Looking Into Off Broadway Recordings

Volume CVII, No. 9September, 2007

President Landolfi has appointed a committee to review and make recommendations regarding the use of the AFM’s low budget sound recording agreement and Local 802’s limited pressing agreement for the recording of material from Off Broadway theatrical productions.

Landolfi announced the committee appointment following a meeting this summer of musicians that included many who have done recordings under these agreements over the last 10 years.

Both the low budget and limited pressing recording agreements preclude their use for the recording of theatrical cast albums. The full budget scales of the AFM sound recording agreement apply for cast albums.

As early as 1997 some Off Broadway productions, which had very rarely recorded cast albums, requested the right to use the low budget or limited pressing scales for recording of their shows.

After discussions that included the union’s officers, Executive Board, Recording Department and representatives of the affected musicians, it was agreed to allow such recordings — but only for Off Broadway productions and with the additional proviso that no such recordings could be titled or marketed as a “cast album.” Nor could the entire show be recorded.

Over the past 10 years and through the last two Local 802 administrations, some 39 Off Broadway productions have used the low budget or limited pressing agreements to record portions of their shows.

While none of these recordings have had any commercial success, they have resulted in the employment of a total of 516 performing musicians, orchestrators and music copyists, who altogether earned over $500,000 in wages.

This employment and the use of these agreements were never a threat to Broadway cast albums, all of which over this same 10-year period were done under the terms of the AFM sound recording agreement.

(One closed Broadway show, “High Fidelity,” had been allowed to record some of its music under the limited pressing agreement in 2006 by the Lennon administration, but only after its brief run.)

Despite the successful limitation of these agreements to the Off Broadway field, concerns emerged earlier this year when the Roundabout Theatre Company and then the Manhattan Theatre Club used these scales to record music from their productions of “101 in the Shade” and “LoveMusik.”

Both the Roundabout and Manhattan Theatre Club are Off Broadway producers: neither are covered by Local 802’s agreement with the League. However, they have become the largest and most successful of the non-Broadway producers and their shows are eligible for Tony awards.

The sentiment of at least some of the musicians at the June 6 meeting was that because these shows are Tony eligible and because these two theatre companies do not appear to lack in financial resources, any recordings — even a partial cast recording — should be done under the full AFM recording agreement scales.

Adding to this argument is the fact that actors — who had in the past been paid far less for “Off Broadway” recording — were now getting their full AFTRA recording rate at the Roundabout and Manhattan Theatre Club. (Both of these theatres are signed to Equity’s contract covering regional theatres, or LORT.)

The committee will begin meeting in September to review all of these new developments and make a recommendation to the Executive Board about how to handle these situations in the future.

The committee will be chaired by Recording Department Supervisor Jay Schaffner and include performing musicians from Off Broadway and Broadway as well as representatives of the music preparation field. The committee includes Bruce Coughlin, Katheryn Edmonds, Matt Gallagher, Tino Gagliardi, Diana Herald, Jennifer Holt, Al Hunt, Jill Jaffe, Chris Jaudes, Frank Lindquist, Lisa Pike, Maxine Roach and Wally Usiatynski.