fees — owed to me and my sidemen without alienating either side in the process. Thanks for a job well done.”
Jim Hynes, a Local 802 member who also contracts recording work, told Allegro that “Jay Schaffner and his staff have always worked hard on behalf of the players who have done recordings that were not paid in a timely fashion. He has always been a valuable asset to all union musicians and always will be. On behalf of all the players involved with CBS, we thank him for his tireless efforts.”
The next issue of Allegro will report on the grievance dollars collected by other departments, which were not available at press time.
In other recording news, Recording Supervisor Jay Schaffner recently met in Chicago with representatives from the Los Angeles chapter of the Recording Musicians Association. Schaffner was accompanied by Recording Musicians Committee member David Weiss. The meeting was organized by AFM President Tom Lee to discuss matters of mutual interest affecting New York and Los Angeles recording musicians.
One of the largest grievances collected in 2007 was actually for the 2006 Latin Grammys. It took months to track down all of the musicians for whom payments were due, including for the foreign broadcast and the supplemental market payments. $137,564.89 was collected on behalf of 133 musicians.
The experience from the 2006 Latin Grammys created the basis on which Local 802 and the AFM together negotiated the terms and conditions for the 2007 Latin Grammys, which this time took place not in New York, but in Las Vegas.
Once again, all musicians performing musical services on the show were covered — both side musicians and royalty artists.
The Latin Grammys were broadcast on Univision, a network that regrettably is not known for having work done under AFM recording contracts.
The victories of the Latin Grammys came on the heels of the 2006 MTV Music Awards show, telecast live from Radio City. As previously reported in Allegro, for that program Local 802 Recording Supervisor Jay Schaffner, together with the AFM, negotiated an agreement that covered all musicians who were hired to augment royalty musical acts. All such musicians received AFM Basic Cable scale, pension and health.
This past year, Schaffner, again together with the AFM, negotiated a new agreement for the MTV Music Awards Show, which like the Latin Grammys was held in Las Vegas this past year. The big difference is that for the first time ever, all musicians performing on an MTV program were covered: backup musicians, royalty performing artists, and the members of their bands.
All musicians received scale wages, pension and health benefits.
“The MTV Awards Shows and the Latin Grammys reflect the reality of recording today — entertainment is changing, there is a global economy both for recorded music and for the purchase and consumption of music programming,” Schaffner told Allegro. “This shows what happens when Local 802, representing the needs of New York’s recording musicians, works hand-in-hand with the AFM. There is no other way in today’s world.”