The battle to save live music is rapidly turning into an all-out war. In total defiance of its own agreement with the union — and a complaint issued by the New York State Employment Relations Board — the Opera Company of Brooklyn and Realtime Music Solutions attempted to showcase the virtual orchestra machine at a performance on Dec. 14 at CAMI Hall. OCB boasted its intentions to embrace the machine and defy the union in a Dec. 10 Playbill interview.
Union musicians, staff and supporters planned a massive rally of protest outside CAMI Hall, where the concert was to take place. CAMI is located directly across from Carnegie Hall.
CAMI GIVES OCB THE BOOT
But, upon learning of OCB’s intention to showcase and promote the virtual orchestra machine at its venue, CAMI Hall upheld its commitment to live music, threw OCB and Realtime out onto the street, and immediately cancelled the performance.
“CAMI Hall is to be applauded for upholding its strong commitment to live music. They sent a loud and clear message that, notwithstanding Realtime’s propaganda, the virtual orchestra machine is just that — a machine,” stated 802 President David Lennon. “OCB and Realtime’s continued attempts to pass it off as a musical instrument are absurd and transparent.”
The union also filed for a hearing with a justice of the New York State Supreme Court to seek an injunction against the company. The injunction would prevent the company from using the machine while the case is still pending at the state labor board. The hearing was scheduled to take place on Dec. 17, after Allegro went to press (check the Local 802 Web site at www.Local802afm.org for updates).
The dispute centers on a precedent-setting agreement that the opera company made on Feb. 6, 2004, in which it agreed to ban the use of all virtual orchestra machines. It also recognized 802 and agreed to bargain with the union.
The company later tried to nullify its own agreement, which prompted the union to take the matter to the state labor board, where the situation stands.
STATE LABOR BOARD DECIDES
The state labor board issued the complaint against OCB finding probable cause that the company had violated state labor law by reneging on its collective bargaining agreement. After an initial investigation and settlement conference, the first formal hearing took place on Dec. 8. At that hearing, lo and behold, OCB appeared with two lawyers: its own, and a lawyer, Lori J. Pennay, from the law firm of Akin, Gump — a notorious anti-union law firm that represents none other than virtual orchestra machine-maker Realtime Music Solutions.
As the only matter before the state labor board was to determine if the OCB violated state labor law by reneging on its agreement with 802, we immediately objected to the presence of Realtime’s attorney at these proceedings.
Pennay denied that her law firm still represents Realtime. However, moments later she claimed that she was authorized to waive any conflict-of-interest on behalf of Realtime and OCB. As the saying goes, “When were you lying: then or now?”
Administrative law judge Michael Boyajian agreed with the union.
Boyajian put a brake on the proceedings to allow the union to file a motion of objection. The hearing is scheduled to resume on Feb. 11.
It is abundantly clear that this is not merely about an opera company attempting to use a virtual orchestra machine. This is most definitely about a virtual orchestra machine company — Realtime Music Solutions — using the Opera Company of Brooklyn as a witting pawn in an attempt to gain legitimacy for the virtual orchestra machine. Realtime hopes to reap enormous profits from a machine designed to destroy live music. This is about greed.
Last winter, Realtime failed in its attempt to file an unfair labor charge against the union and OCB, claiming that live musicians were trying to put the machine out of business!
The federal National Labor Relations Board ruled the ban on the virtual orchestra machine to be legal and binding.
Yet, once again, Realtime is trying to cheat New York audiences with its machine designed to replace live musicians.
“Every time companies, producers, manufacturers or employers attempt to use the virtual orchestra machine, they will face massive resistance from musicians, all arts and entertainment professionals, elected officials, organized labor, the public and this administration, on every possible front,” said Lennon. “This is war on live music.”
Since Feb. 2004, Local 802’s ongoing campaign to keep music live has resulted in over 20 agreements banning the virtual orchestra machine, most recently at the Mitzi Newhouse Theatre at Lincoln Center and Dodger Stages at Worldwide Plaza.