Recording Department Collected $734,841 In Six Months

Volume XCIX, No. 9October, 1999

Perhaps the largest sum ever collected by the Recording Department in a six-month period was distributed to 802 recording musicians earlier this year. Some of the grievances went back a year or more. Some of the recording sessions took place three or even four decades ago. None of these collections would have been possible if contracts had not been filed for the initial sessions – and all of them reflected a steadily increasing level of cooperation between members and their union.

A total of $734,841 in wages and benefits was collected to settle grievances filed by Local 802, with $307,351 – or more than 40 percent – coming from various phono engagements. Many of these collections were for the reuse and new use of material that had originally been recorded for use in another medium. For example:

  • Although VH-1 is not a signatory to AFM phono agreements, “we were able to get the record company to cover the date for musicians involved in a program called The Divas Live, which was recorded in April of 1998,” said Jay Schaffner, Assistant Supervisor of the Recording Department. “There was a television broadcast of this live performance, a number-one-selling record album came out, and then videocassettes. We finally collected a total of almost $60,000, between phonograph wages and video wages, for the 57 musicians.”
  • Soundtracks of – or inspired by – the film You’ve Got Mail have been released by both Atlantic and Warner Brothers, and are approaching 2 million in sales. 802 collected almost $31,000 for the 135 musicians whose work was used on both the Warner Brothers album and the Atlantic Records release.
  • Six music prep musicians who wrote the charts for a live performance by Patti Page at Carnegie Hall shared almost $20,000 in wages and benefits. The concert had been recorded “on spec” – but it ended up winning a Grammy last year. “The musicians were initially engaged for a cash date, but the only way we would agree to have it recorded was if the employer signed an agreement,” Schaffner told Allegro. “While the music prep people were paid for the charts for the live performance, they were never paid for the phonograph use. If we hadn’t insisted on the contract, nobody would have been paid for that recording. (In 1998, the union collected $28,315 for the 42 musicians who performed on the recording, all of whom will now receive Special Payments Fund monies amounting to about $8,500 more.)

“Once again, it points up the fact that we only have leverage if we can insist on a contract before the fact,” Schaffner said. “And the more our members are aware of union standards – and trust Local 802 to follow through without endangering their future employment – the more effective we can be on their behalf.”


New use and reuse payments for themes used by the major networks are not always paid on a timely basis – and when this happens, the penalties can exceed the unpaid wages and benefits. Grievances filed under the television film agreement produced $152,546 in collections during the first six months of the year. That sum included nearly $40,000 for 38 musicians, covering two years of use of one theme (but it did not include penalties of almost double that amount, which will bring the total payment to musicians to well over $100,000).

At another network, the foreign broadcast of a sitcom which had not been stripped of all audio (as is usually the case when shows go into foreign distribution) generated $38,850 for the 22 musicians involved. In both situations, close monitoring of how musicians’ work is being used was the key.

Cable is basically a non-union field, but Local 802 collected a substantial $79,433 for 135 musician sessions in the first six months of the year. A large portion of this went to the 33 musicians who took part in a Johnny Cash All-Start Tribute. The musicians wanted the date to be union (as did Johnny Cash) so they could get pension contributions and protection for other uses of the material. They shared over $46,000.

Approximately the same amount was collected for grievances filed under the jingle agreement, with roughly $35,000 paid by a signatory agency, Gray Advertising. The advertiser on behalf of whom the agency filed the contract failed to abide by the double scale provision when it produced jingles promoting the road show of the musical Chicago with informational changes for different cities.

The largest component of the $63,984 collected under the Public TV agreement was $47,760 shared by 36 musicians who performed in an “in concert” production featuring a major recording artist. Having a contract meant that rehearsals were paid at recording scale, pensions and benefits were paid, and contract provisions covered any reuse of the material, as with the phonograph release of this performance. Since a phonograph contract was filed, musicians will also receive Phono Special Payments Fund contributions for this project.