Looking Backward – and Ahead

Recording Vice-President's Report

Volume C, No. 2February, 2000

Erwin L. Price

As we embark on the new century, Local 802 can look back on a year of many negotiations, important successes along with some defeats, some accolades and some recriminations. The usual mix for an active labor union.

Membership: Our membership has held steady at around 10,000. There are always new members joining, offsetting our losses from deaths and lapsed memberships. The financial picture will probably show that our 1999 budget projections were fairly close to the mark, with a possibility that expenses will slightly exceed income. But the final numbers are not yet available; a full financial report will soon be made in these pages by the controller.

Bargaining: Many negotiations took place during the past year, including AFM national contracts for motion picture film recording, Pamphlet B tours and PBS. In the phono field, joint labor and industry committee meetings were held to discuss the internet. Local 802’s Concert Department wrapped up freelance orchestra negotiations and the union signed agreements with Radio City Music Hall, the Hotelmen’s Committee for Hotel Users of Music, and a host of off-Broadway productions. In addition, single agreements for specific events in the concert field were negotiated by the New Organizing Department; the Contract Administration Department reached several restaurant agreements, and the Recording Department was actively involved in some national negotiations, in conjunction with the AFM’s Electronic Media Services Department.

Organizing: Our efforts took an enormous leap forward, as Starlight Orchestras became signatory to the club date agreement and the New School’s Guitar Studies Center moved closer to negotiating a first contract for their faculty.

Computerization: Local 802 took giant strides into the information age, as the efforts of the computer department and a supervisors’ committee brought our web site on line. Much information about Local 802 is now available on, along with frequently updated news about music, musicians, labor issues and legislative activities. We are getting positive reviews – not only from 802 members, but from AFM members in other locals around the country.

Reorganization: The last few months have seen an extensive revamping of 802’s offices, with the goal of using our space more efficiently to better serve members’ needs. With the renovation of the sixth floor, the building is now fully rented. Local 802 Legal Counsel Leonard Leibowitz and Harvey Mars are occupying offices on the sixth floor as paying tenants. The Musicians’ Assistance Program (MAP) has moved to new, more private offices on the sixth floor.

The Jazz Foundation of America rented space on the third floor adjacent to AFM Local 1000, a non-geographic local devoted to the needs of travelling musicians. The third floor now also houses Health Benefits Plan staff, Contract Administration, Legit 802, the Musicians’ Referral Service, MPTF and the Recording Vice-President’s office, which handles Club Room rentals.

The fourth floor is occupied by the Financial Vice-President’s office, the Concert Department, New Organizing Department, computer and data entry. On the fifth floor you will find the President’s office, Broadway and off-Broadway representatives, Music Preparation, Public Relations, Allegro’s editor and ad manager, Senior Musicians and a computer available for members’ use. The second floor remains the same: Membership, the Controller’s office, recording checks and recording contract clerks, Recording Supervisor and business reps and the Building and Personnel Manager. For more information about staff who handle the union’s various functions, check Allegro or our web site.


If I had to sum up in one word the changes that have taken place in the musicians’ union – Local 802, the AFM and all the locals across the country, from the smallest to the largest – during the past century, that word would be “technology.” From the invention of Edison’s device, which ultimately became the motion picture, to the sound track, electrical recording devices which became phonograph recording, which we now know as CDs, to the computer and the internet, which are driving the media and entertainment revolution, technological change has been the main catalyst changing musicians’ lives. That point was made recently by Executive Board member Jack Gale, in the current issue of the Members’ Party Newsletter that he writes and edits:

“Over the past fifty years, most areas of the music business have undergone significant changes. The effects of technology which permitted the displacement of live musicians in motion picture theaters, nightclubs and broadcasting over the past several decades have been heightened by the growing availability of inexpensive, high quality recording equipment and the decentralization of music production in most industries.

“The most significant changes took place in the recording industry. Affordable electronic advances led to thousands of additional, smaller recording studios. Overdubbing became the standard operating procedure in pop record production. The number of professional recording musicians on the average record date began its precipitous decline. As a result, before long, most pop records were produced through financial arrangements between record producers and royalty artists without the involvement of Local 802 or the AFM.”

Electronic technology also affected the jingle industry, where acoustic musicians are being used less and less, displaced by synthesizers and other electronic instruments. Single engagement club date bands have found themselves in competition with the disc jockey and his turntables. Tapes in many instances have replaced live orchestras in cabaret, read “Las Vegas,” the ballet and some theatre pits, though not on Broadway.

Where are we headed now, as we enter the 21st century? While we have no crystal ball to provide definitive answers, Local 802 is committed, as an active, progressive labor union, to doing what is necessary to empower musicians in the work place. We will serve our current members, both those who are working and those who are not; we will educate our members and other musicians to the benefits available to them as members of a union; and we will organize internally and externally to increase 802’s presence in the musical work place.


From reading the Executive Board minutes in each issue of Allegro, members are already aware that the board is grappling with the many problems facing us and devoting much time to finding solutions and moving forward. We have begun an intensive educational program for members, utilizing seminars and meetings. The AFL-CIO has been very helpful in this regard, making their resources available to help us realize our goals, with particular assistance in formulating a mission statement and developing strategic planning to address the many areas that need attention.

The union’s administration – its elected officers and Executive Board – have our work cut out for us, but any meaningful changes need the active participation of rank-and-file members. This cannot be a top down effort. It needs the input and activity of a vital, concerned membership in every field of the music industry. As our plans develop we will be calling on you to be part of the solution, and we will also be reporting to you regularly in these pages.