Protecting Live Music at Home and Abroad

Volume 114, No. 12December, 2014

Tino Gagliardi
Tino Gagliardi

Tino Gagliardi

As I write these words, I’m on the way to London, visiting our colleagues at the British Musicians’ Union. Among other things, we’re talking about how to protect live musical theatre from producers who are constantly trying to chip away at the number of musicians in the orchestra. A key component to this visit will be a discussion about what happens when actors are asked to play music on stage and when musicians are asked to act. Unfortunately, we are once again seeing the actor/musician clause applied in an abusive way that undermines our minimums. It is an insult to all we have done to hone our craft as professional musicians when someone picks up an instrument to play a few notes during a show and that is then applied to our minimums. I believe that we and the British Musicians’ Union may be able to come up with an agreement that will respect the varied talents of musicians and actors in a way that will address and prevent such abuse.

An important story in this issue of Allegro, written by Bruce Ridge, president of the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians, also speaks to the importance of live music. In his essay, Bruce writes about how all of us need to be the best advocates for live music that the world has ever seen. I couldn’t agree more, especially now.

How many times have we been to a social event or a restaurant where we hear recorded music in the background – or a DJ – or no music at all? We must continue to argue for the value of live performance. I know I can speak for any of you who have experienced the difference between a DJ versus a live band. The excitement of performance is what drives us as musicians and it is for this reason that our audiences acknowledge and appreciate live music.

If you know someone who is planning a wedding and you hear comments like, “Oh, I don’t want to spend the money on a live band,” or “I can’t find a band that knows the music I like,” or “I’ll just put a playlist on my iPod,” you have to be ready to explain why a live band would make the occasion much more memorable and that the musicians of Local 802 can play any style for any event. (You can also refer people to the booking agency that we’ve helped set up: Check it out!)

Another example: let’s say you attend a musical at your child’s school and you find that the actors are singing to recorded tracks instead of to live music. You can write a short, polite e-mail to the school principal reminding her or him that instrumental music is also an integral part of the learning experience and those students of music performance in those schools should not be denied the opportunity to learn by performing. Arts education in our schools must be a priority.

Every little bit of advocacy helps. We have to write letters to the editor – and tweets and Facebook posts – about the importance of live music. As Financial Vice President Tom Olcott writes in his column, “How good are you at advocating for live music? Are you doing everything possible? Do you belong to any kind of community group or club that can sponsor a live performance? Does your local chamber of commerce sponsor live music? Are there public bandshells or community spaces where live music could be staged?”


After my meetings in London, I will be joining AFM International President Ray Hair and representing NYC musicians at an international conference on digital downloads and music streaming that will be held in Budapest, organized by the International Federation of Musicians, of which the AFM is a member. We have two important articles on streaming in this issue of Allegro: a report from Andy Schwartz from the Future of Music Summit, and a report from Shane Gasteyer about the efforts of the Content Creators Coalition.

Streaming obviously offers the consumer a convenient way to listen to music, but the problem with it is the pitiful royalties that the streaming companies offer musicians and copyright holders. Some courageous musicians have pulled their entire catalogs from streaming services until the royalty rate improves. Our mission is to reinforce the concept that the artists who create music deserve fair and decent compensation and that we shouldn’t simply accept whatever the streaming companies choose to offer without real, balanced negotiations.


Musicians who play at the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular have one of the hardest-working holiday gigs. Photos: Walter Karling

Musicians who play at the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular have one of the hardest-working holiday gigs. Photos: Walter Karling

In addition to the stories mentioned above, we have some terrific content in this issue of Allegro:

  • Our feature interview in this issue is with one of the most important and prolific arrangers – Stan Applebaum. Our own Steve Danenberg and Bob Pawlo spoke with Stan and learned some of his incredible life story.
  • Maggie Russell-Brown debuts her organizing column. Maggie writes about the fast food workers’ campaign that she came from and how thinking outside the box is essential to union organizing. It’s something that we can learn from, she says.
  • Harvey Mars’ column on is an important legal analysis about the concept of joint employership, a very important point for musicians. When you play a gig, who’s your employer: the bandleader, the booking agent or the club itself? The answer makes all the difference.
  • The musicians at Radio City Music Hall have one of the hardest working holiday gigs. We’re pleased to present a photo spread in this issue.
  • Recently, a musician was arrested for performing on a subway platform. Local 802 later took part in a rally along with City Council members to support this musician. Here’s a quiz: do you know whether it’s legal or not to perform on a subway platform? Was the police officer correct in arresting the musician? The answers may surprise you. See Shane Gasteyer’s story.


Our supervisor of electronic media, Steve Danenberg, has reported that musicians who were taped at a live show at the venue called Below 54 recently received $6,741 in wages, $809 in pension and $200 in health benefits. The bandleaders were the songwriting duo Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty. Broadway Records agreed to pay the union’s limited pressing rates, and the union agreed to a settlement on music prep. Any time you’re playing a live gig and you see that it’s being recorded, please make a confidential call to Local 802 to protect your rights and get the money you deserve. Call (212) 245-4802 and ask for a recording rep.


Allegro was recently voted first place in our circulation class in New York City and second place in the entire nation by the International Labor Communications Association and its NYC chapter. We’re proud of our journal and we thank all the staff and members who make it an excellent publication.


We’ve been concerned recently at the lack of a quorum at Local 802 membership meetings. I recently formed a subcommittee of the Executive Board to discuss how we can get more members to attend our meetings. Our next membership meeting is Wednesday, Feb. 18 at 5 p.m. here at Local 802. We hope to see you there.


If you know any musicians who haven’t joined Local 802, now’s the time. From now through Dec. 31, please spread the word that musicians can join Local 802 without paying the usual initiation fee. Call (212) 245-4802 and ask for the membership department to take advantage of this special offer.


I hope to see all of you at Local 802’s holiday party on Wednesday, Dec. 17 at 5 p.m. here at the union. Let’s share some holiday cheer together. I’ll see you in these pages again in January. Happy New Year to all.