Has the digital age been good to musicians? That bombshell question was recently asked by the New York Times in its cover magazine story, “The Creative Apocalypse That Wasn’t,” written by Steven Johnson. The article received a lot of blowback from many working musicians. Here in Allegro, we’re pleased to publish a rebuttal to the article by our friends at the Future of Music Coalition. But let’s cut to the chase. For our members, the issues that we care about in the digital domain are very basic:
- Theft and exploitation are wrong and should be fought.
- Musicians deserve a voice at the bargaining table to decide what is fair pay when their work is used.
The New York Times story used selective data to say that musicians are, as a group, faring better in the digital era. But that is simply too general a statement and doesn’t begin to address the real issues facing many of our musicians in the digital domain: copyright exploitation, blatant piracy and theft, and the fact that big technology firms (like Google, which owns YouTube) pay paltry rates to musicians. YouTube in particular makes it unnecessarily difficult for musicians to find and take down their music when it’s been used without their permission. As far as paying musicians, these services offer a take-it-or-leave-it mentality: there is no true negotiation over rates.
Then there is also the larger, societal issue that many consumers feel that they don’t have to pay for recorded music at all.
The bigger question is what musicians – and the union – can do about this situation. Obviously, we can’t put the genie back into the bottle – digital music, the Internet and most likely music streaming are all here to stay. The first step we can do is to educate ourselves and join together with our allies. The next step could be legislative: push for better enforcement of current copyright laws and use the courts to enforce our rights. The AFM pension fund recently did this when it sued five record labels over back pay owed to musicians for streamed music. But I think that many other solutions are still out there and will require musicians and the union to come together in creative and strategic ways. This issue is really a national one and something that the AFM (www.afm.org) is working on. In addition, I encourage you to check out the efforts of the Future of Music Coalition (www.futureofmusic.org) and the Content Creators Coalition (www.c3action.org). Our point person here at Local 802 for digital music issues is Shane Gasteyer in our Organizing Department. Musicians can reach out to Shane at (212) 245-4802, ext. 143 or Sgasteyer@Local802afm.org.
INSIDE THIS ISSUE
- Our cover story was born when a musician recently asked Recording Vice President John O’Connor, “Where do you see the union in 10 years?” John’s thoughtful and optimistic answer became the basis of a full story.
- The funny and talented Peter Schickele has been a member of Local 802 since 1964. As everyone knows, Shickele’s alter ego is P.D.Q. Bach, the “last and least” of the Bach family. See our exclusive interview.
- Local 802 recently hosted two youth ensembles: the Marching Cobras and the New York Youth Symphony. These are the next generation of musicians and we were able to talk to them about the importance of union solidarity.
- ICSOM president Bruce Ridge has penned a report on the recent ICSOM conference, which included musicians playing and volunteering at a soup kitchen in Philadelphia.
HARTFORD SYMPHONY UPDATE
The Hartford Symphony is attempting to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement with management. Musicians have been confronted with major pay cuts and unworkable scheduling, among other serious concessions. In early September, Local 802 helped promote a rally in Hartford to support the musicians of the Hartford Symphony in their quest for fair wages and working conditions. After speaking with Joe Messina, president of AFM Local 400 (Hartford) I have the following to report.
Hartford Symphony management had proposed to cut the Tier 1 Core Orchestra services by 40 percent for all three years of their three-year proposal. That would have in effect eliminated the Tier 1 Core Orchestra. They have come back with a six-year proposal with a 30 percent cut in services to the core for each of the six years. President Messina told me, “This is not a better proposal in my mind, even with a small bump on the scale. The NLRB has issued a complaint on their refusal to offer, by the May 1 deadline, individual contracts with the previous season’s terms. Our negotiations have been hampered by the fact that they refuse to acknowledge that the negotiations have a starting point. They keep insisting across the table that the only thing that matters is the ending point. We have filed a second ULP based on their direct dealing with musicians. They had sent a question-and-answer e-mail to all Hartford Symphony musicians inviting them to contact Hartford Symphony management to discuss the Q&A document. On behalf of the musicians of the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and Local 400, I would like to thank all Local 802 members who participated in our rally on Sept. 9.”
PAY THE MUSICIANS!
The AFM has filed suit against the French company KIDAM, and to date the AFM has not received any payments to more than 20 bands that were recorded at the Winter Jazzfest for commercial broadcast on French television. It has been more than eight months since KIDAM entered into an agreement to pay wages and benefits for music recorded at Winter Jazzfest, and yet these musicians have not received payment by the Paris company. KIDAM signed an AFM agreement back in January that detailed wages and benefits for musicians recorded at Winter Jazzfest for future broadcast on the commercial French television station Mezzo, which reaches approximately 16 million subscribers in 39 countries. Among the many musical groups still owed money are Arturo O’Farrill’s “Boss Level” Septet, Wallace Roney Quintet, SFJAZZ Collective, Lionel Loueke Trio and Ryan Keberle & Catharsis.
The musicians of Winter Jazzfest do not deserve to have to wait indefinitely for payment as this company profits from their work. We must hold KIDAM accountable and ensure that these extraordinarily talented musicians get paid for their work.
UNION ALERTS AND UPDATES
- Cirque du Soleil is coming to the Lyric Theatre. We have yet to hear from Cirque regarding this new production. As you may recall, Local 802 already has a bargaining relationship with Cirque from when it produced its show “Zarkana” at Radio City Music Hall. I expect Cirque to do the right thing and contact us as soon as practicable.
- The Kings Theatre is a venue in Brooklyn that is starting to rent itself out to larger and larger shows. Case in point: Ringo Starr will be performing there on Oct. 31, the Moscow Ballet is coming Dec. 5, and there will be a full-scale production of “Annie” at the end of December. Our job is to make sure that the underlying producers cover musicians under a union contract. If you get called to play any shows at the Kings Theatre, please make a confidential call to our Organizing Department at (212) 245-4802. Local 802 is currently working on a contract for the musicians engaged to perform in the December production of “Annie.”
- We recently signed an agreement covering musicians in the “Dames at Sea” at the Helen Hayes Theatre. Since the Helen Hayes is not a League theatre, we had to have a particular letter of agreement for the show to ensure that all the work rules of our Broadway agreement apply. Because of the size of the house, there is a 15 percent concession on wages for the first 16 weeks of the production, after which the scale goes to 100 percent of Broadway scale. We also just signed an agreement for the Off Broadway production of “Daddy Longlegs.” Any time you’re called to play in a musical theatre production of any kind, please make a confidential call to our Theatre Department at (212) 245-4280. We’ll help you get the pay and benefits you deserve.
Long live Broadway musicians! The Broadway League and the Coalition of Broadway Unions and Guilds recently honored musicians and other Broadway artists who have served on Broadway for at least 25 years. Some of this year’s honorees include the following Local 802 musicians: Steven Bargonetti, David Chase, Thomas A. Christensen, Christopher Clark, Lawrence Goldberg, Christian Jaudes, Anthony Kadleck, Adam Kolker, Katherine Livolsi-Landau, Karen M. Milne, David F. Rogers, Timonthy Stella, Scott Wendholt, William Whitaker, Belinda Whitney and John Winder. For more information, see www.BroadwaySalutes.com.
If you or any of your musician friends haven’t joined Local 802 yet, now is the time. We are waiving our initiation fee for new members who join between now and Dec. 31. To take advantage of this offer, call our Membership Department at (212) 245-4802. Please spread the word.
FREE FLU SHOTS
The Actors Fund is offering free flu shots for musicians and other professional artists at the Al Hirschfeld Free Health Clinic/Dorothy Ross Friedman Residence, 475 West 57th Street (off 10th Avenue) on the second floor. Please bring your union card. Appointments are not necessary: just show up at a date and time below. For more, call (212) 489-1939 and press option 3.
Thursday, Oct. 8 @ 9:30 a.m. to 12 noon
Friday, Oct. 16 @ 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Wednesday, Nov. 18 @ 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Monday, Nov. 30 @ 9:30 a.m. to 12 noon
Tuesday, Dec. 1 @ 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Wednesday, Dec. 16 @ 9:30 a.m. to 12 noon