New York Musical Theatre Festival does the right thing
I am always happy to start my monthly report with good news. The New York Musical Theatre Festival (NYMF), a crucial incubator for new musical theatre in New York City, has agreed to cover all musicians in all of its shows this year under a Local 802 agreement. It’s hard to overstate how important this is.
This year, the festival presents 30 shows and takes place from July 9 to July 29 at various venues.
In the past, our theatre department has attempted to organize each show one by one, and we were not always able to sign every production.
But under this year’s global agreement, all musicians will be covered, including many who may be joining Local 802 for the first time. We are bringing new musicians and new shows into our fold, and this is excellent.
We need to give credit where credit is due. The festival’s executive director, Isaac Hurwitz – who is also a musician –voluntarily agreed to present our agreement to all of the NYMF producers. We only wish all employers were as enlightened as Mr. Hurwitz.
The musicians in this festival will be covered under our theatrical showcase agreement, which guarantees that they will be paid no less than the amount actors are earning. Any health or pension benefits offered to the actors must also be offered to the musicians.
The agreement also stipulates that if the show moves to Broadway or Off Broadway (or anywhere else in Local 802’s jurisdiction), musicians will have right of first refusal.
The New York Musical Theatre Festival and the separate New York Fringe Festival are critical to the development of new live music theatre productions. Many Broadway and Off Broadway shows have come out of the festivals.
Local 802 has had a presence at both festivals since the beginning. It’s an important way for us to connect to new musicians and new producers, and it’s a way to unionize new shows from their very inception.
All theatre musicians will be invited to our annual “Meet and Greet” networking event here at Local 802 in the fall. Look for details later this summer.
For more information about shows at the festival, see www.nymf.org for schedules and tickets.
If you’re a musician playing in one of these festivals and you have a question about your rights, please call the theatre department at (212) 245-4802. Ask for Theresa Couture or Claudia Copeland.
P.S. On page 13, you’ll read about another festival that’s gone union: the Undead Festival. This feels like a trend! Let’s hope so…
SCENES OF SPRING
We have many reasons to celebrate spring, and in this issue, you’ll see four photo features, each commemorating a different rally or contract we’ve achieved recently.
A special thanks to all of our members who marched on May Day, both in the main parade and in our jazz rally later that night. It was a momentous occasion with lots of joy, energy and action.
GOODBYE TO ‘PRISCILLA’?
As Allegro goes to press, Local 802 and the Broadway League are in the process of finalizing a settlement of our grievance against the producers of “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.”
As musicians well remember, the show opened a little over a year ago at the Palace Theatre. To our great alarm, the producers of the show had hired fewer musicians than the Palace Theatre’s minimum and instead used a recording to provide the sound of strings and to augment the winds and brass.
Over the next several months, we staged massive protests and launched our live music campaign.
Our legal case against the producers was continually stalled. But last month, we received an offer from the producers that was acceptable to us. The show has since posted its closing notice and the curtain will fall for the last time on June 24.
A condition of the settlement is that both parties agree to keep the terms of the settlement confidential. That being said, I can assure you that Local 802’s position on the use of recorded music to replace live musicians is unchanged and has not been compromised philosophically or contractually.
PLAY FOR WHAT YOU’RE WORTH
Local 802 recently became aware that an instrumental ensemble called Mimesis had booked a concert at Carnegie Hall and was actually paying musicians at minimums below legal minimum wage (which is $7.25 an hour!)
Please remember: any time you get called to play in a nonunion ensemble, or any music job where you are being paid less than you deserve, do us all a favor. Take the job, and then make a confidential call to the union, letting us know the details.
We have an excellent track record in improving pay and benefits while protecting your identity and your job.
Give us the chance to keep the playing field level for all musicians across the city. Help us stop a race to the bottom.
Call (212) 245-4802 and ask for a union rep.
MUSIC & POLITICS
Please remember that the next Local 802 membership meeting is Wednesday, June 13 at 5 p.m. here at Local 802. Members will vote on whether to donate money from the union’s TEMPO fund to three NYC mayoral candidates. This proposal was printed in last month’s Allegro on this page. Please call my office at (212) 245-4802 if you have any questions or concerns about this proposal or anything else about the meeting.
As to why Local 802 should get involved in politics, I want to reiterate that sometimes politics directly affect us as musicians, and that’s when we must get involved.
For instance, the National Endowment for the Arts recently cut funding for the PBS show “Live From Lincoln Center.” The NEA also cut $100,000 from its grant to the Metropolitan Opera for its national “Great Performances at the Met” telecasts. The TV station WNET lost $700,000 from the NEA to support other “Great Performances” productions and for “American Masters.” American Public Media sustained a major cut of $150,000 to its classical music programming, including “Performance Today.” Overall, the NEA decreased its grants by $4 million compared to last year.
This is politics. It’s up to us to convince the government and society that arts funding matters. This is a long term battle, and it’s far from over.
DRAMA DESK SEES THE LIGHT
As readers know, the Drama Desk Awards are one of the most presitgious theater competitions. They’ve been around since 1955 and the judges include more than 140 critics, reporters and editors.
But this year, the Drama Desk announced that it was going to drop the Best Orchestrator award category.
After a public outcry, and many messages from musicians, the Drama Desk rescinded its decision and the category will stand.
We applaud this decision. Orchestration is an art and it should be awarded like any other theatrical discipline.
The awards were being presented as Allegro went to press. The revival of “Follies” and “Death Takes a Holiday” had each received ten nominations.
I recently attended the Mid-States Conference of AFM Locals. The conference took place in Madison, and it was an informative and productive exchange of information.
These conferences of locals – including our own New York State conference – are valuable opportunities for the AFM as a whole to engage with all the locals of the federation.
Many of the problems facing musicians and our locals are very similar. The conferences give us a chance to discuss various issues and share ideas on how to resolve the problems we face.
The subject that seems to come back over and over again is organizing.
I’m not just talking about organizing work not covered by a union agreement, but organizing musicians. We are a family and too many times we forget that we are stronger together than we are alone.
Everywhere I go, from city to city, I hear and enjoy vibrant music scenes, whether in a club, a concert hall, or a theatre and I have to ask myself how many of those musicians know and understand that there is an organization out there fighting for the rights of all musicians: the right to earn a fair wage, the right to provide healthcare for our families, and yes, the right to retire with dignity, enjoying the fruits of our labor.
As a Local 802 delegate at these conferences, the message I repeat like a mantra is that I cannot stress enough the importance of communication with our brother and sister musicians.
We need to be on one team; we need to end the practice of agreeing to work for sub-standard wages. It is time to unite and fight back. Be proud of the card you carry in your pocket and the professional affiliation it represents. Our union is open for business and is here to help. As one, our strength can know no bounds.
PAMPHLET B MEDIA AGREEMENT
The AFM has recently ended negotiations with the Broadway League for the Pamphlet B touring agreement.
The good news is that AFM President Ray Hair was able to finally rid the agreement of the unwanted tiers that enabled some shows to be launched with ultra low wages.
We now have only one alternative option for touring – the Short Engagement Tour agreement – where some economic relief is given to those shows that do not have the economic advantage of long performance schedules but rather have to move from town to town on a continuing basis.
MAJOR GRIEVANCE SETTLED
Local 802 recently settled with the Off Broadway producer of “Once.” Despite constant appeals by the union, the producer refused to recognize the union as representative of the musicians in the show, which has since moved to Broadway. After much deliberation and the threat of arbitration, the producer agreed to come and talk to us.
Actor/musicians on Broadway are protected by a provision known as the Actor/Musician Settlement Agreement. This agreement came to be as a result of the show “Sweeney Todd” starring Patti Lupone. This was the first time that all the music was being provided by performers who had to act, sing, and produce the instrumental accompaniment. Since then, all shows that require this type of performance are subject to the terms of this provision on Broadway.
The terms require that actor/musicians be compensated at the rate the represents the higher of the weekly salary of either the Local 802 Broadway agreement or the Actors Equity production contract.
When this occurs Off Broadway, the same rules apply.
In this case, despite the pushback from the producer, Local 802 was able to get these performers some back pay for the double duty they engaged in every day.
WE WANT YOUR CD’S!
As many members know by now, Local 802 is in the process of creating its own Internet radio station. (We published an article about this in the April issue.) We need your music at this time in order to have enough material to broadcast!
If you have a CD that you would like to feature on the station’s playlist, you only need to get it to Local 802. Included should be your contact info, the genre/sub-genre of the recording, and the recording date.
Submissions can be mailed or hand-delivered to:
Local 802 Radio
322 West 48th St, 5th Floor
New York, NY 10036
(We know that many of you would prefer to upload MP3 files to us, but at the moment we are only accepting CD’s.)
For more information, call K.C. Boyle at (212) 245-4802.
WE’RE NUMBER ONE!
Allegro recently won first place for general excellence in the annual journalism contest of the Metropolitan Labor Communications Association, an umbrella group of labor publications. We are very proud of our journal, which has been going strong for almost 90 years. Allegro is a group effort and I thank everyone who is involved in it, especially our members who volunteer their time and energy to write articles. Members who have a story idea to submit can contact Allegro editor Mikael Elsila at Allegro@Local802afm.org or (646) 765-9663.