It was great to see so many members attend our online meeting on March 12. Seeing us all together, even in a virtual space, was a reassurance that we will remain connected no matter the adversity confronting our union. There were many faces I know very well, some for four decades, and others I hope to get to know better once we are out of the pandemic. With the COVID-19 vaccines comes the promise of rebirth in the music industry. It can’t be too soon! The great news about the federal legislation that will rescue of our pension plan and the COBRA subsidies certainly was uplifting for all.
During the meeting I reported on what has been happening in the recording department and noted that it is very busy here, even during the halt in most live work for our musicians. In the first months of the pandemic we were seeing primarily checks coming in for residuals and re-uses of older recordings, but new work is starting to come back.
Over the past few months recording has made up the vast majority of filed work coming through 802’s doors. Upwards of 90+ percent is recording-related, and that has remained steady. We see the greatest volume coming from commercials (filed on AFM B6 forms) and live TV shows (B8s), followed by film (B7s) and sound recordings (B4s).
A significant number of contracts are now being filed, and in the last quarter of 2020 we were receiving an average of 300 contracts per month for new sessions, new-use and re-use of recordings, paying numerous musicians, averaging 2,900 instances of musicians appearing on those contracts. That is very heartening to see.
During the past year of the pandemic we have not been idle and some very positive and significant changes are happening in our department. I have a lot to tell you about.
We have updated our internal workflows allowing us to work more efficiently and accurately to better and more quickly serve you. Those updates will help us to help you, with the ability to supply accurate information about your recording work when you need it.
We will now be able to track more data and so better understand the health of our industry. This data is key to getting accurate information to the secondary market funds, which many of you rely on for additional income each year. We aim to generate more information and data about job trends to help our musicians stay current, and enable our local to better plan for the future.
We have created a Paycheck-Request tracking system to improve our service and response times. We have also improved our ability to track each individual paycheck. Staff can now view and report on musicians’ Paycheck-Requests with the details of each check and can do this whether they are working from the office or remotely.
We now track details of all Work Dues payments our recording musicians make, including what specific jobs each payment is applied to.
We are now able to provide detailed receipts, with a paycheck number, project name, employer, engagement date, and work dues and AFM fees paid. These detailed receipts may be important for your tax or auditing purposes. The bare-bones register receipt that lacked important details on your payment of recording work dues is a thing of the past!
In the coming weeks you will see the roll out of automated email paycheck notifications to musicians letting you know that we have received your paychecks. So, please make sure your email, mailing, or temporary mailing address (if you are presently sheltering somewhere else) is on file with us to ensure you get notifications. The Member Portal on the Local 802 Web site is a convenient way for members to enter updates to their records.
Send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org to see if you have any paychecks waiting in-house and to ensure we have your current email and mailing address on file with us. We will mail paychecks to musicians upon receipt of work dues. Those can be paid either by credit card on the phone, or snail mailed in a check to Local 802.
These updates are a big step forward for the recording department and for our members.
Special shout outs go to Chris Reza and Marcus Medina for their expertise in managing the entry of recording data and to Cathy Calabrese, who handles all your checks and is known as the voice on the telephone with the good news that we have money for you.
I also want to thank our IT department for the great work it is doing to build a better system for the recording department. That includes Supervisor Rob Mosher and his staff including Jen Cronin, Paul Rusk and James Park. And we cannot forget our building staff, Supervisor Laura Fowler and Amoh Essandoh who have made countless trips to the post office to collect packages of checks and send out your mail during the pandemic. All the above make up a very productive team and they deserve our thanks.
Performing for benefit shows
Production of numerous pandemic relief benefit shows continues, notably to raise money for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids and Actors Fund of America. We all want to do our part to help during the pandemic but here is an alert: don’t allow yourself to be talked into performing or recording remotely without the coverage of a union contract that includes scale wages, health and pension benefits.
Most of these streaming events generate major donations but if you accept an honorarium or accept cash you are being denied the full wages you deserve along with the health and pension benefits you need.
If you get asked to do one of these streamed shows please call me at (212) 245-4802, x110 or email me at email@example.com. We have been very successful in getting union agreements for this work. Not only will the money be right but you will have important protections for your recording if some other deal is made to use those tracks.
Recently we were able to get new use payments for BC/EFA benefit shows from the past, some dating back 15-20 years, including a concert with Bernadette Peters and one with Chita Rivera; for the use of older tracks from 2005-2011 for ABC Daytime Drama: Back to Broadway; for new projects including Ratatouille: the Tik Tok Musical, and Home for the Holidays, as well as a payment for Radio City Christmas show musicians for a re-use of their 2007 DVD aired in a 2020 NBC holiday broadcast.
We want to ensure that your current work will continue to generate payments in the future so if you get a call to play for a benefit or other streaming event please let us know so we can go to work for you and get it covered.
There is a place to go for help!
I want to keep reminding members that the Musicians Assistance Program administered by the Actors Fund of America is here for you. Sometimes it is hard to take the first step to get help or even acknowledge that the time has come to ask for it. We have been steadily raising money throughout the pandemic via the Local 802 Musicians’ Emergency Relief Fund and the Save NYC Musicians campaign. We are ready to help. There has been a wonderful response from both members and major donors and the ERF has built up a good-sized bank account.
After a year of pandemic closures and the financial hit that so many of our members have taken it is not surprising that assistance may be needed now. If that is the case, please go to the actorsfund.org Web site and click on the link Am I Eligible for Help? You will find a fillable questionnaire that will be processed by the AFA intake social workers. Packages of assistance to pay bills come not only from 802’s ERF but also from other great organizations including MusiCares, the Episcopal Actors Fund, Catholic Charities, Sweet Relief and others. This is an important resource, so please use it if needed. Start here.
I am happy to be writing a column that has some positive news after a tough year and look forward to the time when we can be together again. Until then, my best wishes to each of you.